Directors of youth sports events might want to keep an eye (and ear) on what happens in South Carolina over the next few months.
The South Carolina Youth Soccer Association recently announced “Silent September,” an effort to keep parents and spectators from yelling at players, referees and coaches, according to the Associated Press.
And organization officials do mean silent. “The association says inappropriate heckling and poor behavior by fans prompted the rules,” the AP reports. “There can be no cheering or jeering by parents and visitors at the games. The rules allow referees to ask coaches to ask parents to be quiet if there is yelling. A second violation requires coaches to ask fans to be quiet. A third violation will result in the violator being removed. If either the coach or fan refuses, the game will be stopped.”
“We’re only retaining about 30 percent of our referees each year,” Kenneth Ayers, the state referee administrator for soccer in South Carolina, told USA Today, which posted all “Silent September” rules here. “We have 16-, 15-year-old kids who are being berated and quite frankly, assaulted by the sidelines.”
Not surprisingly, “Silent September” is making some noise. In a USA Today poll asking whether silencing parents on the sidelines is a good idea, more than 32 percent of respondents proclaimed it is, while almost 42 percent disagreed. A quarter of all respondents answered “doesn’t matter because they won’t stay silent.”
SCYSA leaders say they are trying to change the culture. “We saw a real uptick in poor behavior on the sidelines by parents at all levels and ages, and we just felt as if it was time in a leadership way to do something to get people’s attention to start a conversation,” Burns Davison, the rules and compliance chair of the association, told ABCNews.com. “Things have become increasingly worse for the way parents were acting towards referees. We had a situation last spring where a parent of a 10- or 11-year-old child who had got fouled went onto the field and shoved a 16-year-old referee,” Davison said.
Andrew Hyslop is co-executive director of the Carolina Elite Soccer Academy, which has had “Silent Sundays” from time to time in the past.
“I don’t think it’s pointing the finger at one group in particular,” Hyslop told GreenvilleOnline.com. “I think it’s coaches, players and parents kind of coming to see that there needs to be a common ground, which will allow referees, especially younger ones, to make mistakes. Players need to be allowed to make mistakes, and referees need to be allowed the same leeway. It’s probably long overdue. I’d like to think in coming years we don’t need to take these kinds of steps, and people can enjoy being at a game.”
Outsiders have their doubts. “Can you imagine a kid scoring, parents cheering beaming with pride, and being told by a youth soccer referee to quiet down? That seems absolutely absurd,” wrote Doug Samuels on FootballScoop.com. “Granted, the aim of the rule is directed at the overbearing minority of parents, but asking a youth referee and volunteer coach to silence an entire crowd is asking for a near-impossible task.”