Commentary / Local

Violence mars soccer experience at YSC Sports

It’s a typical balmy Thursday night at the beginning of the fall session for my over-35 team at YSC Sports in Wayne. As I pull into the parking lot, I’m greeted by two ambulances and about eight police cars. Instantly, I know what has happened. This is not just an injury. The overwhelming police presence makes it clear:

It’s happened again. Another incidence of violence at YSC.

While this incident doesn’t relate directly to the Union, I know that many PSP readers frequently play at YSC. And remember that YSC Sports is owned by Richie Graham of YSC Graham Investments, one of the major owners and partners of the Philadelphia Union. YSC has always been an essential part of the Union, from the first team’s early training days to the now very successful Philadelphia Union Academy and YSC Academy. It is also the premier indoor sports venue for soccer and other sports in the area where sometimes thousands of people walk through the doors each day. Therefore, events at YSC do reflect upon the Union organization as a whole.

I don’t want to get into the particulars of this latest event because I didn’t witness it personally, but it didn’t occur as a part of the normal course of play. By multiple accounts, it was an act of pure assault, and it resulted in very serious injuries, surgery, and perhaps life-long damage to a victim who I have always known as a kind and decent man. What’s more disconcerting is that even now, it is unclear if the perpetrator was apprehended as it seems he fled the scene when police arrived.

Today I received a disappointing email from YSC. It included no particulars about the incident, just a simple statement that violence would not be tolerated. There was no information to ensure that the individual perpetrator would be held responsible, only that both teams would receive a ban for the rest of the season. It also included a tongue-in-cheek reminder that this was an over-35 league with no contracts being handed out.

What it should have included was an acknowledgement that YSC can do better to ensure the safety of the players who use the facility and a proactive plan to prevent future violence. If you’ve been around the soccer world for any period of time, you know that violence is not necessarily a rare occurrence. I would suggest a few changes that could help limit future incidents:

  1. Require players to register with some form of identification. Photocopy a driver’s license and use that as a player card. Let captains be responsible for presenting approved player cards to the referee before each game. I’ve played in several leagues in the US and Italy where this is common practice. By removing the anonymity of players, you lessen the chance of random violence.
  2. Have CCTV cameras on each field. That way any incident that occurs will leave evidence that can be used for prosecution in the future. (Update: YSC does in fact have security have at the facility already.) 
  3. Hire some security guards. The guys who work there and the refs in the games try their best, but they can’t be expected to restrain someone or break up a fight.

And if you’re a player who uses the YSC facilities like me, know player safety is our responsibility as well.

Soccer is in a class by itself when it comes to sportsmanship. Be proactive during games to decrease the tension. It’s true that no one is going to get a scholarship or professional contract at YSC. It’s true that just about everyone has to get up and go to work the next day. So try hard, compete hard, but respect the safety of your opponent. If you make a mistake and catch somebody’s ankle, be mature, help them up and say you’re sorry. If one of your teammates is getting hot, sub them out or pull them away before they blow up.

And for Pete’s sake, please drop your ego at the door. Be thankful that you’re healthy enough to play this beautiful game and be gracious enough to allow others to continue to play as well.

Please respect this game that we love so much.

19 Comments

  1. The refs need to be more authoritative and attentive in this league. Cards are never issued and often times games are on the verge of getting out of control because fouls are missed or ignored and players are not warned or told to watch themselves. Some refs are good but some refs at YSC do not even communicate with the players. I have had refs answer phone calls in the middle of games before and then seen the same ref there the next week. This behavior is unacceptable.

    It may seem ridiculous to give cards and warnings in 40 minute weeknight leagues, but if these kinds of things happen, then the preventative action needs to be taken to stop the incidents before they start. Identification, CCTV’s, and security guards would not have stopped this incident from happening, but only would have gone towards punishing the offender after the incident occurred or stopping the incident after it had already happened. If prevention is the goal it has to start on the pitch with the refs.

