Below is a list of different things that have significantly changed over the years, both soccer specific and about how our community relates to youth sports:

CAR POOLING - Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, teams would often car pool to away games. Players would meet at a central location (usually their home field, but sometimes at Gladwyne Superfresh or the Conshohocken McDonalds). Once everyone arrived, players were packed into three or four cars and those cars would caravan to the visiting teamís field. The drivers were usually the coaches and / or parents. The parents not helping with the carpool would simply meet us at the game if they planned on going. The car rides were fun and the kids had a blast going to games together. Of course, the drivers would go crazy having as many as eight players in their car, but everyone else would have fun.

Car pooling was a regular occurrence for one of my very first teams, the LMSC Gorillas. I coached the Gorillas from 1986 - 1991. After away games, we would almost always stop at a McDonalds near the opponentís field. The players on the team got to know each other well and a lot of team bonding took place in the car rides to and from opposing teams' fields.

Today, teams rarely car pool en masse like what was done in the 1980s and early 1990s. There were two occasions I remember that help explain why car pooling might have died out. On one of the teams I was coaching, a parent told me that they thought that one of the parents who had volunteered to drive a group of players was intoxicated. This also occurred on a different LMSC travel team. I certainly understood the concern of the parents making the accusations. This was a very difficult situation to have to deal with. How does a coach approach someone who has been accused of driving while intoxicated if the coach has not actually noticed this? It seems that over the years, parents of players have become less trusting of parents of other players. As a result, carpooling eventually died out. Today some players carpool with teammates, but it seems only after the families have earned a big trust with one another. This is usually limited to families who closely know the parents of specific other players. This trust does not seem to occur anymore with an entire team.

HOUSING GUEST PLAYERS AT TOURNAMENTS - In the 1980s and early 1990s, players on teams that traveled to out of state tournaments would be housed by families of local area players. When I coached the Gorillas, our team housed the players from the Springfield Team America team from Northern Virginia each year at the Delco Columbus Day Tournament. Seven of our players would each house two or three Springfield players when they traveled north to play in the tournament. Their players would house our players when we traveled down to Virginia to play in their Springfield Memorial Day Tournament. Both teams were excellent teams, with both of us winning our respective state championships in 1990. Each Saturday evening, the host team would organize a fun event for both teams and their families. The next day, when I would see my players at the field, the boys would have great stories about what they did with their host families the previous night.

Unfortunately, the housing of guest players began to die out in the late 1990s. I always thought it was great for our players to get to know the players from teams that were not from our area. I think one reason that this concept died out was that people in our society became more and more afraid of having their children stay at the house of someone they did not know well. In todayís world, people are definitely less trusting of other people. That has been a VERY noticeable change in society during the 30 years that I have been coaching.

EXCEEDING THE LITTLE LEAGUE PARENT SYNDROME - When I was first coaching, soccer coaches used to joke about how we were lucky we didnít have to deal with the crazy parents involved in little league baseball, the ones who drove the coaches crazy and embarrassed themselves in front of their children. The reason that youth soccer did not have the problem that baseball had was that there were very few parents who understood the game of soccer or who had ever played it. Since they did not understand the game, they rarely would critique the teams, the referees, the players or the coaches.

As soccer began to grow in popularity, the number of out of control, abusive soccer parents began to rise. Suddenly many parents deemed themselves to be soccer experts and began to scream at referees, make nasty phone calls to their childís coach, etc. While the vast majority of parents were well meaning and caring, more and more decided that to second guess everyone and make unpleasant scenes in public.

After awhile, soccer parents started to resemble little league parents. Youth soccer has grown tremendously and now we have parents who care enough about their childís activities to make fools of themselves in public. There were several notable instances that stand out in my mind the most:

  • In November, 1988, my Under 10 team had a league semifinal game out in Malvern. We were warming up on a side field, waiting for the game before ours to end. There was a lot of screaming from the sideline. When the game before us ended, we gathered our soccer gear and walked over to the field. It was at that time I saw a dad of a player from the previous game (not affiliated with LMSC) walk up to the referee and scream at him, telling the referee that his lousy officiating caused his sonís team to lose. Heated words were exchanged. The parent then punched the referee in the stomach and walked away while cursing at him. Several days later, the Delco League gave the person an ultimatum. If the dad showed up at any future game, the child would not be allowed to play in the league anymore. I do not know if the police ever became involved in this incident, but they certainly should have.

  • At a Thanksgiving Day Weekend Tournament in 2000, my U-10 team was playing in a tournament up in Northeast Philadelphia. We were warming up for our game when the game before us ended. There had been a lot of shouting throughout the game. After the game ended, one of the coaches went onto the field and began to scream at the referee in front of a bunch of 10 year olds. Before the coach left the field, he yelled to the referee that he was going to go home, get his gun and come back. Three of my Under 10 players heard this. A couple of parents on my team encouraged the referee to call the police about this, but he refused to. Needless to say, the three boys on my team were shocked and upset after hearing the coach yell that to the referee.

  • In 2004, I had a different Under 10 team that had won the league the previous year and was undefeated in that season up to that point of the season. Our opponent that day was a very talented team that really wanted to prove that they were better than us. Their sideline was horrendously loud and obnoxious, right from the start of the game. Unfortunately, the league assigned a 14 year old referee to officiate the game. This was the first day he was ever assigned to referee travel team games. His father, a long time referee, was there to watch his son referee for the first time ever. Our team quickly took the lead and soon after, the opposing teamís sideline (coaches and spectators) argued every call the referee made and even mocked him when he made a call in their favor. This continued up to the end of the game, which we won 3-0. That night, the father of the referee wrote a very harsh letter to the President of the league and to the President of our opposing teamís club, blasting the behavior of our opposing teamís sideline. He noted that our teamís sideline was well behaved and very quiet. The league presided well over this situation, demanding an apology from the other teamís coach and telling them that they would face sanctions if this happened again. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. The 14 year old boy decided that this was the last time he would ever referee. He never did a single game after that horrible experience.

WHY IS THERE A SHORTAGE OF REFEREES? - Travel team referees make good money. This coming fall, a young referee working an Under 9 or Under 10 game will make $33 to referee a 50 minute game. Adding in the pre-game preparation, halftime and post game paperwork, the referee fee comes out to close to $30 an hour. This is certainly excellent money, considering the tough economic times we are in, especially for young people who are still school age. Travel team referees may be as young as 14 years of age.

But, as mentioned above, each year, many referees quit after one season, saying they donít need the abuse or the pressure from the coaches, parents and spectators on the sidelines. Coaches need to take more responsibility for not only their actions on the sideline, but for the actions of the parents on their sideline. Abusive sidelines have become a problem, so much so that in some years, there are not enough referees to cover all the games. This is why referee fees have risen so dramatically over the years. To get more people to work as referees, there needs a lot more incentive for them to be willing to put up with the abusive coaches and sideline behavior. One of the accomplishments that I am very proud of in my 17 years of coaching at the high school level is that I have had zero red cards and only one yellow card. Iíve tried to be a positive role model with regard to sideline conduct and I donít let my players argue with the referee. Why did I get the one yellow card? Because one of my players was wearing a necklace in a game and high school rules state that a yellow card is to be issued to the playerís coach if a player is wearing anything illegal. Jewelry is not allowed to be worn on a soccer field so I received a yellow card for neglecting to tell my player to remove the necklace before the game. I promptly benched the boy (a starter in the lineup) for the rest of that game.

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