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Discipline in Soccer
Discipline in soccer should always be positive in focus, providing the structures and rules that allow players to set their own goals and strive for them. It should encourage players to become more responsible for themselves and their actions and therefore more independent.

Discipline should be a positive reinforcement for effort. It should encourage the development of emotional and social skills as well as skills in soccer. Players have to be helped to become responsible for the decisions and choices they make within soccer, particularly when it is likely to make a difference between playing fairly or unfairly.

There is no place in soccer for fighting, bullying, over aggressive or dangerous behaviour.

At all times, players should treat others in a respectful manner. They should never bully, interfere with or take unfair advantage of others.

The use of sanctions is an important element in the maintenance of discipline. However Coaches/Managers/Volunteers and Administrators should have a clear understanding of where and when particular sanctions are appropriate.

It should be remembered that effectively controlled organisations and successful coaches/managers/volunteers are characterised by the sparring use of sanctions. The age and developmental stage of the child should be taken into account when using sanctions.

Sanctions should always be fair, consistent and applied evenly, and in the case of a persistent offence, should be progressively applied.

The following steps are suggested:

  • Rules should be clearly stated and agreed.
  • A warning should be given if a rule is broken.
  • A sanction (use of time out for example) should be applied if a rule is broken for a second time.
  • If a rule is broken three or more times, the child should be spoken to and parents/guardians involved if necessary.
  • Sanctions should only be used in a corrective way that is intended to help children improve both now and in the future. They should never be used in retaliation or to make coach/manager/volunteer feel better or more powerful.
  • When violations of the team rules or other misbehaviours occur, sanctions should always be applied in an impartial and fair manner.
  • Sanctions should never be used as threats. If a rule is broken, the appropriate sanction/s should implemented consistently, fairly and firmly.
  • Sanctions should not be applied if the coach/manager/volunteer is not comfortable with them. If an appropriate action cannot be devised immediately, the child should be told that the matter will be dealt with later, at a specified time and as soon as is possible.
  • Once a sanction/s has been imposed, it is important to make the child feel s/he is a valued member of the team again.
  • A child should be helped, to understand if necessary why sanction/s are imposed.
  • A child should not be sanctioned for making errors whilst playing soccer.
  • Physical activity (e.g. running laps or doing push ups) should not be used as a sanction as to do so may cause a child to resent physical activity which is something that s/he should learn to enjoy throughout his/her life. Remember Soccer has to be fun if participants are to continue playing.
  • Sanctions should be used sparingly. Constant criticism and sanctioning can cause participants to turn away from soccer.

Adapted from the Irish Sports Councils Code of Ethics & Good Practice for Children’s Sport (2005)

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