Responding to Inappropriate Conduct

Guidelines for Working Through a Report of Inappropriate Conduct by a club member(s)

The philosophy of BAYS is to provide a welcoming atmosphere of good sportsmanship to encourage all to compete, learn, and enjoy the game of soccer free from harassment and abuse. In this, BAYS follows and fully supports all Mass Youth Soccer Safe Soccer policies. 

BAYS prohibits athletes, coaches, spectators, or referees from making discriminatory, offensive and/or insensitive comments. BAYS is committed to ensuring that these incidents are dealt with swiftly and appropriately. By addressing discriminatory, unsportsmanlike, and inappropriate language, we aim to reduce offensive behavior by helping all involved understand that the impact of their words and actions leave hurtful—and often lasting—damage, whether that was the intention or not. Further, developing the capacity to treat others with dignity while working through challenging situations is important in soccer and more broadly as a key tenet in everyday life.

A fast response is essential when handling all allegations of misconduct. Misconduct and discrimination can be experienced in a variety of ways. They might involve slurs about race, religion, or gender identity or negative comments about body image or abilities/disabilities. Denigrating or disrespectful language takes many forms and requires quick action by a club/organization to collect accurate information, prevent escalation of the situation, and to ensure accountability.

Each BAYS member organization is responsible for promptly conducting a thorough fact finding review. Once the relevant facts are collected, clubs are better able to determine culpability and responsibility—and what to do next. If substantiated, Clubs can consider suitable, age-appropriate discipline, training, or other remedial action relating to the misconduct. It is also very important to ascertain quickly if additional external reporting requirements must be met. 

Listed below are some guidelines to help ensure that we maintain an environment that promotes respect, safety, and fun for all.


When examining a feedback report of inappropriate conduct, keep in mind these overarching principles, remembering at all times that we are working with children: 

  • Treat reports seriously
  • Act promptly within the first few days after receiving a report
  • Treat people fairly and listen to both sides of the incident account
  • Stay objective 
  • Keep involved parties informed
  • Maintain confidentiality to the greatest extent possible
  • Keep accurate records
  • Make decisions based only on observations and factual information gathered, not personal opinions or rumors
  • Get help from professionals if necessary
  • Ensure that sanctions, if appropriate, should be commensurate with the infraction

Step 1.  Acknowledge Receipt and Begin Internal Review and Fact Finding

  • Confirm receipt by responding to all parties on the notification email including [email protected] and the other involved Club officials

    • If the report does not come through an official BAYS Game Feedback submission, direct the coach of the team reporting to file one of these by logging onto the BAYS site and going to:
      ​My BAYS->Coach/Manager->Game Feedback
  • Share the name of the person who will be responsible from your club (Club President or other officer, Boys Director, Girls Director, Sportsmanship Director, or other club board member) for managing the response

  • Each Club should also promptly confirm receipt of the reported incident to the respective families that are involved, including both the reporter and the alleged victim. 

    • Treat everyone—the reporter, the alleged victim, and their families with compassion, dignity, and respect in a manner in which they feel safe and heard.
    • Reaffirm the league and club’s commitment to eradicating discrimination and harassment. 
    • Confirm that the matter will be promptly reviewed and that the club will follow up with the claimant/parent or guardian and respondent at the appropriate time and with relevant findings.
    • Reports submitted by individuals other than the claimant/parent or guardian (the individual who is alleged to have experienced the misconduct) are referred to as “third-party reports” and those providing the information are “Third-Party Reporters” (or TPRs). Due to the sensitivity of the types of allegations, the resolution process is designed to be confidential, specifically to protect the privacy of the parties involved.  Accordingly, please understand that TPRs are not entitled to certain confidential information and will not be provided certain information or updates regarding cases.
    • Remember that all communications with children must be with their parents’ consent and presence. 


Step 2.  Each Club Should Conduct and Complete an Internal Review and Fact Finding Process 

  • Ask for individual feedback and observations from the other ADULTS from your own club who were present at the incident or game. Take detailed notes by individual, but be careful to maintain privacy. You may want to consult with:

    • Coaches
    • Assistant coaches
    • Adult referees or referee mentors if present
    • Adult spectators
  • Ask open-ended, not leading questions, for example “Can you tell me what you saw and heard during the game?” and “Can you describe the overall environment of the game from your perspective?” “Did you hear or see anything out of the ordinary at the game?”
  • Know you will receive multiple and even conflicting versions of the event
    • Do NOT dismiss that it happened, even if others did not hear it
  • Secure parental consent to speak to the players who may be involved 
    • Then set up a meeting/call to discuss with both the parent and the child together
  • Do NOT contact members/players of the other involved club
  • Consult with your Club leadership and board 
  • Determine the severity of the misconduct and if additional external reporting requirements must be met
    • Should the misconduct rise to Prohibited Conduct as defined in the MA Athlete and Participant Safety Policy, then it must be reported to Mass Youth Soccer via the Players Health reporting portal; for more information on this, click HERE.

