With the continuing popularity and success of youth soccer, there is a constant increase of the number of teens playing soccer. Unfortunately, with the increasing number of players comes an increasing number of serious injuries that can effectively end a soccer career. Most disturbing is how a huge number of these injuries are intentional, demonstrating complete disregard for the well-being and future of the players on the opposing side. In fact, in the first round of the National Cup, the Under 17 boys received 22 red cards, almost half for violent conduct. And people argue that there should have been at least twice as much.
Who is to the blame for these types of injuries? First and foremost we have to blame the players and their parents for a lack of basic morality and tolerance toward neighbors and fellow citizens. Of course the parents bear additional blame since after the game they do not speak or punish their children for the behavior.
Second, the blame is on the referees that try to avoid serious confrontation with the parents and coaches and, hence, are very reluctant to show red and even yellow cards. With that they encourage the players to hit and injure other players during the game. And, third, are the coaches who while doing a good job with soccer, are usually not ready to teach their players values such as sports etiquette and basic social responsibility.
What most of these young adults fail to understand is that the players they injure are maybe poor kids whose only hope of attending college is on a soccer scholarship or that maybe they are ending someone’s hope to play professional soccer.
Addressing these issues has to become a first priority for CalSouth, especially since more and more college coaches recognize CalSouth as the main source of top college players. We cannot let everything that clubs like Surf and San Diego Soccer achieved in player development, (a player from Surf Academy plays for the U17 National team) and college recruiting go down the drain because of increased violence.
Soccer is not supposed to be a violent game. Just because someone is technically better than you, or is faster, does not give you the right to hit and injure to restore parity on the field. If you try to do that, you should be expelled from the game (as the game rules command) and be punished by the league.
A lot of soccer clubs have issues with the regional CIF sections due to the way they run high school sports. But one thing that CIF got right is the extremely tight discipline enforced during the high school games. That has led to a tremendous increase in the quality of high school soccer and helped a growth in the interest for soccer in high schools.
So if we want to see an improvement in the quality of U.S. soccer, it’s time to stop tolerating violence on the field and start working on technical aspects of the game.
And to be able to do that we need the players, parents, coaches and refs to start behaving with respect toward one another and to the game of soccer.