The Unnecessary Element of a Youth Soccer Game!

The following is a guest post from Bob Asklof, originally posted at Karl Dewazien's website, www.fundamentalsoccer.com. Koach Karl is the author and publisher of the world-famous “FUNdamental Soccer” book series, the cornerstone of Youth Soccer practice and Small Sided games. Find out more at www.fundamentalsoccer.com.


By Bob Asklof, CYSA Hall of Famer, Former District 8 Commissioner, Referee Coordinator & Tournament Director

The Parent that has all the answers on the “Laws of the Game” during a youth soccer game and wants to impress everyone with his/her knowledge of the “Laws of the Game” by yelling at the referees and telling them how “bad” they are doing officiating the game will find this very hard to comprehend but the parent is not a necessary element that needs to be a part of a youth soccer game. Players, coaches, and referees are all necessary elements of the game but the parents of the players are not.

It is too bad that the parents of players do not hear what the players are saying to each other and to the referee during a game about the behavior of their parents. Most of the players are embarrassed by the behavior of their parents. I have lost track of the times that I have overheard a player talking to himself/herself or to another player and saying “I wish my dad would shut up”.

I was doing the center of a Championship game in a tournament and the parents from the one team were really obnoxious and were whining about every situation that occurred during the game. They were on North side of the field on the West side of the midline of a field that ran East and West but wanted to scream at the AR at the East end on “offside” calls that were within 15 to 20 yards of the goal line at the East end of the field AND the AR was always in line with the second to last defender. (This put the parents about 50 yards up the field from where the “offside” calls were being made or not made).

They complained about whose “throw in” it was in the middle of the field, (If you are coach with any knowledge of take any of the advanced coaching courses you will learn that usually on the second or third touch after a throw in the ball is won by and in the possession of the team that “did not” take the “throw in”.

They were trying to incite their kids to play more aggressively by telling them to “fight back” and “Don’t take that pushing and shoving, push him back”, etc., etc.

The coach was a young coach of about 25 years of age and probably a paid coach/trainer, when I asked him to get them under control he walked over to where they were and asked them “Please keep quiet and let the kids play”! A few minutes went by and I had to go over to the coach again and warn the coach about “his parents”. He told me that he could not control them; the coach was not inciting any of the negative behavior of the parents so there was no point, in my opinion, of penalizing the coach or players for the actions of the parents.

I stopped the game during the taking of a “throw in” and went over to the parents and gave them “Two minutes” to leave the field and go to the parking lot which was about 50 to 60 yards away. They grumbled and complained while they picked up their possessions and left the field (About 50 to 60 people; There were probably only about 5 or 6 of the parents that were actually causing the problem but I did not have the time or the inclination to try and “: pick the bad apples” out of the group so I sent all of them away from the field.)

As the parents were leaving the field the “good” parents finally started to speak up and tell the “mouthy parents” to “Keep their damn mouths shut in the future” and other similar remarks as they were leaving the field area. The coach of the team came over while we were waiting for the parents to clear the area and thanked me for getting rid of the parents, they had been nothing but a headache to him all season but he could not maintain control of them. (I suspect as a “paid” coach he probably could not “talk back” to his “employers”).

During the remainder of the time of the game stoppage at least four (4) players from the team whose parents I had removed came over to where I was standing to “Thank” me for getting rid of their parents as they were embarrassed by them. When I restarted the game at least four (4) or five (5) more players from the same team would talk to me during “stoppages” of the game as we completed the game with a lot of “peace and quiet” and “Thank” me for getting rid of their parents and told me how much more fun the game was without them. When the game was finished every one of the players from the team whose parents I had sent off “Thanked” me again for getting rid of their parents many of them for the second time during the game.

A number of them asked if I would officiate the rest of their games during the remainder of the season as they never realized how nice it was to play without their parents “screaming and yelling at the referees and them during their games”. The coach came out and thanked me again for getting rid of his parents for him and told me how he enjoyed the game without the parents. I don’t remember exactly but I believe this team lost the game in a very close score.

After the game about six or seven parents from the group I had removed came over to me and apologized for the actions of the other parents with their team. Moral of the story, we can play without the parents being at the game on the sideline “helping” the officials and the coach and the game is more enjoyable for the players and most coaches without the parents being involved.

