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EYSA Insights

This is a place for stories, information, and other articles from the EYSA Family and Community.  It is also a resting place for the older stories, information, and articles that may have appeared on the front page.

Yell at the ref!...

Yell "Thank you", without them, there is no game. 

“No thank you, I don’t need your help” says Referee Carmichael to a player on the field that is trying to explain why a foul he just called should not be called at an Austin preseason tournament this year in August.  I thought to myself, “wow, that is a great way to handle players and even parents.”  I was the assistant referee, and it was a hot day.  It was my fourth game that day, three in a row and I was questioning my life choices that lead me to be out in the heat for two days in a row.  I always tell people jokingly that I only referee so that I get to wear the cool-looking socks.  Then I remembered the real reason, there is a massive referee shortage, and no referees means no games.  Elgin enjoys the benefit of the efforts of Referee Assignor extraordinaire, Matt Lawhon.  Because of Matt’s efforts, we largely do not see the referee shortage impact our Elgin Youth Soccer Association teams very much because Matt has been mentoring and getting new referees in Elgin for several years.  In fact, we have so many that we have to lend them out to other organizations like Bastrop, Lee County, WDDOA, and other facilities.  There are times we are short-handed in Elgin, but we have not had to cancel a game yet due to it.  So why is there a referee shortage?  Plain and simply put, there are jerk spectators. 

I like to think I am preaching to the choir in Elgin about jerk spectators, but there have been issues with some Elgin parents and no matter how “bad” the referee may be in an away game, there is never an excuse to abuse the referee.  So, what can you do?  Here is one idea that I have used myself.  If a coach or a parent feels that a game is being called too dangerously, unfairly, or not calling it "both ways", then take out your phone and start video recording.  This may make the referee think about the calls they make a little more.  It may also make you decide you should behave better since it records what you or your fellow spectators are saying also.  If it is bad enough, then you can send the video to the EYSA board and we can pass that along through the proper channels along with the game number and date.  Another solution is that the coach can ask the referee what the call was.  Be sure to do so in an appropriate matter.  If a referee can not tell you what the call was, then they should not be refereeing.  That is a standard that I let the teams know on occasion before I referee a game.  A team captain can also ask about a call, again, in the appropriate manner.  The team captains are responsible for the actions of their teammates on the field.  They have responsibilities more than just saying heads or tails and picking side or ball at the beginning of the game.  There are other responsibilities as a spectator and coach that I will get to later.

If you do not think there are issues, then here are a few examples recently.  One of our very capable youth referees finished her game and was at the store with her parents when she went to the restroom facilities, an away parent that had harassed her on the sidelines of the game decided that in the women’s restroom at HEB would be a good place for her to show her true colors of being misogynistic and racist.  I wondered about that person and how would she feel if that happened to her daughter on the field and then away from the field?  I am not happy about it and wanted to report it, but our referee is tougher than me in that respect and wanted to put that behind her showing a great degree of maturity that I am not sure I would have had if I were in her shoes.  This is a prime example of why we have a referee shortage.  Not all youth referees would come back the next weekend like her and still be refereeing.

Another incident was after a game where one of our former division 1 players that is now in college had centered a game, very well I might add as I was the assistant referee.  The game was one we were handling for Lee County and the away team had lost.  A very tall and big man from the away team walked across the field with the other parents as our center referee was going to get the game card signed by the coach and this man started to tell the center referee how bad of a job he did.  I was just behind this, and I started in “No, not doing that, you need to leave, just go.  You can still be kicked out of the game.”  As the team manager was signing the game card, I let her know that she needed to have that parent leave as we could still kick them out of the game and write it up.  The team manager understood.  This man still managed to glare at us as he left when we were finishing up at the referee shed, putting away flags and preparing to leave.  Do you think this is the way to act towards a referee that is eighteen years old?

Now, out of the hundreds of games this year, these are only two incidents and there have been a few others, so that is the good news.  Most referees are not harassed, but it only takes one jerk, but at the same time, if you are a spectator or a coach, you can say something to that jerk.  This is the spectator responsibility that I referenced earlier.  I have seen coaches make comments to parents that start to get upset about something that the call was good, or that was a clean slide tackle, or keep their mouth shut if they don’t understand the rules.  That is what needs to happen.  The fellow spectators and the coach LET the bad behavior happen by not saying anything to the jerk.  This can be stopped before it gets out of hand.  Now a new perspective.  Can you imagine someone coming to your place of work and questioning everything you do and yelling at you every chance they get?  I would hope not.


