Game assault highlights problems in high school boys soccer
The system, he said, requires young officials to gain experience officiating club matches at various levels before taking college games and then professional matches. While officials in sports such as basketball and football gain most of their valuable experience at the high school level, that’s not the case for soccer officials, he said.
The result is sometimes older officials who can’t keep up with the athletic young players.
“They’re calling it from 40 yards away,” Wigham said.
“You can’t blame the players if officials let things go. Somehow you’ve got to find a way to get the younger referees (officiating) high school games.”
Wigham cited an interesting example.
“Go to one of these club matches between La Roca and Forza and you’ll see a really good soccer game — officials keep it under control. And it’s the same kids who play on Viewmont and Layton,” he said. But when the same group of boys play for their respective high schools, that match “is always a blood bath because the officials let it go that way,” he said.
Petty said the state travels to colleges every year recruiting young officials for all sports. In an effort to address retention, the UHSAA conducted a survey of all officials asking them what made them contemplate quitting. The top concerns were time away from their families, poor sportsmanship of fans, coaches and players and lower pay.
Petty said it may simply be that the growth of the sport has simply out-paced the state’s ability to hire, train and retain quality officials.
“It just hasn’t kept up with the growth of the sport,” Petty said.
He and UHSAA Assistant Director Bart Thompson, who oversees soccer, plan to meet this week to discuss the ejections and what strategies might help.
“We’re appealing to administrators and coaches to see what they can do to help,” he said, while acknowledging the state will also take a closer look at club officiating and how they train younger officials.
Most high school coaches said the sportsmanship this spring is no worse than any other season. And most don’t favor a blanket punishment for the failure of a few programs.
"I think you need to take each case individually and look at that," said Lee Mitchell, Alta High's head coach for both boys and girls soccer. "Maybe they can keep track if certain programs are getting more of these cards than others, then look at those programs and sanction those programs individually."
Petty said the state is focused on solutions. Principals like Jensen and Schulte are already talking to their coaches and each other about what they can do in the immediate future.
“Right now I think we’re doing what we can,” Schulte said. “I gave my coach the edict that winning will be the third or fourth priority. They need to play a good soccer game but do it with class and dignity.”
Added Jensen: “We’re going to meet with our boys, with our coaches and discuss what this does, how it reflects on our school, the student body and athletics as a whole.”