Parents policing other parents at minor soccer games

Bad parent behaviour has prompted minor soccer officials in Calgary to require a 'field marshal' at every game.
Coaches pick a parent from each team to act as a field marshal. The orange band signifies their role. ((CBC))

Bad parent behaviour has prompted minor soccer officials in Calgary to require a "field marshal" at every game.

The parents of players aged 10 to 12 seem to be the hardest to deal with, said Daryl Leinweber, executive director of the Calgary Minor Soccer Association.

"These are when the kids start to become really competitive and the parents really start to get involved in those games," he said.

That can be hard for the teenage referees. Last year, two-thirds of the association's referees quit in the first year, leaving one in every nine minor games without a ref.

Referee Ryan Heddinger, 15, said it's a tough job, especially when parents take things too far. 

"Lots of yelling or swearing and once or twice they almost made physical contact or tried to come on the field to talk to the ref," he said.

Under the new policy, the coaches pick one parent from each team and give them an orange armband. The field marshal stays on the sidelines, keeping an eye on the parents. If a parent gets out of hand, the field marshal can tell them to settle down. If the parent refuses, the team marshal takes notes about the incident and hands it over to the association.

"It just feels safer because now the coaches and the parents will be restrained from doing anything. Talking to me. Questioning me about a call," said Heddinger.

Parent Jeremy Dancey, who served as a field marshal in a recent game, described his job as keeping the other parents in line.

"The same idea as security. Just making sure everyone is in check and they don't have to worry about that aspect. They can pay attention to reffing the game," he said.

Parent Ian Cameron said he's relieved young players won't have to witness parents acting inappropriately.

"The kids see it and they react. It's something you want to squash and not promote at all."