  2. Quite a few who play in the pick up noon games have been banned. Hopefully this serves as a reminder than only Messi wears a jersey with Messi on the back and that if you are a jackass stay home.
    .
    Oh the humanity.

  3. I stopped playing at YSC in Horsham because of all the fools looking to take their home or job frustration out on my ankles and knees. So much unregulated stupidity.

    Hard to see how quality officiating and rigorous ID requirements fits into YSC’ business model, but if enough folks vote with their feet, maybe things will change.

  4. Wow, haven’t played here in several years and was surprised to hear how this has deteriorated. I only wish that I had a dollar for every time that I had to chastise another player for crossing the line by playing dangerously. My standard message was always that we all have to go back to real life in an hour or two so let’s keep that in mind and ultimately, we’re doing this for fun, not to hurt someone. Most of the time this approach calmed things down, but I was lucky that I’m big so people tended to listen more.

    I love the sport of soccer, but there is something about it when played recreationally by adults where people just lose their sh*t. I’ve played a lot of pick-up basketball throughout the city and in my experience, it’s never gotten as bad as it does in soccer.

    • For all the flack soccer gets for being a “wussy” sport, it is a contact sport. You can have a shoulder charge and win the ball that is perfectly legal. You can come through a guy on a standing tackle and if you get the ball, that’s not a foul. Often times, this contact breeds aggressive behavior. Also, you have your hands free at all times, so there’s more grabbing, pulling, and pushing.
      .
      Basketball can be physical, but is a non-contact sport by definition in its rules. If you swat the ball, but then hit the guy’s arm, everyone recognizes that as a foul. In the post things can get physical, but in pick up it’s generally not too bad.
      .
      None of this excuses any of the behavior from these idiots, just trying to provide some logic for why adults lose their sh*t during pick up soccer whereas they can handle themselves better in basketball. I’m firmly in the camp of we all have day jobs to go back to and you try your best, but it really is not life or death.

  5. I think that YSC does a decent job (not good/great) of identifying problems and addressing them. The suggestion of security guards is ridiculous- these are grown men. The real problem is that captains of the teams do not police their own players- they know when someone is getting close to out of control and don’t pull them off the field. They then allow the players back onto their teams rather than banish or suspend the players from the teams. I have played at YSC since the dual rink days and my kids and teams I coach have played there. Could it be better, sure, but the article is simple hyperbole.

    Also completely disagree that any incident between adults at YSC reflects on the Union- quite a stretch.

    • +1 and a quadratic equation for good measure.
      .
      Though I do agree with the author about proper ID upon team selection and registration…. up in Limerick you actually need your photo ID just to get in…

  6. YSC does have and use cameras on all their fields. It is an active investigation which is most likely why they were short. They also collect rosters but players are not checked in before games. Cards are not issued in these games, but warnings and ejections are. I ref and play at YSC. Like most refs, I call what I see and do my best to be fair and build a relationship with the players we see week after week. We are human. I make mistakes and miss calls but try to treat everyone with the same respect I would like to be shown. I am a USSF licensed referee just as most refs at YSC are. The referee uniform is not worn because it is not a US Soccer competition. Fouls are a part of the game, how we choose to react to them is up to each and every one of us. We are all responsible for our own behavior as tensions rise.

  7. After thinking about this post and talking with the YSC staff, I think I may have been a little unfair above. Perhaps writing too much with the heart rather than the head. My main point here was to vent my frustration with violence between players and try to come up with ideas to help prevent it. It was not meant to be a criticism of YSC specifically. To be fair and balanced, I do believe the following to be true:
    .
    1) Violence around soccer is not new, and not unique to YSC. In fact, what I like about YSC is that it generally has the right balance of competition and comraderie. There’s a reason I have signed up for every season since I moved here four years ago. And I still feel 100% comfortable bringing my kids there.
    .
    2) The staff at YSC are very attentive about dealing with problems when they arise, and while this incident is an ongoing investigation, I’m sure they’re limited in what they can say.
    .
    3) Policing ourselves is the most important area of improvement and most likely to prevent future problems.
    .
    4) I’m glad this article is generating discussion, and I know that the YSC staff are always open to hearing input on how they can continue to provide a great experience for their players.
    .
    5) YSC does have cameras. I didn’t know this until today and I’m glad to hear it.

