SOCCER

Unsportsmanlike conduct: UHSAA puts men’s soccer on 3-year probation. here’s why

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Alta’s Jack Johnson flies away after being tripped by Lehi’s Tyson Haunga, earning Haunga a yellow card, during the 5A Men’s Soccer State Championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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MIDVALE — Utah Men’s Soccer is shown a yellow card.

At the association’s most recent executive committee meeting, the Utah High School Activities Association voted to award three-year probation and two-game loss to every team in the state, meaning teams won’t will be allowed to play only 14 games starting with the 2023 season – due to an increasing number of red cards, ejections and unsportsmanlike behavior across schools, classifications and regions.

The hope is that playing two fewer games per season will allow coaches and administrators to better enforce the behavior of players, coaches, parents, volunteers and spectators, especially with regards to interactions with referees. and match officials.

The two-game reduction will be reassessed after each season, beginning with the spring 2023 contests, and will determine whether the probation can be terminated, extended or otherwise modified – including reduced or extended – based on current circumstances.

“We ask all of you, administrators, coaches, players and parents, to step up and take ownership of this great sport,” UHSAA Deputy Director Brenan Jackson, Senior Director of Athletics, said in a letter to member schools obtained by KSL.com. . “Coaches, you have the greatest impact on the behavior and style of play you allow on the pitch. The players, and sometimes the behaviors of the parents, are a direct reflection of how you conduct yourself on the pitch. We ask you to be part of the solution, not part of the problem Model and teach the behaviors and playstyle that will help make matches that have been deleted.

“Please take this time to evaluate your programs and make any necessary changes to improve everyone’s experience, especially the student-athlete.”

Jackson acknowledged that not all schools have the same problem with increasing unsportsmanlike behavior, but added that circumstances made it a “statewide problem” when the announcement was made. probation.

“I would like to thank the few football schools that have had no ejections this season and I encourage you to continue to create a competitive environment rich in sportsmanship and without ejections,” he said.

The decision came from the 27-member executive committee which includes directors — mostly managers and athletic directors — from all regions and classifications in the state. The decision was made to “take a stand against sportsmanship issues in the sport of men’s soccer,” the UHSAA added in a brief statement, declining to comment further.

The probation policy comes just weeks after the Utah Youth Soccer Association announced a no-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior directed at referees from fans, players and coaches at its own games. At the time, the association said referee abuse had resulted in a severe shortage of officials for staff games – a shortage that UHSAA officials also spoke about openly, both in public and in private.

In UYSA terms, any coach, player or spectator who berates, harasses or threatens a referee risks losing the game and losing the team’s spectators for the remainder of the season.

“Referee abuse has always been a problem,” UYSA CEO Bryan Attridge told KSL-TV. “But we have to do better.”

While perhaps among the most widespread — and certainly the most visible — of the rants and complaints, the issues surrounding unsportsmanlike conduct at high school games go beyond harassment by umpires.

The UHSAA says 164 ejections were issued last spring, including 146 to players and 18 to coaches. Of those expulsions, all but 50 were red-card offences, including 43 for violent conduct and 71 for inappropriate language, gestures, fighting, taunting and other unfair acts.

Davis and Herriman compete in the 6A Men's Soccer State Championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Davis and Herriman compete in the 6A Men’s Soccer State Championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

In one example – a 6A state semi-final between eventual champion Herriman and Farmington – the match saw seven yellow cards and two red card ejections at the Phoenix, and referees demanded a police escort to leave the field afterwards. the final whistle.

Of the 21 association-sanctioned sports, 50% of all ejections and major disciplinary issues came from men’s soccer, Jackson said.

“This is unacceptable,” he added. “Changes need to be made to improve sportsmanship and the number of ejections that occur at your respective schools.”

For many, the need to control behavior starts at the top, with coaches and administrators.

“Coaches have to control themselves and their players and their reaction to calls and things like that,” Davis coach Souli Phongsavath told the Standard-Examiner, which first reported the news. “That is what we are responsible for.”

It is not the first time that men’s football, sanctioned by the state in 1983, has been put to the test. In 2007, UHSAA targeted a handful of schools — namely Park City, Bonneville, Jordan, and Dixie, according to the Park Record — with wide-brimmed probation. This season saw a record total of 111 ejections, a 30% increase from the previous year, to spur action.

The entire state was also placed on probation in the 1990s, when teams also lost two games per season.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has been covering BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while blending prep sports, education and whatever his editors throw at him.

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