Kitsap coaches, WIAA voice opinions on new red card rule

The Bremerton High School boys soccer team practices drills before the playoffs last month. - file photo
The Bremerton High School boys soccer team practices drills before the playoffs last month.
— image credit: file photo

Last spring, the Bremerton High School boys soccer team entered the final stretch of their season with an immaculate league record.

But despite the team’s record, their entire season was in jeopardy.

The Knights were tagged with two “straight” red cards – violations for abusive language or violent conduct during a game – and were one away from being banished from the postseason under a new rule implemented by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association for the 2010-2011 school year.

In addition to forfeiting the postseason after earning three “straight” red cards, any player who commits a violation is subject to immediate ejection from the game, and is out for the following three matches.

Bremerton’s Nick Riders and Jordan Perrone were each suspended. Knights head coach Randy Lund wasn’t pleased.

“It’s absurd and absolutely ridiculous,” said Lund prior to the team’s district tournament appearance last month. “You look at other sports, and you don’t see this.”

Mike Colbrese, the association’s executive director, defended the rule last week, saying that high school boys soccer has seen more bad behavior than other sports.

Colbrese said it was time to address what the Executive Board felt was “a continuing problem.”

According to the association, a total of 42 violations for violent conduct and 48 for abusive language were issued to schools during the 2009 season. In 2010, the numbers dropped to 31 and 35 red cards for violence and language, respectively.

However, serious foul play red cards increased from 47 to 51 last year, and despite the dip in other categories, Colbrese said the numbers were still too high.

“We kept seeing an increase in soccer ejections for the use of violent conduct and abusive language, and those should not be a part of high school sports,” Colbrese said. “We don’t have this rule in other sports because we weren’t seeing high numbers of ejections.”

This season, numbers provided by the association indicate a slight decrease in “straight” red cards issued to teams.

A total of 30 penalties for violent conduct and 38 for abusive language were recorded for high school boys soccer teams last season. Colbrese is content with the progress.

“We believe it was successful,” he added. “That’s why the board chose this route, to see a marked drop-off in the numbers.”

Bremerton never received the third red card that would have eliminated the team from the playoffs. The Knights won the Olympic League regular-season title, and earned their first trip to the state tournament in 20 years before losing in the first round.

The rule is still facing scrutiny.

Last week, Klahowya Secondary School boys soccer coach Jeff Quinn echoed Lund’s disappointment with the new rule. Quinn believes the sport is singled out by stricter rules than basketball or football, which don’t carry the same suspensions.

“It’s too many,” said Quinn, who added that one game is enough and two games is a good compromise. “My biggest gripe is that the WIAA wants to crack down on soccer, but they don’t have an equal rule for basketball or football.”

The Eagles coach said he also disagreed with the decision to eliminate a team based on players’ red cards. Although overly aggressive play and behavior needs to be handled properly, Quinn added, he believes the rule will do more harm than good.

“There are some teams that may be loaded with violent players and we need to eliminate them from the postseason, but I think this rule will have the larger effect of hurting good teams,” he said.

Meanwhile, longtime Olympic High School soccer coach Steve Haggerty said last week that he doesn’t oppose a three-game suspension for violent conduct outlined in the association’s rules.

Haggerty, who has coached boys and girls soccer at Olympic for 31 years, added that players and coaches have to take responsibility for their actions.

“We need to make the consequence severe enough that it is an actual deterrent,” Haggerty said.

“Players will know straight up that consequences are severe and that if they choose to act in a violent or abusive manner, they are putting their team in jeopardy.”

Colbrese said last week that the association will meet in July to decide whether additional rule changes are needed for boys soccer.

He added that the board is not in serious talks about introducing stricter punishments for other sports, but said they are concerned about ejections in baseball.


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