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Silent Sunday gets mixed reviews

May 17, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@hotmail.com

From the sidelines of soccer fields at Hagerstown's Fairgrounds Park Sunday, players could be heard talking to each other during games, motors from passing cars could be heard revving and Bon Jovi songs could be heard playing from stereos of cars in the parking lot.

The "Silent Sunday" soccer event may not have come and gone without a sound, but it was much quieter than usual, said referees, coaches and parents.

The Hagerstown Area Youth Soccer League's annual "Silent Sunday" allows parents and coaches to cheer, but they cannot offer suggestions or talk to the youth players and referees. Many in attendance said the difference in noise from Sunday to previous weeks of soccer action was tremendous.

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"It's almost eerie," said Sheila Albertson, watching her son Christopher, a 6-year-old playing for the Red Rockets.

John Doherty said he enjoyed the "Silent Sunday" games because the one-day rules filter the negativity he believes youth players are subjected to regularly.

"I think it's refreshing," said Doherty, watching his son, Conor, play for Jerry's Sport & Design, an under-14-year-old team. "It's become a situation in which it's not much of a supportive environment for the kids anymore."

That team's assistant coach, Mark Martens, said it was difficult to not give direction, but it gave coaches a chance to see how much information players retained from practice.

"It's good to see them step up and do what they've been taught," he said.

The coaching duties for the team Sunday were handed to Zach Marx, who said he enjoyed the experience of both playing on and running the team.

"That was pretty fun because you couldn't really get yelled at," Marx said. "I'd like to see more of it because it gives more players a chance to see what it's like for coaches."

Donna Frank said she believes the silence rules work better for older players, rather than the 5- and 6-year-olds. Frank said the older players have a better handle on what they are doing.

"They have someone who'll take charge," said Frank, whose sons Lucas, 12, and Nick, 6, play on teams in the league. "At this age, they're a little clueless."

Some described watching the games while being reserved as "painful," and Andy Albertson joked that he was going to sit in his car so he could yell when excited.

"It's driving me nuts," said Albertson. "Right now my son (Christopher) is driving at the goal."

Albertson's discomfort was blatantly evident as he rocked in his fold-out chair and covered his mouth with his hands.

Albertson was not the only one.

"It's hard. You were allowed to yell green or blue, and that's about it," said Laura Mills, who watched her grandson, Cole Mills, in action Sunday.

Mills said she was not a fan of the event because she believes "little kids like it when we cheer." Cole agreed.

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