By ALISSA SCOTT
A head coach volunteering for the Amsterdam Youth Soccer Club was asked to step down from his position Saturday after a confrontation with a parent during a game.
Matthew Chaires returned this season for the second year to coach the First Niagara team on which two of his children play. The league's board, which asked him to remove himself from coaching during the first game, said it has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sportsmanship and behavior of coaches.
"Mr. Chaires was asked to step back to the assistant coach position due to his reaction during the incident, but he has chosen not to," the board said in a statement.
Chaires decided to resign as a coach altogether.
The incident refers to an argument between Chaires and the father of a player on the opposite team.
During game play, parents are not allowed to enter the field for the safety of the players and the parents. However, the mother of a 3-year-old who was playing with mainly 7- and 8-year-olds, stepped onto the field to encourage her son to play.
According to the club website, there are three divisions of play in the Amsterdam Youth Soccer Club: under 7, under 10 and under 14. The divisions set the maximum ages of children allowed on each team, but no minimum ages are required.
"The kid did not want to be on the field without his mother," said Nicole Bronk, Chaires' fiance. "So when Matt saw she was on the field, he simply yelled, 'Stop play. There's a parent on the field.' He didn't flip out. He just said, 'Stop play.'"
This apparently caused an argument between the two, but Chaires said he quickly instructed the players to continue the game.
After the game ended and the players lined up to shake each other's hands, the 3-year-old's father confronted Chaires.
"The father came over to Matt and started pushing him," Bronk said. "Matt tried to walk away and the guy ended up saying, 'I just want to talk to you not in front of the children.' Last time I knew, pushing wasn't a way to talk."
Tracey Gras, registrar for the soccer club board, said she understands the situation happened differently, though she didn't witness it.
"The gentleman put his hand on Matthew's shoulder and said, 'Let's talk about this over here,'" Gras said. "Now what should have happened was Matthew stepped off the field and discussed with the parent why they shouldn't have [been on the field during game play.]"
Chaires said he doesn't agree with how the board thinks he should have handled the situation.
"If a parent wants to talk to me, even if he was hostile, they're saying I have to talk to him," Chaires said. "He was putting his hand on my shoulder, physically pushing me. I tried to walk away like a man."
According to Gras, Chaires became angry and yelled at everyone involved, though Chaires said the parent threatened him and "everyone [he] came with."
"He's a good coach," Gras said. "He's a very good coach. However, his mannerisms, the way he's dealing with these children, the board, we will not tolerate that."
Gras said the board had intended to speak with Chaires before Saturday's game, but the incident crossed the line.
She did, however, admit that when it came time to decide this year's coaches, many parents wanted Chaires to be their child's coach, so they asked him to come back.
Tiffany Sampson, a mother of a 6-year-old on Chaires' team who was at the game and witnessed the incident, said she thought Chaires handled the situation correctly.
"[My son's] pretty upset Matt isn't coaching," Sampson said. "I won't be signing him up for spring unless things with the organization change."
Sampson said she attempted to explain what she saw to Gras but was "shrugged off."
Gras said the board offered Chaires an opportunity to fill the assistant coach position, but he declined.
Under a different board, Chaires said he would consider returning to coach, but he has pulled both of his children from the sport until it changes.
After this incident, Gras said 3-year-olds will no longer be allowed to play with the older kids and this particular child will not continue this season.
Jason Haberacker, the former assistant coach, will move up to head coach for the remainder of the season.