Guest Opinions

I’m an Idaho soccer referee. I’m shocked at the abuse I hear from parents and coaches.

A scene from the May 2017 State Cup tournament at the Simplot Sports Complex in Boise.
A scene from the May 2017 State Cup tournament at the Simplot Sports Complex in Boise.

I have been a soccer referee for more than a quarter of a century. I estimate that in my career I have spent more than 3,000 hours on the pitch making decisions. Occasionally I get one right.

At this point I know I’m in the closing years of my career and I referee games with only the youngest and oldest players. I usually work these games by myself because we are experiencing a critical shortage of officials and can’t provide full crews to under-12 and over-40 games. Does anyone wonder why that is?

At the Gem State Classic tournament Oct. 6-8, I was an assistant referee to a 15-year-old official in an under-10 girls match. Though inexperienced, this young man did a fine job. I had to intervene and stop a coach from yelling at him. At halftime I had to stop this adult coach from confronting this child on the field.

During a weeknight match with under-12 boys, I was subjected to verbal harassment from a small but vocal group of parents. I have a pretty thick skin and this sort of thing doesn’t bother me much. But I have to wonder: If these parents will do this to an experienced and somewhat competent official, what is it like when a young or inexperienced official takes the field?

Recently I had to confront a coach in an under-12 boys match who continually questioned my decisions. After the game I learned that this coach is a USSF soccer referee. I’m shocked that he and I wear the same uniform.

Overall, coaches and parents are kind, compassionate, understanding and supportive people. My question to you is: Why do you allow this behavior? If your child’s coach yells at the referee, why don’t you confront the coach? Why don’t you find another team? If you see and hear a parent abuse a referee, why don’t you intervene? Remember, you and your fellow kind and compassionate parents always outnumber the ill-mannered few.

Recently the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association implemented a “Silent September” campaign. Essentially the rule is that after a warning, if the parents yell at players, coaches or referees, the game is terminated. It would be a shame if we were headed in that direction.

I love the game of soccer. Being a referee is an honorable avocation and absolutely essential for every competitive sport. Imagine the example you will set if you step up and confront the person who lacks the manners you would like to instill in your child. I can almost hear the conversation at the dinner table: “Wow, Mom, that was awesome!”

Dave Keefer of Boise is a referee and referee coach, and state director of assessment for Idaho.