    • You’re not thinking of retiring from writing for PSP to spend more time with your family? That’s typically part of these types of statements. 😉

    • I am very glad you came to that conclusion. It is not the fault of the facility at all. They need to follow very strict guidelines for legal purposes, hence banning both teams and not elaborating on the actual details. As a very long time spectator, I can say that that 95% of the games over the years have been typical. Has there been a bit of shoving? Sure. Has there been a bit of rough play? Yep, soccer has it. I have only seen one game in all my years watching at Rocket/YSC that ended without the shaking of hands.
      Being a player or a spectator and armchair reffing does not help either, guys. Blowing a whistle every 30 seconds actually leads to more frustration for the the players and will not help to deflate a problem-manchild on the field.

  8. I have been playing pretty much continually there since I was a first year lawyer in ’97 (and it was Rocket Sports) and know Charlie and the guys who actually run the day-to-day there to be very good guys who have done tons for soccer locally and especially for those of us looking for “rec league” space opportunities. They have always been responsive to any concerns I have ever raised. I can’t help but feel that this article is an overreaction to one isolated incident.

    I was also playing on one of the other fields when this incident happened. This was in the O-35 “A” division where the skill level is still pretty high for the most part, just that many of the legs have slowed. That said, a couple of those teams, including one involved in this incident, have reputations for being “chippy.” At the end of the day, these are grown men (and some women) in a rec league who have to act like it. To try to play this off as YSC being at fault is ridiculous. In fact, YSC banned BOTH of the teams involved (not just any players involved) for the rest of the season. Certainly, that reaction cannot be criticized. I would expect that they will not allow the teams to participate in any future season if the teams/captains are not participating and assisting with the investigation.

    I captain (and pay for) a team in the slightly lowerer key “B” division, but I can tell you this — I have “uninvited” players who were dicks from the team. Just as in any competition, people can get heated. While we all love to complain about the refs, at the end of the day, each and every player is responsible for his actions and reactions. What happened last week at YSC is really no different that what could happen at any place – WalMart, a restaurant, etc — some “adult” loses his shit and acts entirely unreasonably. Quite frankly, the fact that it does not happen more frequently in competitive situations at YSC speaks to the fact that most of the “adults” in the O 35 league act like adults – even the ones on Scott’s team of hackers 😉

    • Totally agree with your sentiments (see my comments above). I missed the target of my frustration and unfairly grouped YSC into the blame arena when I only wanted to think about ways to prevent this from happening. I can’t even argue with your comments about a couple of the “hacks” on my team…I’m working on them! But you bring up a good point- most “hacks” are typically just guys who lack a little skill/control or are a step slower now than their brains. These fouls can be forgiven. The intentional repetitive fouling / trash talk game has to be dealt with by teammates and refs swiftly.

  9. Back when I was involved with running the Casa league, we tended to have repeat offenders when there were problems. What we found is that we had to crack down on them hard once we found consistent problems. The trick was knowing when to do it. There was one guy, I recall, who I had to suspend for an extended period of time — either a full season or permanent, I don’t recall — because he was a regular violent outburst waiting to happen.

    The point is that I had to actively do it before something even worse happened, based on the reports I got from refs and teams. I had to recognize the problem. And I did. And that was, in fact, my job as someone running the league.

    There’s always a bad apple, and as an organizer, you need to do what you can to crack down, prepare your referees for anticipated problems, and take precautions when you notice it so you can send a message to everyone else in the league that this will not be tolerated.

  10. The player (goalie) who got injured totally instigated the entire chain of events I was playing I went in for a challenge with him we both fell down and he jumped up and two footed scissor kick me in the back and his resulting injury was from an over the top reaction from my teammate theses are the facts hope he recovers fully but should take a lob hard look at his own behavior!!!!!!

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