Let ‘em Play is a program of the St. Louis Sports Foundation, a Sports Commission affiliate. The mission of Let ’em Play is to support and grow referee participation by reminding fans, coaches, and players that referees are to be respected.

The National Federation of Sports Officials (NASO) conducted a survey of 17,000 referees. They found that 80% of new referees quit within two years of serving, due to rude or abusive parents and coaches. As a result, there is a nationwide referee shortage. League organizers have canceled games and tournaments or severely limited participation due to a lack of available officials. The Let ‘em Play program seeks to reverse this trend through a campaign of educational and positive messaging for parents and coaches in addition to the recruitment and retention of referees.

How Let ’em Play Aims to Help

The goal of Let ’em Play is to change the narrative that referees are bad or somehow a detriment to your child’s athletic achievement. The games cannot happen without referees so before shouting angrily, remember they are here to provide a service to your kids/team.

We provide simple, consistent, and widespread messaging as reminders to parents that it is just a game. Referees are human beings doing the best they can, and there is no vendetta against your child or team.

What we provide:

  • Signage at most of the facilities where games occur
  • Parent/Coach registration pledge
  • Digital toolkit to show support and spread message
  • Referee appreciation programs
  • Sportsmanship Brigade – reward good sportsmanship

Reinforce the message of “Know Your Role”… Players Play. Coaches Coach. Referees Ref. Parents/Fans Cheer.


To inquire and see how you can support Let ’em Play, fill out our contact form by clicking the button below.

The Let ‘em Play pledge will be required by all the associations below when players, coaches and parents register for the upcoming year. Between all these organizations, they reach more than 40,000 people.

Let ‘em Play signage and messaging will be shown at regional complexes throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Cumulatively, these complexes welcome millions of visitors every year, generating greater awareness of the Let ‘em Play initiative and amplifying respect for referees.

One of the most important pieces of Let ‘em Play is for parents, coaches and players to acknowledge the behavior that is acceptable towards referees and commit to respecting the whistle and the game. A pledge will be required during all league registration for Missouri Youth Soccer and CYC.

Let ‘em Play graphics are available to all leagues, complexes, clubs, etc. We encourage everyone to place them on their websites and social media to show their support of the program and amplify respect for referees. To inquire about supporting Let ’em Play, submit an inquiry by clicking the button below.

The St. Louis Sports Foundation will work with complexes throughout the local area to place Let ‘em Play signage in a variety of sizes near fields and high traffic areas. These simple messages reinforce respect for the referees from players, coaches, and fans at all times. To inquire about placing signage at your facility, click the button below and submit your inquiry.


To inquire and see how you can support Let ’em Play, fill out our contact form today. We kindly ask that you consider making a donation to help support our efforts.



Our aim is to ensure that with widespread visibility and repetition of the ‘Let ’em Play’ and ‘Respect the Refs’ message at various venues, these reminders will become a fundamental part of youth sports culture.

A Let ‘em Play parent/coach pledge is part of soccer registration for Missouri Youth Soccer and St. Louis Youth Soccer Association starting this summer.

In August 2022, more than a dozen major youth soccer venues in the St. Louis region will have Let ‘em Play messaging installed in time for the fall soccer season.

We know these issues of unsportsmanlike behavior toward referees and umpires exist across all youth sports (not just soccer) so in time, we hope to expand the Let ‘em Play messaging to any and all youth sports organizations and venues.