LEHI, Utah — The Utah County Youth Soccer Conference is taking swift action after a coach attacked a teenage referee at a youth soccer game over the weekend.
“We had a skirmish on the field where the coach basically attacked a referee,” said Cole Cooper, president of the Utah County Youth Soccer Conference.
Video of the incident was shared on various social media outlets, including the Utah Youth Football parent page this weekend. It shows an assistant coach from the Skyride 1st and 2nd grade team running onto the field after a scuffle between players.
When the 19-year-old referee steps in to separate him and is helping a player to his feet, the assistant coach runs onto the field and pushes the unsuspecting referee.
“It took me a few seconds to realize what was going on because I had never seen anything like it,” said Bower Anderson, who was also an umpire on the same field. “It was a bit scary, I guess.”
Anderson is a first-year youth soccer referee, and what happened on Saturday is something he never wants to see again.
“At the end of the day, it’s like we’re trying to do our job and help the kids.”
The Utah County Youth Football Conference has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to misbehaving parents and coaches, and Saturday’s attack has now been turned over to the Lehi Police Department for investigation.
“There is no time that an umpire, coach or player should touch an umpire,” Cooper said.
Cooper said Saturday’s incident highlights a big problem happening in youth sports, one that is contributing to a shortage of referees across the country.
“There is a problem with parents, with coaches who think this type of behavior is acceptable,” he said. “Parents, just because you pay a fee to play, that doesn’t mean you have the right to argue with the umpires, or fight with the umpires, or show up and be a nuisance.”
KSL TV contacted Skyridge Youth Football about the incident on Saturday and received this statement:
As a representative of Skyridge Youth Football, I am saddened by the events that occurred at one of our youth football games over the weekend. The behavior exhibited by our assistant coach on the field is not a true representation of our program nor is it in line with our expectations of our coaches, parents, and players. Football arouses strong emotions even in the quietest. Our goal is passion, positive intensity, teamwork, respect and love for the game. The coach in question reacted dramatically and negatively to his interpretation of what was happening on the pitch. Our leadership and that of the Utah County Youth Soccer Conference has a zero tolerance policy for actions and reactions like this. I sincerely hope that we can put this incident behind us and continue to enjoy youth football.
— Kristel Lundberg, President, Skyridge Youth Soccer
For Anderson, he said refereeing is about the kids, and he too hopes parents and coaches learn from this experience.
“My main job as a referee is to make sure the kids are safe and make sure they have fun playing soccer,” Anderson said.
He said that despite what happened on Saturday, he plans to get back on the field.
“It’s just a little bit retarded, a little bit scary, but I love doing highlights and I’m going to keep doing it.”
The Utah County Youth Soccer Conference will hold a disciplinary council Monday night and provide a recommendation for action to the league committee. However, Cooper said he is confident, as conference president, that the Skyridge Youth Football assistant coach will not be able to participate in the league for the rest of the year.
“Youth football gets emotional and it’s exciting, it’s fun – there’s a lot of emotion and trying to contain that and knowing that if you can’t contain it, you just have to walk away.”