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Open Commissioner's Note: One Rule Binds Us All
Notes from Open Commissioner Greg Robb
By Greg Robb, 03/11/07

Parents and coaches trying to understand DC Stoddert’s soccer philosophy should look no further than Rule 10 on page 14 of the general game rules.

Under this simple but powerful rule, we ask our coaches to remove a player from the field and “play down” if the team is ahead by three goals.

This is a tough rule, no doubt about it.  But it captures the spirit of what we are trying to do at DC Stoddert Soccer:  to provide the best, most welcoming soccer environment for all children regardless of ability.

Personally, my teams have been leading 3-0 even though they had no business being ahead.  And taking a man off clearly risks waking the opposition from their doldrums.

But that is the whole point.  Rule 10 provides a way for the opposing team to regroup and make it a game.

I believe the key to the rule lies in the spirit and manner with which it is applied.  The key thing is for a coach to take off the player without anyone noticing.  I’ve seen coaches loudly announce that he or she is taking off a player.  That’s exactly what you don’t want to do. It can sap self-esteem from the team that is behind.

Typically, I let the play resume and then call off one of my players, instructing the remaining players to reset the formation.  My players have accepted this rule as soon as they understand it.
By the way, such score differentials don’t happen often.
I have benefited from the rule as well.  If your team is losing by 3 goals, and your opponent hasn’t taken a man off, wait until half time for a quiet reminder—or send one of your players around the field to jog the coach’s memory.

Remember, some of our referees might not be trained yet for the rule, so you might have to quietly explain it to them, if they ask.

Many things can happen that will "let the cat out of the bag", and the other team will find out what is happening.  But that’s life.  We can’t control every circumstance, but we can encourage our teams to make every effort to keep their “sportsmanship” quiet.

Parents and managers can help by reinforcing Rule 10 with their paid coaches.

If your team still dominates play, you can employ such further tactics as putting defenders up front and strikers back in the rear.  I personally don’t like telling the kids to pass instead of shoot, because I think “keep-away” becomes obvious to your opponent.  In extremes, however, it may be useful.

At the DC Stoddert Soccer Open Committee, we counsel our commissioners to rank the teams in their leagues to avoid having too many mismatched games.  This reduces the frequency of 3-0 scores.
Remember, DC Stoddert Soccer is very keen on parents and coaches treating each other with utmost courtesy at all times. We have got to model good behavior for our children.  They see our hypocrisy when we talk about sportsmanship but don’t act on it.
Questions? Please feel free to contact me at
Here’s wishing everyone a great season!

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