The following is a letter written by Athletic Director and Soccer Coach, Terry Jamieson, of the Cassville Wildcats. It has been submitted to MSHSAA and the Sportsmanship Committee. Terrry has been kind enough to allow me to reprint it in its entirety here.
I have been a coach of all the major traditional American sports, baseball, football, basketball, and track, and through my career which has spanned both college and high school, I have not enjoyed as much success as I have with the sport of soccer. I have spent the last 7 years as the head coach at Cassville, Missouri High school in southwest Missouri.
I love the game, my son plays and loves it, and when it is played with sportsmanship and ethics it is a beautiful sport; But I have learned some grim truths about this game and it has led me to form the opinion that until soccer is cleaned up it will never truly catch on as an American game with the popularity that is enjoyed in other sports.
The game is played sometimes in a manner that would be unacceptable in other sports. What I mean is this; only in soccer can you commit a serious foul and walk off with a warning. Soccer seems to personify the swashbuckler image and attitude, which is in my view, only bolstered by the nearly ridiculous behavior of European players and of course the fans, on a global perspective. It is an embarrassment to watch players, fake fouls and injuries in order to sway an official and a call. It is a travesty for our youth to watch pro and world cup players wave their arms about and get in the face of an official to influence the game.
Here is the true threat to soccer locally. Our high school coaches have displayed absurd behavior toward local officials and then received only warnings. Anyone can disagree with a call but there is a classy way to argue without stomping on the dignity of another person. High school coaches should be focused on cleaning up the game by using strict discipline on players and expect them to showcase classy behavior on the field, but the coach has to set this example and it is hard to do if you are yelling and berating officials and then following them off the field because you think they lost you the match.
I am also and Athletic Director here at Cassville and soccer must share the spotlight with football. Our football coach is a classy guy and he shows it on the field and I certainly do my best to behave as soccer coach.
Our local parents and students have come to expect discipline as part of these programs and as A.D. it is something I will insist upon. But as an A.D., I can safely say that the conduct of soccer coaches has been the absolute worst of any sport that I have ever seen, and remember I am a soccer coach. Bear in mind there are some good ones as well but the horrible attitudes of some have made it hard for the ones who try. I work for an administrator that expects sportsmanship and I abide as do the other coaches. This does not mean that there will not be discrepancies on the parts of our people, we all make mistakes, but the soccer persona in this nation seems to suggest that the rules are meant to be trashed and broken and character is not significant.
Nothing sickens me more than watching a soccer player in a local high school game take a dive to fool a referee or then argue every call for 80 minutes trying to sway the outcome. In reality you would be ejected in all other American sports on the first incident in which you tried any of this.
So why do we tolerate it? Our local coaches have to clean this game up for the sake of our students and the integrity of soccer. It is a beautiful game but the conduct of coaches is the primary problem. If we step up and take control of ourselves then the kids will follow suit. In fact I think if a coach berates a referee he or she should be ejected without warning, and that includes me if I am doing this. Even the Missouri State High School Activities Association would have to agree with me on these assertions.
And so why do soccer people cry that the sport is overshadowed by football?
It does not take a great athlete to take a dive or stand an argue with every word from an officials mouth. People outside of soccer will not respect us because we have good feet. They will respect us when we have a good game.
I have created good friendships with local officials and we are losing them because coaches treat them like dirt. I hope with all of heart they do not feel this way about me.
Cassville High School
Well said Coach. I believe that the sport of soccer, at whatever level it is played, is much like a three-legged stool. Players, Coaches, AND Referees are required to enjoy the game. The vitriol spewed at referees is a significant issue and sets a bad example for everyone involved in the game. Parents, as spectators and members of Booster Clubs, play a major role in this as well. If we were all subjected to the intense scrutiny these men and women face everytime we tried to do our job, most would melt.
What type of example are you setting?