ROCK HILL, S.C. -- With soccer's popularity soaring in the United States, the kids who kick are becoming overshadowed by the parents who throw temper tantrums.
A simple search of "soccer parents" on YouTube quickly turns into "soccer parents out of control."
The competitive juices have extended outside of the pitch and the outbursts are taking a toll on referees in the Palmetto State.
"We're only retaining about 30 percent of our referees each year," said Kenneth Ayers, the state referee administrator for soccer in South Carolina. "We have 16, 15-year-old kids who are being berated and quite frankly, assaulted by the sidelines."
The incidents have forced the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association (SCYSA) to kick off a new initiative, called "Silent September."
Call it a punishment for the parents. The rules for "Silent September" are as followed:
- 1. All parents and visitors shall be silent during the game. No cheering, no jeering; just enjoy your player and the game that they love. Also during this Silent September, all parents and visitors shall be on that half of the parent touchline opposite their team’s bench.
- 2. In the event of a parent or visitor violates this rule, on the first instance during a game the referee will ASK the coach to counsel his parents/visitors to remain silent, on the second instance during the game the referee will TELL the coach to counsel his parents/visitors to remain silent, upon the third instance during the game the referee will direct the coach to DISMISS the offending spectator(s) -- if they do not leave or the coach refuses - then the coach will be sent off. If there is not an appropriately carded adult to continue coaching the game, the game will be abandoned and the circumstances reported to SCYSA. Likewise, if the offending spectator(s) still refuse to leave, even after the coach is sent off, then the game will be abandoned and the circumstances reported to SCYSA. If in the opinion of the referee the situation warrants, first two steps (ASK/TELL) are not required.
- 3. Prior to the beginning of the season, each team manager shall obtain parent signatures on behalf of each player on their roster acknowledging their awareness of the parent/visitor code of conduct.
- 4. Team managers are expected to be on the parent touchline in order to address any inappropriate behaviors directly.
- 5. Teams / Parent Groups / Individuals who are reported as having been dismissed from a game are subject to sanctions for their inappropriate conduct. Repeat offenders will be sanctioned more severely. The purpose of this SILENT SEPTEMBER is to make parents/visitors aware of the SCYSA focus on appropriate sideline behavior and of the existence of a CODE OF CONDUCT, and re-establish that managing parent/visitor behavior is the responsibility of coaches and clubs, NOT referees. Following SILENT SEPTEMBER, SCYSA will have periodic SILENT SATURDAYS/SUNDAYS as a reminder.
Riley Lynch has managed fields, teams and now summer camps as a program director at ROAR in Rock Hill, he thinks keeping soccer moms & dads quiet will be difficult to enforce.
"I just don't understand how you can get a group of parents, who aren't necessarily a fan... to get them to be quiet," said Lynch.
If there's a lesson to learn, it's time for parents to zip it while their kids kick it.