Monday, July 12, 2010
Here is a comment I received about the physicality of soccer in the youth game in America and my response.
As we are drawing to the close of the spring season, I wanted to re-iterate my concerns over how physical the youth game is here in the US. In your previous responses, you've acknowledged the problem and advised that the solution is multi-faceted (parents, coaches and referees). I do not disagree. But my recent experience is that this is going to have to be driven in the short term from the referees. There are simply too many parents and coaches already in place that ignore the coaching education and leadership you are providing on player development.
Way too many of the teams I encounter are being driven by coaches and parents that seem to have a strong desire to turn soccer into American Football (or at the very least use physical play to negate skill and intimidate younger or smaller teams). My boys are getting beat up and are not enjoying matches and tournaments to the extent that they should. I depend on the referee to protect them and to preserve their ability to enjoy the game by enforcing the spirit of Law 12. The excuse that players at the U-11/12 age can't control their bodies adequately to play within Law 12 is simply not correct in most cases and shouldn't apply anyway. I am working very hard to implement the player development model set forth by USYSA and USSF, but I need some protection for my players so that they enjoy the competition without having to resort to retaliation (which I do not allow) to protect themselves (or even the playing field). All I am asking is that referees in youth matches enforce Law 12 at the physical level of the better professional leagues (i.e. EPL, La Liga, Serie A - perhaps referees should watch some of these matches...). We rarely get that treatment now. The typical youth match I have seen gets progressively more physical (and dangerous) as the game goes on because the larger team discovers that the referee is not willing to enforce Law 12.
I believe this issue is the single biggest problem with youth soccer in the US. I realize that referee education is not within your realm of supervision or management. However, I know that you are well respected in the U.S. soccer community and that is why I am asking for your help. And again, I agree that coaches and parents must step up as well - but from a practical standpoint, the referee is going to have to force a significant majority to do so by managing the game in accordance with Law 12.
Thanks so much for your time and consideration.
Your point is well stated on the over physicality of some youth soccer play. And yes, indeed some coaches and players make up for a lack of skill by simply being more physical or even intimidating in the way that they play. You are also right that the solution does not lie with referees alone. Referees, coaches, club/league administrators and most importantly parents must work together to improve the standard of play. But when it comes game time the actions of the players when it comes to infractions of the Laws of the Game are mostly up to the players themselves to control. However, young players must be taught how to play skillfully and intelligently with resorting to athleticism last and never to intentional foul play. The teaching of the players comes from the coaches predominately. However, referees do have a role to play. They can teach the Laws of the Game and Fair Play to the players by enforcing the rules. Also, when players are in their preteens they should explain the calls they make to the children to aid them in learning the rules for their age group. So in other words, all of these groups of adults: referees, coaches, administrators and parents, have a role to play in the teamwork to improve the American youth soccer experience.
Now, having said all of that I think that your next step is to solicit the aid of your state director of instruction and the state technical director to address the situation in your league. I also suggest that you engage with your club president and director of coaching so that, as a club, you may take on this issue within your own club. Then let the league or state association take on the matter with youth soccer across Arkansas.