Respect the Game

Respect the Game - 2016 - 2017 Season

It would be easier if the topic of sideline and team official behavior were isolated to an age group, league or even sport.  However, the sad reality is irresponsible spectator behavior and team official behavior is an unfortunate occurrence across all age groups, at both men and women’s games and at nearly every youth event throughout Arizona.  It is also something that has become a problem even at the professional level.  Last year in the Major League Soccer (MLS) Professional Referee Organization, two (2) points of emphasis were to address bench behavior and to deal with dissent. 

Last season over all weekends of both Presidents Cup and State Cup I had the opportunity to observe referees, parents, players and coaches.  There were several incidents in which referees were assaulted and one instance in which a player spit at a referee.  The language, technical area/team official behavior and comments made to referees by players, coaches and spectators are quite disturbing.  It has no place in youth sports and, in fact, it has no place at any athletic event. 

This season I am asking for your help.  I would like to build upon an initiative that was started by former Arizona Youth Soccer Association (AYSA) Vice President Ted Schmidt called Respect the Game.  All I am asking for from you as parents, players, coaches and spectators is to enjoy the game, let the players play, coaches coach and referees apply the Laws of the Game to the best of their ability. 

Our youth players are learning this great game of soccer.  Some will develop much faster than others and this is also true for our referees.  I need you to be encouraging vs. discouraging and to help create a positive environment.  Much like our players who are not always going to connect every pass or always make a good first touch, our referees are not going to always get the call right, they are all learning.  Manage your expectations this season and Respect the Game.

The laws of the game empower referees to deal with dissent and irresponsible bench behavior, however, in youth sports the teams and bench personnel are only part of the issue.  The spectator behavior is troubling and getting worse.  The Arizona Youth Soccer Association made a great first step to help curb this type of behavior by modifying the Code of Conduct with different levels of sanctions.  This is something all players, coaches and parents sign and are expected to honor.

This season I would like to pursue the initiative of Respect the Game and I am directing our referees to have a zero tolerance for irresponsible team official/bench behavior, spectator behavior and dissent.  I strongly feel this type of initiative is needed if we are to improve the environment of our youth events.  Help me make this season enjoyable for our players and referees – Respect the Game.

Additional information on this initiative can be found at www.azyouthsoccer.org

Thank you for your support

Todd A. Sergi

Arizona State Youth Referee Administrator

Scottsdale Soccer VP of Referees

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