RESPECT IS THE GAME, REFEREE ADVOCACY IS THE GOAL
On Saturday June 25, FC Wichita partner and United States Women's Soccer League 2 ('UWS2") coach, Blake Shumaker was given two yellow cards and ejected from an UWS2 match for saying improper things towards officials.
At the end of the altercation, Shumaker used profanity, adding insult to injury and the already unnecessary events that were transpiring. Shumaker admitted he was way out of line, and though there was no threat of violence, the verbal comments he made towards the official were unacceptable.
Despite contrary rumors on the internet, the match was not forfeited and FC Wichita finished the match against KC Courage 2, with senior women's club head coach Ashley Cordeiro taking over the remainder of the match.
The FC Wichita Board of Directors, a board that he has not been a member of since 2018, took immediate action. A suspension was immediately assessed for the remainder of the season for the UWS2, UWS and the USL2, which covers the final five matches of the regular season and any playoff matches that may be played.
"I was out of line." Shumaker said. "What I said on the field was completely unacceptable. I'm incredibly sorry for my actions and also the negative attention brought to the club and all the great people associated with it. FC Wichita has done so much to bring national resources and a positive culture to our community that it just makes me very disappointed in myself to be honest."
Because referee abuse from coaches and spectators is a growing issue domestically and globally, the FC Wichita Board of Directors and local area referee administrators have immediately engaged in meetings to discuss a call to action through the creation of a new program known as, "RESPECT." This program will help tackle the problem in Wichita and in the State of Kansas. The program will be designed to hold coaches accountable through fines (used to help fund the program), while engaging the Kansas coaches and officials in healthy open dialogue in discussion forums on a regular basis. The program is partially funded by fines paid from members who act out against match officials and will start with the $5,000 fine that has already been levied from this incident.
"There are several moving parts to the overall initiative," says local referee coordinator Bryan Auten. "One of the most exciting is the "Let's Rap" workshop sessions. In these senior referees will provide on field training centers for referees and coaches alike, followed by an open panel discussion forum."
FC Wichita's goal is to use this opportunity to address not only past misconducts but to let it be known that a call to action has been made towards accountability for all, past, present and future.
"We first needed to address this situation in-house." says David Chacko, FC Wichita Board Member. "We realize profanity and arguments with officials happen far too often around youth sports and we wanted to use this moment to make a positive change in our approach on how these type of issues are handled moving forward. Secondly, we felt that if we are willing to reprimand an individual that has done as much for the local community as Blake has, then we could easily set the tone for accountability across the entire local landscape. We'd like to thank all of the officials and sponsors who've stepped forward to help breathe life into this program and make it a reality. The outpour of support has been amazing and we hope other youth sports clubs join us in taking these steps towards improved relationships and accountability."
Coaches who are affiliated with the new program will be expected to attend at least one local seminar per year that will count towards a certificate towards referee abuse prevention. FC Wichita has made it a requirement for all club coaches to register as of August 1, 2022.
The Together for Wichita Foundation is a Kansas 501(c)3 Not-For-Profit Corporation which is contracted to oversee all aspects of the FC Wichita day to day developmental programming including all accounting, employment, marketing and in house disciplinary actions. The board works closely with FC Wichita ownership but does not hold a spot for a voting member of the club's ownership to avoid conflict of interest.