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Soccer to Get Fresh Start From Officials : One-Year Probation Helps Control Sport

February 21, 1985|SARAH SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Because of improved sportsmanship and supervision, the Southern Section executive committee is expected to recommend today that high school soccer be taken off probation in a meeting at its Cerritos office.

Included in the recommendation is expected to be new measures designed to ensure the continuing health of the sport, administrator Dean Crowley said.

The executive committee will submit the recommendation to the Southern Section council for final approval, which usually is nothing more than a formality.

Last season, soccer was put on a one-year probation after 117 reports of ejections, fights, threats, profanity, suspended games and offended officials were reported to the Southern Section office.

There were 36 suspended games, 29 fights, 21 instances of players or coaches abusing officials with profanity, 11 cases of players or coaches hitting an official and 4 cases of spectators striking players.

Coaches said the biggest problem was finding qualified officials to referee the games. They said inconsistent and incorrect calls by referees sometimes contributed to unsportsmanlike behavior by players, who often understood the game better than the officials.

Also, the lack of referees meant boys games were usually supervised by two officials, rather than three. Girls and lower level games occasionally were played with just one referee.

Officials still are in great demand, but the Southern Section administrators included recruitment and training of referees among their goals for the past year.

Crowley said the Southern Section put soccer on probation to take a dramatic stance against the reports of fighting and poor sportsmanship.

"We had to open some eyes and turn some heads," Crowley said. "We've all heard those horror stories (of fan riots and deaths) in Latin America, and we don't need that here."

The probation, however, wasn't well-received in the soccer community. Some said it was humiliating and a setback for the fledgling sport. Others said it was unfair, and that it would do more harm than good.

But as the probation period ends this season, most high school soccer teams are enjoying a rejuvenation of sportsmanship and increased support from school administrators.

And most important, the problems have been dramatically reduced. As many as 40 incidents a month were reported to the Southern Section office last year. The total for the 1984-85 season is 31.

"The goal was to clean up the sport and make it more livable for everyone concerned," La Quinta High School girls soccer Coach Bill Wilson said. "The probation was supposed to be a positive statement, rather than saying, 'If you don't clean up your act, we'll outlaw soccer.'

"Everyone needed to work on concepts of good sportsmanship, and we're very pleased about the direction it's heading. Everyone has been very cooperative and enthusiastic."

Once the initial shock wore off, coaches, players, parents and administrators responded favorably to the probation, Crowley said. Some of the loudest critics even came around to appreciate probation's positive results.

The specter of playing in a probationary sport apparently did not discourage students. The number of players has increased about 20% this season, Crowley said. With 250,000 children in Southern California paying $25 to $45 each to play youth soccer, it is not surprising the high school sport is booming.

Because of the need, the Southern Section added a girls division along with 20 other new teams this season.

Also, the situation with referees is improving. Adnan Bayati, president of the Orange County Soccer Officials Assn., said about 30 new referees were trained in Orange County this year, helping to increase the number in the county to 130.

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