A Lakeland parent speaks out

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Dear Editors:

I am writing in response to some of the articles I have read recently in the Suffolk News-Herald regarding the Lakeland-Deep Creek soccer game. I feel unless you have watched these soccer games in person that you should have both side before you print your articles.

I have written to the Virginia High School League (VHSL) requesting that high school referees be made more accountable. As a parent, I have watched high school soccer for the last five years. At times I thought I was watching a fighting match instead of a soccer game. The referees allowed elbows to be thrown, ankles to be trapped and twisted on purpose and actual fists flying. I was recently at a game between Great Bridge and Lakeland and Great Bridge did more elbowing than playing soccer. I feel I am a very calm and peaceful person but at that game I was so fed up that I shouted, &uot;Watch the elbows,&uot; only to have the referee basically laugh it off.


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Well, I think the Lakeland team finally started thinking that you have to be rough in order to survive and, to my dismay, I witnessed the accumulation of five years of poor referee control when Lakeland played Deep Creek. That night we were playing, and when we scored a goal, one of the Deep Creek players swung at the player who had made the goal. The referee was appropriate and red-carded the player, but did not make the player leave the playing area. The game started becoming more and more physical but not in a sports-like manner. Our coach even heard the Deep Creek coach use profanity at the referee, but the referee chose to ignore it. There was also an adult from Deep Creek on the sidelines coaching. Some of the Lakeland parents requested to have them return to the bench or stands, but that went unattended. As a parent, I do not want anyone to be hurt; I realize accidents happen, but when games get so intense and are not controlled by the referees, I find fault with the referees.

To make a long story short, one of our players was speared by a Deep Creek player, and in the heat of the moment (and probably self-preservation) he came up swinging. It looked like three others started fighting the Lakeland player, then the Deep Creek bench came onto the field, including the one that was red-carded. The Lakeland bench finally got up when they saw the Deep Creek coach hold one of our players while two Deep Creek players punched his face. I thought I was in a Third World country.

I don’t think our Lakeland guys should have fought back, but at the same time, after witnessing five years of things being let go without players being carded, I can understand how it happened. I get the feeling that the referees don’t know how to exert control or that they enjoy watching the altercation. Again, either way, I feel the referees could have controlled the game before it turned out the way it did.

If our guys heard the Deep Creek coach yelling profanities, what type of lesson did they learn when it was allowed to go unchecked? Our team also heard one of the referees say that they hate officiating a Deep Creek game because they are so rough. My question is, why didn’t they exert more control from the onset? What lessons are being taught?

I have written the VHSL requesting that the referees insist on good, clean and sportsmanlike games from the very beginning. Don’t expect teams to turn the other cheek forever. I do realize that a referee cannot see everything, but with three and so many incidents, I do expect them to take the adult role and control the attitude/tempo of the game.

Thank you for allowing me to voice my concerns. I am sorry I did do this before.


Katherine Witten Edwards