South Carolina youth soccer league asks parents to remain silent during games

The rule comes after incidents of bad behavior from parents on the sidelines.

ByABC News
July 7, 2017, 8:16 AM

— -- Officials at the largest youth soccer organization in South Carolina are asking parents to remain silent for a whole month while watching league games from the sidelines, following incidents of bad behavior from spectators.

"We saw a real uptick in poor behavior on the sidelines by parents at all levels and ages and we just felt as if it was time in a leadership way to do something to get people's attention to start a conversation," Burns Davison, the Rules and Compliance Chair of the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association (SCYSA) told ABC News.

"Things have become increasingly worse for the way parents were acting towards referees," Davison added, saying that many of the referees for youth sports are also young.

"We had a situation last spring where a parent of a 10- or 11-year-old child who had got fouled went onto the field and shoved a 16-year-old referee," Davison said. "A parent shoving a 16-year-old that's really not very appropriate."

A memo was sent from the SCYSA to the parents of the 30,000 youth players in the league asking them to take part in "Silent September," which requires that "all parents and visitors shall be silent during the game," for the entire month of September.

The new rule was met with mixed reviews from the young players.

"My parents want to cheer," Jayden Irby, 9, told ABC News. "It feels like I should be cheered."

Katie Mewborn, 10, said she was "in favor of it."

"Now my father won't coach me, and it was just like really embarrassing, for him to coach me, because I thought I was doing everything right and he just made me really embarrassed," the youth soccer player added.

Ashley Gonzales, 10, told ABC News that she was also in favor of the new rule, saying, "I think it's a good idea because I don't like when my mom screams at me from the sidelines, she distracts me, I don't really like it."

Terrance Shearn, a coach for the Carolina Elite Soccer Academy told ABC News that the players "are going to miss hearing their parents, but I think it will be a good opportunity for them to listen to me more."

He adds that he understands why the rule was implemented, especially for the protection of young refs, saying, "We have refs who are 13-or 14-years-old ... and they're getting yelled at constantly by parents about calls, and it makes them not want to come back and be a ref."

Brian Callahan, one parent of a youth soccer player in South Carolina told ABC News, "I was a little surprised because I'm one of those who enjoys at times coaching from the sidelines, but also encouraging from the sidelines."

"I get the not coaching, but I really will have trouble with not encouraging and cheering my daughters on from the sidelines," he added.

Davison said he hopes the new rule will allow parents to spend some time reflecting on why they are at a youth soccer game in the first place.

"We want people to understand that their behavior at a youth soccer event in South Carolina is an important responsibility, they're there to be good ambassadors of the game, there to be good examples for their children, and they're there to enjoy their children playing," Davison said.

"Aside from the refs, what most of them don't realize is that as well-intention-ed as it might be, a lot of their cheering, to tell their kid to do that, or move here, or there or try harder, or run faster, only increases the pressure and anxiety of the kids," he added. "We're hopeful we can use this conversation to ... put together some solutions that change the culture."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Burns Davison’s name.