Let’s start this off with a hypothetical scenario. Your child’s team is playing a team from a nearby town in a closely contested match. The score is 1-0 in favor of your team. Late in the 2nd half, one of your team’s players, let’s call them Player A, goes in hard for the ball and gets called for an elbow/push. The opponent, let’s call them Player B doesn’t fall down or get seriously hurt – it was just a rough foul.

Suddenly the father of Player B comes onto the field and starts yelling at Player A over the foul. Almost immediately, the mother of Player A comes onto the field, worried about her daughter, and starts yelling at the father of Player B. Player A’s father comes out onto the field as well. At that instant, most of the parents swarm the pitch attempting to get their children off the field. Meanwhile, the coaches and referees are struggling, but succeeding, in pulling the initial parents of Players A and B apart. Not long after that, three police cars pull up and officers get out to restore order as parents are all over the field. The game is halted at that point.

What should be done? Which parents should be punished and how? Should team sanctions apply?

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I ask this because this very scenario recently played out with my daughter’s peewee basketball team (they’re mostly 8-9 year olds) The foul happened between the biggest players on each team who were battling in the paint for the ball with their arms up. When they brought their arms down, they hit each other in the face and the referee called a foul on our team. The injury was not major – the players both were still standing up and were OK. But the sequence of events resulting in the parents swarming the court happened as described above and when the police arrived at the gym, there were parents all over the court.

This just goes to show you that crazy parents aren’t limited to soccer. This was Recreational Basketball for 8-9 year old girls! The interesting thing is while we don’t know for sure yet, the coaches expect the county athletic department to suspend both teams from play for the rest of the season because so many parents entered the court. It is unclear if either of the original two parents will be individually sanctioned in any way. But I find it interesting that the county would punish the girls, who only want to play, because a couple parents did something they shouldn’t have done. You’d think those parents would be dealt with. Team sanctions exist in soccer as well, but in most rules I’ve seen, there has to be something pretty egregious for the team to be sanctioned as a whole vs individual players or parents. But the view is that the parents should never have entered the court to retrieve their kids and since so many did, team sanctions are called for.

Now this wasn’t some bleacher clearing brawl, though things were tense. The sanctity of the soccer pitch is the same – you don’t come on the field unless you are summoned by the referee. But if two parents suddenly came on the field and looked ready to fight, would you wait to be summoned or go get your child, even if it meant breaking the ‘never step foot on the pitch’ rule. It is an interesting situation. Clearly the parent of Player B was wrong to come onto the court and yell at an opposing player. Player A’s parents were wrong too as they likely inflamed things, though they were concerned about their daughter’s safety. As for the rest of the crowd – it’s an interesting debate as to what they should be expected to do.

So faced with a similar situation as a parent, coach, and/or league administrator at one of your U10 Rec soccer matches – what would you do? Who would you sanction and why? As a parent, would you have come onto the pitch to get your child?