In 2008, the Staples High School team that I coach received 15 cards.
All were yellows. The majority came in the run of play: hard tackles, jumping over a player for ahead ball, that sort of thing. Four came from one official; another four came from another ref.
As a result, we were on probation for the following year. My athletic director and I had to
appear before the CIAC Soccer Committee. They were firm but fair. They asked me about the circumstances and the players involved. I was told to come up with an action plan to reduce the number of cards.
During pre-season the next fall, the head of our district officials’ board talked with our players.He described how referees think, and gave tips for minimizing cards. We sat players for 20 minutes (not the then-mandatory 10) after a yellow. I let officials know before each match that we’d do that, and asked them to please warn me if a player was doing or saying something on the field that we could not see or hear from the bench.
In 2009, we had eight cards (again, all yellows). Did our probation and action plan have
anything to do with that? Perhaps. Then again, it might have been the different group of
players we had. Or the fact that we saw the two referees who had given us eight cards the year before much less frequently.
I am not opposed to consequences for too many cards. In fact, I now sit on the CIAC Soccer
Committee, so I’m one of those sitting in judgment when coaches accumulate more than 12 in a season.
But that 12 is my issue. CIAC regulations state that any team with more than 12 red and yellow cards -- “including regular season and tournaments” -- is on probation.
In other words, a team that plays 16 regular season games, three more in its league
tournament, and another five in the state tournament -- recording 13 yellows during a very
competitive league and state championship season -- is subject to the same rules as a squad that goes 0-16, does not play any post-season matches, yet accumulates 15 cards (including several reds).
There is no consideration given to the fact that one team may play 33% more matches than
another -- and that the further one goes in a league or state tournament, the more intense
those games may be.
I believe firmly that teams that amass “too many” cards should face consequences. I believe
just as firmly that there should be a scale, taking into account the number of games each team plays.
I also believe that the decision of how many cards is “too many” should be based on
comparative studies. We need to know whether cards are increasing or decreasing throughout the state; whether officials in some leagues or from some boards give more cards than others; whether LL and L teams amass more cards than M and S teams (anecdotally, I think that’s true), and whether some officials are more apt to give cards than others (I’m sure that’s true).
We’re all in this together: players, coaches, referees and the CIAC. Cards are an important part of game management. But so is common sense. Let’s make the rules fair for all teams: those that play 16 games a season, and the few that are lucky, good -- and tough enough -- to play 24.