Burnout is real and it’s still April.

Some days the topic is coaching, some days playing, some days storytelling. Today’s story is a little bit of venting and a little bit of sharing. Over the past few weekends the cycle keeps repeating. The only way to change the culture is to tell the story, get it into the light so more eyes can break down existing process, systems and issues. I realize the one way out is to quit going out to do games. However if all of us get to that point then the game will suffer. This is why I’m back to coaching and why I still pick up the whistle and why my massage therapist is still on call for Mondays.

Thoughts from somebody who’s spent over 17 seasons on the sidelines.

After this weekend I realize I was allowed to flourish outside of PA. Why? High School soccer existed during the spring and fall. Clubs had to compete with the schools for referees and pay. The local classic leagues have now become feeder systems for the clubs to develop and share players with their regional league team entries. Unfortunately for the referee’s–the fees for the regional league do not match the local rates. Unfortunately for the referee’s any disciplinary issues are supposed to be dealt with by their–pay to play regional league. Unfortunately for the referee’s these pay to play regional leagues do not follow US Soccer’s Recognize to Recover guidelines. Unfortunately for referee’s–parents paying thousands to their clubs and driving four to seven hours one way makes them feel they can outwardly voice their opinions usually following their coaches lead. Maybe if these regional leagues and PAWest adopted the Wisconsin approach we would have more referees.

WYSA has created the Zero Tolerance Policy in an effort to decrease the abuse of referees. The purpose of this policy is to make clear that verbal abuse or negative criticism of referees is as unacceptable as verbal abuse or negative criticism of players.

This policy adopts basic standard sanctions for improper conduct. This policy is not intended to imply that referees are always “right” and the spectator or coach is always “wrong”. Just as players make mistakes during play and coaches may err in strategy or methodology, referees will make mistakes in officiating, particularly in the younger divisions where they are learning how to referee. Due to a persistent shortage of referees, a referee may be officiating at a higher level game than they are comfortable with. They must receive positive support from coaches and spectators to continue to grow as an official.

A coach or spectator may only communicate in a positive way with a referee. The coach is responsible for ensuring all spectators associated with his/her team follow these guidelines relating to communication with a referee; especially a referee. A coach/spectator may not express any disagreement or dissatisfaction with the officiating to the youth referee. A coach/spectator may not, before, during, or after a game, discuss with a referee their critique of the referee’s performance, other than to thank and compliment the referee.

I’m not saying the game fees in Wisconsin were the best, but having this guideline published made it much easier to handle crazy. Having a little publication like this handy was priceless for bringing on new referees.

Back to the game fees. What is the minimum you would leave your house and freeze your bootay off for on a weekend, giving up anywhere from 3-4 hours of your time, considering travel?

Let’s be real we are asking most AR’s to show up for less that $15/hour. After taxes there is a good chance you are travelling for less than $12/hour. This likely means we are skipping brunch with friends and family. Missing out on golfing with siblings and afternoon Penguin games?

Beside the referee situation, the other toxic component is the regional travel and game scheduling that does not align with the US Soccer’s Recognize to Recover initiative. These advanced youth leagues pride themselves on only playing one game per day in their publications, but typically create weekends where teams will play three games over two days. This is the normal season scheduling and not a showcase or tournament setup. Due to the travel most of the teams arrive with only one or two substitutes for the entire weekend creating an even greater player safety concern. If you read through the Wisconsin publication you will notice that coaches must have their US Soccer National license and present their own card displaying the license with their teams roster.


How do we change the game? How do we build better athletes? Can the game change the culture or is the game being fed by the bigger domestic culture? How do we make the pay discrepancies match the current competition levels, travel costs and expectations during the game. Where is that part on the game report where the referees get to rate the coaches, the fans, and players on sportsmanship and general behavior.

I challenge PA West and all of the regional leagues to adopt a zero tolerance policy like Wisconsin. I encourage these associations to promote the zero tolerance policy through their social media. I oblige anybody who wants to says something to a referee make sure you only ask what the referee would like from Starbucks or ABC.

Thank you wisref.org for taking the lead that other referee organizations should follow.

Here’s to filling out game reports with a column for sportsmanship where the referee teams feedback will actually count in tie-breakers.

01 May 2022 Update- PAWest instructions and guidance.

Adding this to the forum since Marc Reppermund sent out an abbreviated version of this in his 4/26 email to his assigning pool that included game day procedures. There was/were incidents that led to this letter from PA West. Remember GLA, GLC, DA games are NOT governed by PA West and unless the club involved is a PA West affiliate team Maria may not have jurisdiction. We are all able to card coaches for their behavior, their bench’s behavior, their assistant’s behavior and their fans’ behavior. If you are doing a GLA, GLC, DA account you will only need to mark those cards on the match report that will be submitted to the specific commissioner. As adult referee’s we need to draw the line at zero tolerance if we want our developing referees to develop. See included message from Maria. 

