The Utah High School Activities Association and high school administrators are grappling with what to do about the high number of ejections from prep soccer games.
The issues came to the attention of those who oversee high school sports two weeks ago when the number of ejections jumped to 51 in just three weeks of competition.
The Deseret News talked to coaches, principals and UHSAA staff about the issue in a story published March 30. The statistics kept by UHSAA officials show that boys soccer has had higher ejection numbers since the organization began recording those numbers almost two decades ago.
There are a number of reasons. First, soccer rules are such that sometimes a player is ejected after receiving a second yellow card (referred to as a soft red card), and it’s an infraction that wouldn’t get an athlete ejected in another sport.
The statistics are not separated into soft and hard red cards, but officials said the ejections are not completely explained by the unique rules of soccer. Some of the reason offered by those involved with the sport were:
- The aging official population, as well as the difference in the speed of the game for prep boys players. Over the years there have been issues with having enough qualified officials available for high school games, but the UHSAA has instituted a number of programs aimed at recruiting and retention. They’re investigating new training used by club soccer programs.
- The proximity of fans to the field of play. There is very little space between the fans and the sideline, which can lead to verbal exchanges that escalate emotions. Most acknowledge that fans at soccer games are also a much more negative influence than at other sports.
- Poor sportsmanship from players and coaches. The UHSAA has programs aimed at both punishing the offenders and rewarding those who behave, so this aspect has gotten better at a lot of schools. But most everyone acknowledges some schools still have sportsmanship issues that include bad behavior by the adults on the sidelines.
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