Open Letter to AYSO Coaches, Referees, Parents and Spectators
From AYSO Region 104, Regional Coach Administrator
April 5, 2006
I watch a lot of AYSO games on Saturdays and I am very happy to see so many of you there supporting your children and supporting your team's coach. Unfortunately, a lot of times, I do not see the same sort of support towards our Referees. I'd like discuss this with you in more detail.
I am a coach and a referee for our organization and I know how beneficial it is to have coaches, parents and spectators upholding the AYSO philosophies and showing true sportsmanship, even when there is the perception of injustice.
AYSO is an all-volunteer organization, unlike most of the youth sports organizations in town. We don't even have a paid file clerk or secretary, so of course we rely on the parents of our players to make the organization work. Our parents are our coaches, our administrators and our referees. We mark our fields, we buy our uniforms, and we set up our nets. All of these volunteers are crucial and necessary to allowing your children to play soccer. This includes our referees, which are constantly in short supply. In fact, if any of you have any interest in improving our referee pool by taking a ref clinic yourself, I would be very grateful for the extra help.
AYSO is not a win-at-all costs organization; we are a youth development organization who uses soccer. AYSO is built upon five philosophies: Positive Coaching, Balanced Teams, Everyone Plays, Open Registration, and Good Sportsmanship. These five philosophies encompass everyone who is involved with AYSO: parents, players, coaches, referees and spectators. Everyone is expected to follow these philosophies; there are no exceptions. A lot more information can be found on our website, www.ayso104.org. I encourage everyone to take our Safe Haven (CVP) class so that you may understand our wonderful organization better.
Always Be Positive: Parents serve as role models for their children. Become aware of this and work to be a positive role model. Applaud good plays by your child's team as well as good plays by the opposing team. Support all efforts to remove verbal and physical abuse from youth sports activities. Reinforce Positive Behavior - Don't Be a Sideline Coach or Referee: coaches and referees are usually parents just like you. They volunteer their time to help make your child's youth soccer experiences positive. They need your support too. That means refraining from coaching or refereeing from the sidelines. As a volunteer organization, there's usually always an opportunity for you to take your interest in coaching or refereeing to the next level and become one yourself!
One of my saddest duties as Chief Coach is to resolve disputes amongst our many volunteers. The children almost always enjoy themselves and have a good time, but we do have occasional disputes. Even after many years in this organization, I am still startled at the number of comments I hear during games that are hostile and negative towards our referees. I urge you to be just as supportive and friendly to our referees as you are to our coaches. The referees are not the enemy. The referees are the parents who enforce the laws on the field and keep the game safe, fair and fun for all of our children. Certainly referees make calls with which we disagree; ordinarily every call they make is "against" one team or the other. But we cannot allow that to affect our respect for those referees, and our appreciation that they volunteer to allow our children to play soccer.
Sometimes players or parents complain to me about a referee's decision. Instead of agreeing with them (even if I think it was a bad decision), I try to use these moments as coaching opportunities. I ask that player what they will do after the referee's call. Will they complain to the referee? Will they complain to me? Or will they get up and play their best for the rest of the game! Which one do they think will help our team the most? The answer is obvious. If it is a parent who complains I will tell that parent first of all, we must support all our referees, because I, as coach, will have to referee half the game if there isn't a referee, which makes it impossible for me to coach their children. Our players and coaches make lots of mistakes, so it's certainly ok if a referee makes a mistake too. Our children will have bad bosses, bad teachers and bad coaches from time to time in their lives. If they learn how to deal with this kind of adversity in a positive fashion, they will have learned a really important lesson about how to live their lives.
It would also be helpful, for you as parents, to learn the laws of soccer. While watching a game this past Saturday, I heard parents repeatedly questioning the referees' calls. There are many peculiarities to soccer. For instance, the ball is out of play only when it has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air. Also, it is impossible to make an offside call unless you are positioned exactly even with the second to last defender - this is why the assistant referees move up and down the sideline. I encourage you to take one of our free referee clinics and attend the referee meetings held each month to learn more. Many times I hear the following: "The referee was biased against our team. They wanted us to lose!" I'm sure you would not accuse your team referee of this sort of behavior. Why, then, would anyone accuse another referee of being biased?
Please consider what I have said. I know it is traditional in America to hate the ref or yell at the ref. But it just isn't right, and we need to take a stand. The AYSO referees are other children's parents, just like you are, and they deserve your respect, not your scorn.
Yours in Soccer,