Poor officiating is in most cases “In the eyes of the beholder who is ignorant in his/her knowledge of the Laws of the Game”. Are the youth referees perfect? No, not by a long shot; Are they prejudice against one team or another? Absolutely not. Can they become better referees? Absolutely. Are most referees capable of officiating the games that they are assigned to officiate? Absolutely as long as they receive the cooperation of the coaches and parents. Some people may not believe this but “God” is too busy with much more important issues then to come down to Earth and officiate a youth soccer game to appease a parent that would still bitch and complain at the “referee’.

I do a lot of “Competitive” youth games and most of the officiating of those games is at a higher level than the play of the players and training that the players have received from the coaches of the teams. Yet the referees do not tell the players and coaches how “bad” they are. It is not the referees’ job to judge the skills of the players and coaches. Just as it is not the “job” of the parents to tell the referees how to “officiate” the games.

I would be pleased to pay for the person who wrote the memo regarding the poor officiating that he/she always sees in youth games to attend a USSF Referee Entry Level Course and pay their license fee to USSF for their first year of officiating. I would hope that they would officiate at least ten (10) games or so thereafter and invite me to observe a couple of their games so I could assess how they are doing. In fact if they would do twenty (20) games I would even be willing to buy their referee uniform for them including a yellow and black shirt. They can do five (5) or six (6) games in any weekend tournament that they attend I am sure. (I have been a USSF referee for over twenty five (25) years and have officiated over 7,000 games and have directed a league soccer referee program for youth and adults for twenty (20)+ years).

If you have a “poor” referee in a game and you are a parent why in the World would you yell and harass the referee if you know he/she is “in over their head”. Do you really think that is going to help? If anything it is only going to put the referee under more stress and duress which in turn will probably make the referee perform even worse.

We have a huge shortage of referees because of the “parents” and some coaches that are continually harassing referees especially the “young” referees. The retention rate for “new” referees that have taken the eighteen (18) hour USSF Referee Course is less than 30% after one year of work, after the second year about one half of those referees are left. When they are contacted later to find out “why” they quit officiating the number one (1) answer for about 80% of the referees is that they could not take the constant harassment from the parents and the coaches. The players were not a problem for them only the “adults” involved in the game be it “coaches” or “parents”. A pretty sad commentary for the “adults” that are “screaming” on the touch lines of so many of the youth soccer games.

If a game is “out of control” with players being brought down from behind the coach of the team involved should abandon the game and write a report on the actions of the referee. That is a mandatory rule in District 8. We do not abandon a game for perceived missed calls on offside, ball in or out of bounds, whether it was a goal kick or a corner kick. (That is all the judgment of the referee) If the players are being “beat up” without the referee taking control of the game the coach is to abandon the game and write a one or two page report to the league commissioner and we will investigate the referee. If we get two or three reports about the same referee I would surmise that the referee either needs more training or needs to find another line of work.

People today do not want to listen to the griping of parents and coaches so they don’t sign up to become soccer referees. (I know a number of soccer referees that are giving up soccer officiating and moving over the basketball in which the parents are not “On the field” with the players.) Every time there is some incident like the one that happened in my tournament this past weekend the word gets out to officials , coaches and prospective officials and they begin to have second thoughts on whether they want to be “abused” by adults for a very small amount of money. We are short referees today like never before because the job does not pay enough to attract qualified adults to officiate the games for the number of games that we have to cover.

The parents of the current players should be “stepping up to the plate” to become officials to help the youth program just like I did about twenty five (25) years ago when my kids were playing. The excuse of “I just don’t have the time” is totally unacceptable to me as no one works more hours during the week then I do and I still find time to officiate five or six games a week most weeks from August through May every year. If a person has time to go watch their child play in a tournament they have the time to stay and officiate the game following their child’s game.

The person who writes memorandums about “Poor officiating” is either part of the “solution” (become a referee and work games), or is part of the “problem” in that he/she just wants something to bitch about and blame their child’s lack of success as a player on the officiating.

By Bob Asklof 
CYSA Hall of Famer
Former District 8 Commissioner
Referee Coordinator & Tournament Director