Can referees manage a game in a way that makes it easier?   Yes, that is part of what mentoring is.  We work with youth and other referees to let them know how to communicate in a way that makes every call obvious as to what or why it was called.  Examples of this communication include communicating on the field with “play on”, “play, play, play”, “advantage” or something similar when there is a foul but the team that was fouled keeps the ball.   Many referees learn to communicate “no foul” for shoulder-to-shoulder contact that is not charging.  They also learn to say “not intentional” or “not handling” for situations where there is a ball that contacts an arm or hand, and the ball is not directed or is incidental contact that is not intentional.  This leads to players, parents, and coaches knowing what is going on.  Knowing the calls helps diffuse confusion and subsequently leads to diffuse anger.  The best referee for making calls could still cause some confusion if they are not communicating well where the players, coaches, and spectators can hear them.  To this end, our Ref assignor extraordinaire, Matt Lawhon, has taken on training to become a referee assessor.  He will soon be able to officially help referees get better at what they do.

While this may seem discouraging to some that may want to referee, we support our referees and endeavor to have a board member present at every game that we can.  We do not put referees on games that we do not think can handle the game or crowd.  The youth referees have the power to card coaches and control the game as appropriate including requesting coaches to remove spectators.  As a youth, if you want to have a job that pays good, has weekend hours that you pick, and will look good on a resume or college application, then this is the job for you.

So next time you are at a youth soccer game and want to yell at the referee yell “thank you” to the referee after the game because there would be no game without them.

James Sides

President EYSA

The Volunteer 

The coaches in Elgin are all volunteers and may most likely they are a parent to one of the players.  Many soccer associations are run by volunteers that dedicate not only time, sweat, and money, they also give a lot of their heart and soul to make an environment that is fun, competitive, and educational.  Many parents do not understand how much a volunteer coach does for a team.  The coach sets up practice schedules, may hold several coaching certificates and national licenses that they spent their own time to get in order to be better at what they do.  The coach sets up a line up and when no one lets the coach know that a player cannot make it, they must make last minute adjustments.  For any one hour your child spends with them, the coach has already spent that much time thinking about the practice or game and even writing down notes.  During practice, the coach also takes the time to work with the kids as much as they can, given the time constraints to which they are limited to in practice.  Your child may be only 7 years old but may have a coach that coaches a competitive division 1 team or has had experience coaching at that level.  Your coach may be heading to that level soon with your child as well.  There are many select teams that are competing with, and many times, beating, coaches that are paid to be there.  Keep in mind, a volunteer coach is always learning something every time they are on the soccer field about how they can do their job better, but the pay is always the same, nothing.

The coach is supported by many people that make their job possible, the youth sports board members.  These are individuals that you can easily say “If you want something done, give it to the busy person”.  The board members have regular jobs and family time and requirements just like any parent does.  Many of the board members are also coaches, referees, team moms, team managers, and generally there to support in multiple capacities.  They make the time in their own busy schedules to ensure that everyone’s kid has fun and has a safe environment to participate in youth sports.  The only time anyone talks about the board in a youth sports is to complain about something.  Seldom does some one on the board hear that the 20 plus hours they put in over the summer to make sure the fields were in a playable condition for opening day in the Fall is appreciated.  No one say thank you to the person that puts in 40 plus hours to registrar players and verifying ages and trying to get all the kids that want to play somewhere.  No one appreciates the time spent getting players trained to be referees and spends time and money to make sure it happens.  The board members know they work for the kids and that is the reason why they continue to do their job thanklessly, costing them their own time and money the same as the coaches. 

These volunteers know that the child’s safety comes first, and the fun comes second.  Someone in their the board members and coaches are also teaching life lessons to the youth.  You don’t always win and if you do win, you respect your opponent for making you work hard to earn the win.  These coaches have to go through background checks and several hours of youth sports safety training including concussion protocol and child molestation recognition training on their own time.  In the end, when you see one of the volunteers or volunteer coaches out in public, their only reward is to hear a parent or a player say “hello” or “hello coach” and know that the they have helped another person in the life lessons of working hard as a team to achieve a cooperative goal.

Thank you to all the hard working volunteers that make Elgin Youth Soccer successful season after season!

