Video Promotes Positive Sideline Behavior to Help New Referees

By Ted Ritchie, President, Mass Youth Soccer

I’m honored to have my first opportunity to write to you as your new President of Massachusetts Youth Soccer.

Winter is showing signs of finally surrendering to spring, and soon our 175,000 players statewide will start their spring seasons. Our thanks go out to our referees, the Board leadership at the state and league levels, and to the incredible pool of volunteer coaches, managers, local board members and parents whose care and dedication every season make the rewarding enterprise of youth soccer a reality.

Among the longstanding core values of your state association have been good sportsmanship and fair play. Adherence to these tenets extends far beyond the players and the actual game itself to include our coaches, as well as sideline spectators. We care that our games statewide create positive experiences for all - players, coaches, parents, spectators and referees alike.

The atmosphere around our soccer fields affects us all, but none more so than our referees and, most especially, our youngest and newest ones who are striving to learn their craft. Officiating a soccer match is challenging enough for our skilled and experienced adults referees. For our newer referees, it is decidedly more so, leading to a significant attrition of young referees who unfortunately decide they can do without the hassle and abuse received while officiating.

Several years ago, Massachusetts Youth Soccer produced a powerful 25-minute video on sideline behavior called "Attitudes are Contagious." Featuring actual game footage, it specifically addresses how the sideline behavior of adults is affecting the retention of young referees. In addition to showing adult coaches and spectators “being themselves,” young referees and players tell us what they think (and feel) about comments from the sidelines.

This video is an important tool our town and club organizations can put to immediate use to help curb unwanted, and even destructive, “noise” along our sidelines. This video is appropriate for viewing by coaches, players AND parents of teams at all age levels. Accordingly, Massachusetts Youth Soccer will be providing every town and club organization statewide with a free copy of this video, with the intent and hope that it will be used in each organization’s meetings at the start of the spring 2010 season. Should any organization desire multiple copies of this video, they can be ordered in bulk from Massachusetts Youth Soccer, priced at cost plus a nominal shipping fee.

Working together, we can continue to make the positive strides that keep Massachusetts Youth Soccer regarded as one of the leading soccer organizations in the country. Let’s keep soccer matches on the fields of Massachusetts in proper perspective, and be ever mindful of the attitudes and values we are teaching, through the power of example, to the children and young adults in our soccer community.

Best wishes for a great spring!