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Soccer Sportsmanship for Parents

Soccer Culture
The essence of soccer culture is that it is the player's game.  In the game players are expected to make their own decisions, without interference from coaches or spectators.

In a youth soccer game opinions and suggestions such as "Pass the ball", "Shoot", "Watch out" are DISCOURAGED. Cheerleading and acknowledgment, such as "Go Vipers", "Nice pass", or "Good move", are ENCOURAGED

In most sports the coach is effectively a part of the team, controlling plays, using a timeout to stop the other team's momentum, instructing a player to run or stay on base and so on.  This is not the soccer way.  

The following comments apply most strongly to U10 and above.

Once play starts there are no practical mechanisms provided by the laws of the game for a coach to influence the outcome, besides position and substitutions.  The players make individual decisions, good or bad, and collectively have to react as a team to the strategy and tactics of the their opponent.  

Many coaches find this situation frustrating, especially if they also coach a sport in which they do have more control.  A common reaction is for the coach to shout instructions.  This style of coaching at the game is STRONGLY DISCOURAGED.

What's the Law?
FIFA law states that a "coach may convey tactical instructions to his players during the match and must return to his position immediately after giving these instructions.  The coach and the other officials must remain within the confines of the technical area, where such an area is provided, and they must behave in a responsible manner".   

The technical area is ten yards either side of the half-way line, one yard away from the touchline.  AYSO also limits coach participation to positive instruction and encouragement.

Referee Cautions to Coaches and Spectators
Palo Alto AYSO Referees follow the USSF guideline for escalating control of inappropriate behavior from a spectator or coach, following the three steps, at each occurrence of a problem;
  1. ask spectator or coach to comply with guideline behavior
  2. tell spectator or coach to comply
  3. instruct spectator or coach to leave the field
If the spectator or coach is not complying after a request and an order, then the spectator or coach will be ejected.  If ejected, the spectator or coach must leave the field such that they are not visible to any players on the field.

The referee controls the game, making the calls and the decisions.  The referee is not required to explain his calls.  The referee's judgement is not only final, it is not to be questioned at the game.  There is no margin for discussion on this: public questioning or complaining about the refereeing is not acceptable, period.  If you transgress this policy repeatedly, the referee should ask you to leave the field, whereupon you will thank the referee gracefully and leave.

Palo Alto AYSO referees are well trained and perform at a high level of game control.  Some are newer to the learning and experience curve than others.  For those that are less experienced, encouragement from parents and players is the best way to raise the quality of our refereeing.

If you see a referee needing more training and experience, after the game, thank the referee for their volunteer time and encourage them in their quest to make a better experience for our players.
If the refereeing is not up to your standards, remember we are all volunteers.  If you believe the players experience of the game is being jeopardized by the referee, email the Regional Referee Administrator with your observations.  We care and will follow up.

It takes a village 
See a team where the players are not being played all over the field?  See an AYSO volunteer or parent not quite with the program?  Concerned that your own child is not having a great experience?  We care.  You do your part and tell us about it, now, while there is still time for us to help reinforce the correct behavior. Anonymously, if you need to.

We need to win the game?
Winning the game is 
NOT the primary goal!  Players having fun, developing leadership, skills, team work, sportsmanship and learning is the goal.  Let's build character, community and connectedness.

Should coaches be silent at games?
No!  Players do like to be praised when they do well.  Praise and affirmation are the "Say" of the "See, Show and Say" coaching style that is taught at AYSO coaching clinics.  There are plenty of opportunities at a game to provide praise and positive encouragement to your players.  It's also perfectly ok to communicate tactical suggestions just so long as the coach is not doing it continuously. 

Teams should play their best players 
No.  Palo Alto AYSO requires all players are on for 3 quarters before any player can play 4 quarters, barring special circumstances such as injury.  And in divisions until U12, players should be playing several positions, not developing a special position.