Hi all,
Sadly, this morning I had more emails about coach and spectator misconduct than I have ever received after a weekend of matches. 

Some of us may have read the recent article in the NY Times (Bad Behavior Drove A Referee Shortage) or the OpEd in the LA Times (Angry Parents Are Ruining Youth Sports), which further adds to our discouragement.

Here’s some good news – PA West Youth has the strictest accountability & discipline protocol in the US, for coaches AND spectators.  Please read below from the Youth Rules, Article 5.  But to make those consequences happen, a REPORT MUST BE FILED!!!  https://www.wparef.com/game-report/
File a report for
     – ANYTHING unusual
     – spectator involved incident
           – scroll down past the section on cards and there is a Supplemental Report section with check boxes for a spectator incident, a card does NOT need to have been issued
     – coach involved incident
  – scroll down past the section on cards and there is a Supplemental Report section with check boxes for a coach incident, a card does NOT need to have been issued
     – cards – this we know
     – injury – this we know
Remind your pool of referees to check the GDR to make sure the coach(es) at the field are on the GDR!
Finally, encourage your club to take some responsibility – have a board member at the fields for games, strolling around, sort of like a field marshal, to address unruly fans.  So many of our referees are teens who may feel intimidated by an adult who is misbehaving.  Perhaps you may want to remind your board of the Youth rules concerning Misconduct which I’ve shared below.
Make sure your referees FILE REPORTS!!!
For the good of the beautiful game,
Maria Swanson

In reviewing Maria's letter I also realized that for PA West sanctioned games PA West pretty much has a zero tolerance policy, just like Wisconsin--the real challenge is when teams based in Pittsburgh and Fayette County are not affiliated with PA West.

 Below are the PA West guidelines for expectations of clubs and coaches- please note that while a club may be a PA West club you will need to note the governing body for the game being played. 
From PA West Youth rules, https://www.pawest-soccer.org/assets/66/6/202021playingrules2.pdf
Article 5 - sections B & C
B. Coach
1. Any coach or manager found guilty, after a hearing, of using ineligible players shall be suspended for a period of one year.
2. A coach participating in a game without a valid pass shall be subject to a hearing. Any coach found guilty of coaching without a valid pass will be suspended for a minimum of four (4) games.
3. Red Card: Two (2) game suspension for the next played league game;
4. Any coach receiving two (2) red card/ejections in a season is, pending a hearing, automatically suspended for one (1) year, starting with the date the second dismissal has been received.
5. A red card and its suspensions will be carried over from season to season;
6. If a coach receives a red card/ejection and then proceeds to commit verbal abuse or any other offense which, on its own, meets the criteria for a red card offense, the referee shall submit a report and a hearing shall be held to determine if additional penalties shall be imposed.
7. Accumulation of three (3) yellow cards during a playing season will result in a two (2) game suspension.
8. Any coach receiving four (4) cards (red and/or yellow) in one playing season (September 1 through August 31) shall be subject to a hearing to determine if additional time will be required in addition to the minimum two (2) game suspension;
9. All suspensions must be served with the team with which the coach received the suspension and will not be eligible to coach with any team until the completion of the suspension.
C. Spectators
1. Spectator shall never address players, referees, coaches or other spectators in a negative, abusive, or threatening manner;
2. Spectator shall not coach from the sideline during any match;
3. Spectator found to be in violation shall be subject to removal from the match;
4. Repeat offenders shall be subject to a hearing to determine additional disciplinary measures;
5. It shall be the responsibility of each coach and/or manager to maintain proper spectator conduct. They shall be held primarily accountable for the conduct of the spectators for or from their respective teams. Failure to do so shall result in a hearing to determine additional disciplinary measures.
6. All incidents and disciplinary measures will be communicated to the individual’s club; the club shall be responsible to insure measures are met.
1. Failure to effectively enforce positive spectator behavior of courtesy and good sportsmanship could result in the club being placed in bad standing.

Where do clubs stand on this? Are they willing to terminate a coach who does not adhere to their own code of conduct policy? Who brings an issue to the club’s attention?

3 responses to “Burnout is real and it’s still April.”

  1. Anthony George Cutrara Avatar
    Anthony George Cutrara

    Sounds like we should have a coffee night soon and create a whiteboard.


  2. Does anybody know what the pay rate is for this game? If it isn’t PA West Classic then something is wrong. . . .Beadling 2009 Boys Pre- MLS NEXT v RiverhoudsDA EAST @ Breisinger Turf. U13B GLA
    Part of the problem is the Riverhounds are not a PA West club so they play GLA.

    And you wonder why a referee turned back this game. . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Based on the team title, you’d think it would pay at least college rates. . ..


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