James Sides

President EYSA

There are no "bad" players 

In coaching you do not have good players and bad players you have developed players and developing players and it is important to keep both engaged and learning continuously for the team, as a whole, to get better.  The challenge can be to be sure that each player knows their abilities and plays accordingly.  Not every player is a mid-fielder any more than every player is a goalie.  Speed is not a skill, but a tool, to be used appropriately.  If a player uses speed as their only skill, then they will be beat by someone who is faster every time.  If you add strategy, tactics, spacing, skills, and team work with speed, then you have a near unstoppable force.  For the player that does not have speed, they will need to concentrate on the same things of strategy, tactics, spacing, skills and team work.  They will become as an effective player as any other.  In the end, the ball is still the fastest thing on the field and even a player that is challenged with speed can be an accurate passer and know how to position themselves to be most effective without speed.  Even the fastest player can take advantage of using angles to get back on defense like their slower teammates. 


Some players are there to receive a ball and pass it appropriately, some players are there to take a through ball and then either shoot or adjust to a negative ball set up so that their team mates can make the run to the pk line and wait.  At some point in the game 100% of the players on the field are playing defense if the other team has the ball.  Everyone needs to know how to play defense.  This is a game won by teams not individuals.  There may be one individual that has an ability that if utilized by the team play can lead to consistent results, but if that player is injured, you still need a solid team to compete.  I do not say win, the point of the game is not to win, it is to compete and get better.  Losses will happen just as wins will happen.  You must learn from both.  If you walk away from a game and learned nothing then it was a bad game, win or lose.  Sometimes a good loss is better than a bad win because it makes you more competitive for all the games you play next where a bad win makes you overconfident and sloppy which leads to being less competitive.  If you are winning by a clear margin or even losing by a clear margin, then it is time for player development by either more play time for developing players or players in new positions or by trying new things for developed players.  If the team is on the winning side, It may be a time for sportsmanship as well where you learn to pass the ball around and work on strategies.  When the wins come regularly then it is time to find new competition at a higher level to keep being more competitive.  Each season is a time to work on a skill that takes a player and a team to the next level.  The development and striving to be more competitive never ends. 


The trick as a coach is to always find the correct challenge for each player and for the team that is appropriate for them and for each player to see that it is a team’s job as well as the coach to develop each player.  A team that has “jelled” is one that acts in single mind and body communicating, trusting, utilizing, and knowing that if a mistake is made, it is what the player does next that matters most and your team depends on it.  The beautiful game is not a perfect game, but one that has mistakes but acts immediately on those mistakes when made to minimalize the impact of the mistake.  There are valuable life lessons to be learned from being able to be a part of something bigger and working in a role to achieve something.

Thank you,

James Sides

President EYSA

"Developing" Coach

It is not that you yell, it is what you yell and from where you yell it

“But I have my freedom of speech, I can say what I want to…” yells an angry fan.  “That may be, but we get to tell you where you can say it, and if you keep it up you can say what ever you want from inside your car in the parking lot…” replies a Soccer board member, ok, that board member was me.  Years ago after an enthusiastic game I coached, a good friend, Ricardo Siller, asked me the question, “Did getting upset at the ref change the outcome of the call that was already made?”  It made me think, "No, it did not".  In fact, the call did not change the outcome of the game either.  When it comes to rooting for our team, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and spectators of all kinds have one thing in common, a lot of passion.  I always admire seeing a lot of passion for the kids and relatives playing on the field and I even encourage it.  The best sporting event you can ever watch is one in which you know a player in it.  One of my favorite t-shirts is “Some people wait their whole life to meet the favorite athlete, I raised mine.”  Youth sports and passion go hand in hand.  However, it is the direction and placement of that passion that can be a problem.

Not everyone can be on a winning team and not every team wins every game.  I like to let teams know after a loss that if you walk away from this loss with out learning anything, then it was a bad loss.  You learn from winning and you learn from losing.  As far as I can tell, no referee has ever kicked a ball in a goal to make one team win over another.  As far as I know, no parent or spectator has yelled loud and violently enough to make one team win over another.  The players are there to play.  The referee is there to make sure the laws of the game are enforced to the best of their ability and keep the kids safe.  The coaches are there to make sure the players execute (hopefully) all the things they worked on in practice.  All these things present challenges on their own.  When you add in hormones to teenagers and ask them to play the game and not overreact when someone shoves them from the back for the 10th time when they have the ball or are going for a header, it is a lot to ask of a player. 

