Two Boys Under-15 games that I officiated that were played in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) on the same day on two different fields in the same town. The similarities pretty much end right there.

The first game was played on grass, the second was played on turf.

The home team coaches had lined the field and put up corner flags on the grass field. There’s little to do to prepare a turf field but nobody even bothered to put up corner flags.

The home coach at the grass game took the time to welcome and briefly talk to the visiting team coach and the teams’ coaches could be seen amiably talking to one another at the halfway line a bit during the match. The coaches on the turf field stood far apart from one another until after the game when they decided to have a lengthy argument.

The grass game had no yellow or red cards and the turf game had four cautions.

There was a good deal of high-quality, entertaining soccer in the game on grass, not so much on turf and the challenges there were more robust. A much better quality soccer for the game on grass even given that a grass field is imperfect and that match was a lower division than the game on turf.

I really enjoyed myself during the grass game, the turf match not so much.

The games were so different as the attitude of the coaches were so different. The coaches for the grass game concentrated on fun, fundamentals and being good people, plus they wanted to win the match as well. The coaches for the turf game were solely concerned with winning.

It’s the great contradiction of youth soccer that only concentrating on winning works against that goal as kids play tight. 90% of the games that I ref that have a result are won by the team with the better ball control, not tactics or halftime speeches.

The quality of play in local youth soccer would improve if we forget about Got Sport rankings and the elusive goal of a college scholarship and just had fun. Plus more players would probably show up for the games.