After suspending season for two teams, Niles Optimist Soccer mulls changes

Published 8:58 am Friday, May 22, 2015

Those in charge of running the Optimist youth soccer league in the greater Niles area are reviewing the program’s policies and procedures after an incident at a game caused organizers to cancel the remainder of the season for two soccer teams.

According to Dana Bunch, a parent who said she was at the May 11 game, a heated argument over officiating broke out between parents, coaches and the people in charge of enforcing rules at the game (administrators).

Erika Kirtdoll, secretary of the Niles Noon Optimist Board of Directors, acknowledged that the dispute was over officiating. She said no physical altercation occurred, but that some people reportedly used vulgar language.

A letter from the Optimist board sent to parents, coaches, referees and spectators read, “Parents are accurate in saying that the children were bothered by this unfortunate occurrence.”

An investigation by the board determined that people on both sides could have handled things better.

The board decided the best course of action would be to cancel the remaining games for the two teams involved and return a portion of the money to children whose seasons were cut short.

“We as a board are in agreement that allowing further competition of the teams involved, at this time, would not lead to positive childhood experiences,” the board said in the letter. “This decision has not been made lightly as we are aware that it is the children of those teams who are caught in the middle and who will pay the consequences for the inappropriate behavior of both the adult leadership and parental/spectator disrespectful involvement.

“It is especially unfortunate for the children and parents who were in no way involved in disrespectful or inappropriate behavior.”

Bunch said she was unhappy with the board’s decision to cancel the games.

“I just don’t think it is fair to the kids,” she said.

In an email to the Star, Kirtdoll and Optimist Treasurer Terri Grimes said no disciplinary action has been taken against the two administrators involved in the incident.

“The program is currently under review, however, the administrators have not been removed and will likely keep positions within the soccer program but not dealing with the issues that gave rise to this incident,” Grimes and Kirtdoll wrote.

They said the board is taking steps to decrease the likelihood of an incident like this from happening again.

They include:

• Increasing the number of administrators at games and making them more identifiable through the use of special clothing or badges

• Giving parents updated contact information for the right person to talk to in case they have questions or concerns

• Creating contracts for parents, coaches and administrators that would clarify rules and expectations