Another friend, Roy Kay, said that you can only control a few things with the most important two being your attitude and your effort.  This is good for players and that is sound advice for spectators.  Imagine being at work and your boss comes up to you and starts yelling at you every time you made a mistake, really yelling at you until they are red in the face.  I am pretty sure you would quit that job no matter what the pay was.  Your child does not get to quit being your child, it is not a job.  The referees have a job to do and do it the best they can.  Some referees are learning, some will not return because they do not like getting yelled at by adults.  Attitude and effort are important.

So what can you do?  There are a few simple things that can be done and I must remind myself the same thing as a parent, coach, and referee all the time.

  • Stay positive – if you yell at a kid for missing a shot, then next time, he will not take it.  At last I checked, you do not win a soccer game by NOT taking shots.  Encourage good behavior and good actions and then move to correction.  The parents need to stay positive to encourage that positiveness in the players.  If a referee hears a coach getting on to a player to be more careful when they are playing, then that referee will probably give the coach and the player the benefit of the doubt in determining if they get a card later or not. However, if the parents are obnoxious, that all cancels out.  Attitudes can be changed to improve the game as players and spectators.  Changing the referees attitude by being obnoxious rarely bodes well for the obnoxious team.

  • Effort – you made the effort to attend the game, you are already being a good parent or spectator, now make the effort to show how to be a good spectator.  Yelling at a player, an opposing team parent, or the referee does not change the outcome of the game.  All the players on the field do not appreciate it, nor the referee, nor the other parents, nor the coaches.

  • Positioning – If every spectator sits across form their own team’s bench then everyone is much more civilized.  There are always a few spectators/parents that cannot help the snarky comments from being released from their lips.  If they can sit farther away from the middle, they would do them selves and everyone a favor.  The less of those comments that the other team’s supporters can hear, the more likely there will not be any issues.

If you are someone who likes to agitate people just to agitate people, then do everyone a favor and stay in the car or simply stay at home.  After a while, the soccer association, coach, referee, or field Marshal will probably ask you to do just that anyway unless you can keep yourself under control.  Julie Dumbeck is the wife of coach Ragen Dumbeck and I remember her bringing suckers to the games to hand out to the parents so that the parents could do something with their mouths other than yell at the refs or players.  After a while, the parents started asking for the suckers and it was funny to say "this looks like it is going to be a three sucker game".


In the end, we are all out there for the same reasons and the same goals.  We should all realize this and realize that we can all be positive influences on all of those in attendance to help the players get better at something they like doing.  We can all learn form that and make the effort to be better at what we are there to do, be a positive influence.  

Thank you,

James Sides

President EYSA

Reformed yeller in training


The Big Business of Youth Sports?

Not at EYSA...but the competition is here

A note from EYSA President:

There have been several exposes and articles in magazines about the big business of Youth Sports.  The irony of the big business of youth sports is that youth participation in sports is on the decline.  From a recent Time Magazine Article "Overall sports participation rates have declined in the U.S. in recent years...".  The real Sports with Bryant Gumbel feature Youth Sports, Inc article aired in August.  In this video article, it actually featured a well know central Texas soccer organization where the families were too embarrassed to say what they were paying with all the registrations, fees, uniform fees, tournament fees, coaching fees, and the list goes on.  This did not include the cost to travel and stay in hotels.  The parents have a credit card on file with these organizations and payments are withdrawn automatically each month.  If you miss a payment then the kids do not get to play. 


The justification, a lot of the time, is that the parents want to get their kids a college athletic scholarship.  If you look into the two articles you will notice that parents are spending anywhere form 10% of their income up to $15,000 a year.  If you do the math, that means that in order to get only the chance of college scholarship, the parents are spending $150,000 a year.  Even with an athletic scholarship, the parents would still have to spend money on their child while at college.  If you took the $15,000 a year and put it in savings or college fund investments each year, you would have enough money to put your child through college, scholarship or not.  If college is not a concern, then you would be able to almost pay off the average price of a home in this community.  We all love our kids and want the best for them.  I see that every weekend at every age level and in every sport in this town and I love the enthusiasm.  That enthusiasm might be what is driving some to spend the money.  A chance at a scholarship means it is not guaranteed, but an actual investment in college guarantees money for college and you can do this tax free sometimes.  God forbid a child gets injured and either can no longer play or looses a scholarship too.  The Bryan Gumbel article ended with the Bryan Gumbel asking the question, how many professional athletes that are playing now or are in the hall of fame participated in a program like this?  The answer was very very few and instead of driving 12 hours to play the sport, these now professional athletes were at the park playing it for 12 hours and getting better at the sport instead of sitting in a car.


