People who aren’t familiar with soccer usually believe it is a sport where players never get hurt and there is no contact. The problem is many in the sports media help further this myth about soccer. Any youth soccer referee, coach, or league administrator will have many stories about having to explain to parents that, yes, contact and injuries happen. Even at the youth levels, contact is almost constant and the risk of injury is very real (#2 behind football).
Over at Peach State Soccer (@PeachSoccer), an online magazine dedicated to Georgia Soccer, they have an article about one busy soccer parent or coach and all the injuries they know about just in one weekend. Sobering:
Friday night: High School Boys JV – ankle broken in three places from tackle
Saturday: Girls U11 – lost teeth from collision with goalkeeper’s head
Saturday: Girls U13 – broken tibia from tackle
Sunday night: Men’s league – broken collar bone from tackle
Monday night: High School Boys JV – blown knee ligaments from tackle
Sports injuries do not equal toughness. They are quite sad actually and while injuries from unintentional contact are one thing – in fact all of the injuries I described from the weekend were just that, fair challenges or just accidental brutal collisions, intentional injuries are absolutely intolerable.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Youth referees need to start showing cards to kids as young as U8 or U10 who commit reckless fouls, even if they are unintentional. Otherwise they grow up knowing or believing that no foul is going to get them a card until it is too late and they really hurt someone. Stop worrying about making a kid cry and show them cards when they deserve them. They need to know when a foul went over the line while they’re young.
Some will say we should ban tackles, but even if that happens, injuries from reckless fouls will still happen. So show some plastic when it’s deserved, even if the foul was unintentional. There’s no need to require ‘malice’ to show the plastic. Kids need to learn where the boundaries are, and a normal loss of possession foul isn’t going to do that.