New red card rule that penalized Bremerton needs fixing

Inside the Huddle: Sports Commentary

This may come as a surprise to you, but apparently some high school boys soccer players can’t keep their cool.

Blame it on testosterone levels, trash talk or the fact that players constantly run down the field without timeouts. In any case, ejections were increasing, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association officials were getting fed up, and the issue was finally addressed for the 2010-2011 school year.

But the solution, to level harsh penalties and decrease bad behavior, nearly cost Bremerton High School its entire season.

And when considering the fact that high school boys soccer is an aggressive sport played by teenagers, perhaps the association should revisit the rule. Perhaps the best way to change the culture on the field is to target those who stand on the sidelines, namely, the coaches.

The new rule suspends players for three games for a “straight” red card, resulting from abusive language or violent behavior on the field. In addition, any team that accumulates three “straight” red cards in a single season is banned from the playoffs.

The rule applies solely to boys soccer. The association believes this is fair, and says it isn’t singling out one sport and one gender, because no other prep sport showed an increase in ejections.

However, a three-game suspension for players may not teach a lesson to improve future conduct.

High school athletes are students of the games, constantly learning the X’s and O’s along with the rules and proper etiquette.

And most teams play an average of 16 games during the regular season, which means a “straight” red card leaves players on the bench for nearly a quarter of the season.

It’s difficult to expect athletes to learn how to play the game if they can’t take the field for an extended period of time.

The suspensions, like the ones dealt to Bremerton’s Nick Riders and Jordan Perrone, can ruin a player’s chances of impressing scouts or helping the team make a playoff run.

Perrone had a limited role with the Knights last season, but Riders was one of the top scorers in the Olympic League. During Riders’ absence, Bremerton lost its first league game, a 2-0 defeat to Kingston High School in April.

Boys soccer is known for being a highly-contested, sometimes violent sport, and in this case, is played by high school students.

In order to enforce the rules while also allowing players to compete, a one-game suspension might be more appropriate.

Bremerton still managed to earn its first state tournament appearance in 20 years, but the team’s seeding was affected by Riders’ suspension.

Riders described the “straight” red card violation as “regrettable” last month, adding that he missed important matches for Bremerton.

Meanwhile, the Knights, coached by Randy Lund, were one “straight” red card away from postseason banishment, even with a first-place showing in the league.

The team was placed on probation and a crew of officials from the association attended the playoffs in case a third red card was on its way.

It would be sad if a “straight” red card violation defined a season, but if a school has totaled three infractions, there may be a serious problem with the program and forfeiture of a playoff spot seems reasonable.

Three “straight” red cards is a strong indicator that a coach has lost control of a team dealing with behavioral issues, and coaches need to be held to a higher standard.

Unfortunately, the entire team is subject to this part of the new rule, but the association needed to send a message to coaches, and forfeiture is perhaps the best way to do this.

Last season, no Washington high school was given three “straight” red cards.

Mike Colbrese, the association’s executive director, said last month that the rules will be reexamined in July, and the board will decide whether further changes are necessary.

One can only hope that coaches remain accountable for their teams, as long as players don’t lose valuable time on the field.

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