One Ohio soccer tournament made a bit of national news lately with a neighboring city setting up speed cameras and issuing over 900 tickets. The soccer tournament pled a good case, citing good will and economic impact for the city. The police from the neighboring city had not been in contact with them regarding this enforcement effort, even as the host city police were helping out directing traffic in and out of the park. That alone probably helped plead the case for “forgiving” the tickets.
Contrary to what most people think, the police don’t just ticket people for easy money. The first priority for the police is road safety and preventing accidents. When they see a car racing by at 40-50 mph on a road that is posted at 25 mph, they are going to do something about it. If they see many, many cars doing the same thing, they are going to sit there and pick you off, soccer tournament or not.
What the police know about soccer parents
I have driven to more away soccer tournaments with my kids than I care to recall. Here is what typically happens. We have an 8:00am game, but the coach says we should be at the field at 7:30. No problem. We live an hour away, so we leave at 6:15 am. Plenty of time. Everyone wakes up at 5:50, shower, pack, someone can’t find the left shinguard, oops.. it is now 6:25. No problem, we’ll make up time.
We get on the road, but swing into the Tim Horton’s for coffee. It is now 6:43 and we’re still an hour away. We “make up” a bit of time on the freeway and get to the city the tournament is in at 7:28. But there is a very, very long line of cars waiting to get into the park. It is a one-way turn onto a gravel road. A panicky thirteen year-old is screaming at me that she will be late and the coach will make her run if I don’t get moving. And she has to pee.
I am not paying attention to the road, to the cars around me or anything else except my phone buzzing with text messages from the OneCallNow service, reminding me to have my kid who is screaming at me from the back seat, on the field eight minutes ago. I am a ball of stress who has no business behind the wheel of this much moving steel.
We get to the field, but I narrowly miss a gang of parents and their kids ambling across the parking lot with a popup tent, three coolers and a portable grill.
“It was only fair,” I console myself. “They weren’t paying attention as well.”
After the game, we fast-walk back to the car so we can drive into town and get some breakfast. There is only one road out of the park and twenty-two other teams who also had 8:00am games all have the same idea. We pull out of the parking spot, drive 20 feet and wait. And wait. And wait. By the time we get to the road out, we gun the engine and race to the main road. I know the speed limit was posted at something less than what I was doing, but I was too pissed off to be paying attention to the road. I wanted OUT.
Our advice: I suspect that the police will set up the cameras again next year, but this time post very large signs letting parents know that they will be ticketed if they speed. The speed limit is posted for a reason that has nothing to do with your soccer tournament being held at the park once a year. So, you have to work with that.
Talk to neighboring cities Make sure the police department is on the same page as you are with your event. Approach them with the attitude that you want all of your teams to arrive and leave safely. They will respond to your concern. They do not want to deal with fender-benders or worse, accidents that involve injuries, especially when kids are involved.
Talk to your teams Make sure they are aware of all posted speed limits and that — while the police are there to keep them safe — they will get a ticket for speeding. Most parents will be extra cautious if they know of “speed traps” ahead of time. Use your website, email and social media networks. Post large signs at the park exits, especially if the exit is a long straightaway road that is a temptation to speed.
Direct traffic Have some volunteers direct traffic out of the park to keep the “you go, I go” rule fair. Make sure they wear really bring shirts and reflective gear.
The police and cities want your teams back, but they don’t want to clean up traffic messes. And parents also want to arrive and leave safely. A little bit of prep work, a lot of communication and mutual respect go a long way toward making sure everyone feels welcome and secure.
And then if an impatient parent chooses to speed, I guarantee that the rest of the team parents won’t have much empathy for that decision.