Hold your tongues, soccer moms. And dads. You’re in time-out — for a whole month
Sidelines will be strangely quiet at some youth soccer games in South Carolina this fall.
Last week, South Carolina Youth Soccer Association leaders unanimously approved “Silent September,” a one-month code of conduct for parents and visitors at games. That means no yelling at coaches, no chastising refs and no loud celebrations.
In a statement, the group said it made the change “due to continuing problems/issues with sideline behaviors on the parent/spectator touchline – and the impact that inappropriate behavior has upon our youth, especially upon youth referees.”
Parents’ bad behaviors affect the group’s ability to retain referees, the association said.
The month-long rule will apply to sponsored league games statewide. The association lists 55 member clubs in South Carolina, and players can be as young as 5. Teens as young as 14 can serve as referees.
“It’s not uncommon for teenagers to be reffing the younger ones – who happen to have some of the more ‘enthusiastic’ parents, ” said Burns Davison, a board member with the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association.
Davison, who oversees rules and compliance for the organization, said the idea behind Silent September was to start a conversation about expectations of sideline behavior.
It’s “essentially a ‘reset’ in light of inappropriate behavior that seem to be occurring more often,” Davison said. “We understand that it’s a process to change the culture, but that process needs to start somewhere.”
“All parents and visitors shall be silent during the game,” stated a letter that accompanied the fall schedule. “No cheering, no jeering; just enjoy your player and the game that they love.”
When spectators violate the rule, a referee will ask the coach to counsel the person. If there’s a second violation, a referee will tell the coach to counsel the spectator to remain silent. A third violation will get the parent or spectator to kicked out of the park, the letter said. If the spectator doesn’t leave, then the coach will be “sent off.”
Jimmy George, director of Coaching for the Clemson Anderson Soccer Alliance, told The Greenville News that the the need to implement the rule was “kind of embarrassing for our sport.”
“I’ve played this game since I was 6,” George said. “I’m getting ready to turn 40. Where has our sport gone? Where has our society gone?”
Ralph Jordan, a referee assignor for 11 years starting with Capital Area Soccer League, which is now part of North Carolina FC Youth, said he recalls some leagues implementing a quiet Saturday or Sunday in the past, but nothing for an entire month.