Step 3.  Summarize Findings and Share with other Involved Club

  • Within a reasonable period of time, provide a status update to all interested parties who are entitled to know this information.
  • Aim to complete the process within one to two weeks.

Step 4.  Take Action

  1. Responsible Party Identified

  • If a responsible party is identified, the full results of the fact finding review should be presented so that the club officers or other board members in charge of the incident response may determine an appropriate level of sanctions given the specific circumstances and severity/degree of harm of the infraction. Factors to consider include the strength of the evidence of misconduct, prior similar incidents, extenuating personal circumstances, and the age of the offender. Sanctions should be focused on rehabilitation and must be specific and escalate in the event of further misconduct.
    • Recommended Sanctions (at a minimum):
      • Severe infraction/1st Offense: The offender receives a verbal warning AND is required to write an apology letter AND read and sign a copy of the Code of Conduct containing a commitment not to reoffend.
      • Very Severe infraction or 2nd Offense: The offender misses a minimum of a week of practice and a game, in addition to everything listed in the 1st offense.
      • Extremely Severe infraction or 3rd Offense: The offender is removed from the team for the remainder of the season.
      • Continuing Offenses: If an offender was removed from a team in a previous season and in a following season is charged with an offensive action then they are immediately removed for the remainder of the season.
    • Direct the coaches to fill out and review with them the Understanding Team Climate questionnaire from SafeSport.
    • Share that the event happened within your club in broad terms (no names or teams) and what steps were taken. This helps to raise general awareness.
  1. Responsible Party NOT Identifiable
  • Recognize that it may not be possible to identify a specific responsible person(s) or potentially to even independently corroborate that the alleged incident happened.
  • If not identifiable or able to be corroborated, the Club should still take SOME POSITIVE action to contribute to a sense of restorative justice and raise general awareness.
    • Consider having the team involved read, commit to, and sign hard copy versions of the MA Youth Soccer Code of Conduct with the understanding that any further reports of inappropriate language or behavior will be treated as a more serious, repeat offense.
    • Direct the coaches to fill out and review with them the Understanding Team Climate questionnaire from SafeSport
    • Share that the event happened within your club in broad terms (no names or teams) and what steps were taken. This helps to raise general awareness.

Step 5. Close the Loop 

  • Share actions taken with all parties on the notification email which should include [email protected] and the other involved Club
  • Officials of the club of the person(s) impacted should contact them (including the parent if a player) to close the loop and share actions taken.
  • Clubs may also report back to TPRs that the incident was reviewed and resolved but not disclose any confidential information from the internal fact finding. If an offender was suspended as part of the sanction, that may be disclosed to the TPR and involved parties.

Suggestions for Preventative Actions

  • Focus spotlight on creating a positive game environment for all
    • Encourage support for all teammates and respect for all opponents
      • Embrace the RESPECT Campaign at the club level and promote having the RESPECT statement read at ALL games
        • Can be read by player captains on the team, coaches, or referees
    • Coaches should foster inclusivity and shared team goals
  • Encourage all coaches to hold a preseason expectation-setting meeting with their team players and parents
    • Confirm that all are aware of the MA Youth Soccer Player, Parent, and Coach Codes of Conduct: 
      • Consider distributing hard copy versions as appropriate
    • Share these Tips for Creating a Positive Team Environment
    • Discuss acceptable and unacceptable behavior with athletes at the start of each season, and periodically throughout, to hold athletes accountable for their behavior.
    • Encouraging reporting: If inappropriate, harmful language is heard, anyone who hears it should speak up so that it can be addressed appropriately
    • Review LOTG regarding fouls and misconduct:
      • Swearing, especially directed at someone specifically, is a straight red card
      • Using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or action(s), especially directed at someone specifically, is a straight red card
      • Flagrant taunting, demeaning, or other derogatory language directed toward an opponent or the referee could be a yellow card or a red card depending on the severity of the incident.
  • Have your Referee Assignors encourage referees to immediately address unsportsmanlike behavior, like taunting, trash talking, name calling, etc. which often can escalate quickly if left uncalled.
    • Early game management is key! 
      • Even just holding up the game to speak to players signals to all that referees are watching, aware, and going to take action
      • Showing cards also helps maintain control
    • Yellow cards have minimal lasting consequences for the players, yet can significantly curb undesirable behavior on the field