I have heard from some Elgin High School coaches that ask the question.  How can spending a lot of money on a big sports program help a kid if everyone makes the team?  There are certainly different levels of play, but, if you are not at the elite level, you are spending a lot of money and time to just play.  Here is a local example of the big business of youth sports.  Recently there was a large central Texas soccer organization that cancelled a tournament due to Hurricane Harvey.  The event was cancelled more than 24 hours before the first game and no referees were paid.  All the teams that participated had paid more then $500 to play in the tournament.  These teams received a single refund check made out to the team for $247 with no explanation.  This means that the organization took in around $38,000 with out a single game being played, and as far as anyone can tell, no expenses either.  There were several Elgin coaches that are not happy.  A large soccer organization that with players that pay thousands of dollars a season to play, $247 is not a lot I suppose.  In essence these teams donated $253 and will not even get to write that off on taxes.  To put in perspective, that is more two seasons of registration fees in Elgin.  Whey would an organization send less than a 50% refund with no explanation or not even a voucher for a future tournament?  The only explanation given to any Elgin coach was that the terms of the agreement to play in the tournament allowed the organization to do that.  If your first and foremost interest is for the development of youth players and these players parents pay thousands of dollars a year already, why would you keep $38,000?  All I know is that there are several coaches in Elgin that will no longer participate in any of the Texans soccer tournaments.  There is a lot of money to be made in youth sports.  You can be sure that at EYSA, we are not in the business to make money, we are in the business of player development through the fun of playing soccer.  This is the time to give a shout out to the city of Elgin and the Elgin Parks and Recreation Department that help create and maintain the environment for affordable soccer in Elgin.  Please thank your city counsel member and your mayor.

So what can a soccer player in Elgin, TX do?  EYSA is a small organization and the closest registration fees that are considered affordable in the central Texas area is still more than twice what you pay at EYSA (Wells Branch SA $250).  When you look at the EYSA teams playing out there, they are very competitive.  There have been several teams over the years from EYSA that have won or placed in the top three at the CAYSA championship for Division II and Division III.  We have had several winners and top placements at the Western District level and even at State level.  There has been winners and top finishers at the President, Directors, and STYSA cup over the years as well.  There is almost one EYSA team each year that wins CAYSA.  These  EYSA teams also consist of players from younger age groups playing up.  This is one way you, as a parent, can manage a player that wants to get more of a challenge by playing up into an older age group.  There will need to be coach and  EYSA board approval, but it is possible.  EYSA is here for all players of all ages and skill levels.  At $120 a season as the registration fee, we are also very affordable and provide a great environment for your players to grow.  If you feel the need to spend $15,000 a year, we will accept donations for field improvements, we are a 501c(3) charitable organization, at least you can write that off on your taxes.  At EYSA we are here to promote and develop youth soccer players in the Elgin and surrounding area at all levels of play and skill.  All of our coaches know that participating on a team, showing up for practice, giving it your best, and developing your skills goes beyond the area of soccer and into life skills to help develop a person, not just a player.  We all like to be on winning teams, but learning from a loss is a valuable lesson too.  The EYSA family is here for the kids.

James Sides

President EYSA

One Town, One Team, One Family

A note from EYSA President:

Something to keep in mind through out the season is that EYSA is part of the Elgin area community helping to build children in to young adults through being part of something bigger, a team, an organization, and a kind of community that you want to live in.  The Elgin moto of One Town, One Team, One Family is a great moto, when taken to heart.  As young Division IV players from ages 3-10 play each other, it is the competition and camaraderie that builds a better community.  Competition makes us better as players and coaches.  We all play to win, but even if a team loses, it still matters on how the game was played.  This includes the spectators, parents, coaches and team mates.  We want to foster a competitive environment.  We need to keep in mind something Coach Efraim Jaimes once said to me many years ago.  These kids playing against each other now will be playing together on a team for the school one day.  This was a good reminder.  The other team is not the enemy to be obliterated, berated by parents, intimidated by spectators, and constantly complain about any call made by a 10 year old for your 5 year old child's game.  Much like it takes a fast moving and rough grindstone to sharpen a blade, it takes great competition to make a better player.  The children learn from their parents on how the parents react during and after a game.  Something to keep in mind after every game: If you win the game, what did you learn?  If you lost the game what did you learn?  If you can answer that questions with a good answer, then you had a good game.  A note about the two teams that Efraim Jaimes and I were coaching, many of the players from our two teams are now playing together for High School on JV and Varsity.  One town, one team, one family.


James Sides

President EYSA

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