Before the boys soccer regular season, the IHSA Board of Directors approved a rule that would bar any team that collected 25 or more yellow cards from postseason play.
No area teams violated the rule, and all are participating in the postseason. As teams prepare for regional games this week, Pioneer Press talked to area coaches about the new rule, its downsides and a surprising upside.
Did referees change how they officiated games from the beginning of the season to the end?
Scott Steib, Barrington coach: “I think they were [giving] more [cards] at the beginning as it was fresh on everyone’s minds. Referees talk just like coaches do. They are human and judge things differently. At the end, things like hard tackles that were clearly yellow cards were not being given.”
Blake Novotny, Highland Park coach: “I noticed they are not giving out cards like they were at the beginning [of the season]. There’s an awareness on their part. The kids are playing off [the ball] and they [the referees] are more tolerant late in the season.
What did you like least about the rule?
Elliott Hurtig, Deerfield coach: “I felt it came out of left field and there was no coach input. It felt very forced and unfair. I don’t think it is an effective way to keep yellow cards down. I’m guessing there are players who are not playing within the spirit of the game. [The IHSA is] trying to address language and foul play. There are other ways to educate coaches about that than coming up with a yellow card rule. How a player approaches the game is best not through rules and regulation but education.”
Andy Bitta, Libertyville coach: “If it was just for dissent or unsportsmanlike, I understand. But a kid who goes in hard and gets a card, that’s part of the game. A kid who gets a delay of game or goes hard on a 50/50 ball and it’s a judgment call by the referee, it shouldn’t count toward the 25.”
Mike McCaulou, Vernon Hills coach: “My only concern was there was no input with coaches. You have the executive boards making decisions and didn’t get any input from high-level coaches that have been around the sport. Come and talk to [coaches] before you put it in effect.”
Was there an unintended benefit to the rule?
Bitta: “We talk all the time to our kids about playing hard but within the rules. This definitely reinforced it. We’d tell them not to pick up stupid yellow cards.”
Steib: “We sat down at the beginning of the year and said, ‘This is a big deal. We can’t go in for reckless tackles and can’t be chattering with officials.’ I have a good relationship with the officials. Most of them are on the same page. We are here for the kids.”
Novotny: “We’ve talked about it more often in that there’s a backing to it, and a rule. There have been some positives as it’s something to talk to my team about. My players don’t talk to referees anymore.”