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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

I Still Believe in Miracles

Susan Boyd

Today did not deliver any miracles unless you came from Columbus, Ohio or Ghana.  Our boys' team lost to the Columbus Crew Juniors and the USA lost to Ghana – one right after the other.  Watching a defeat once from the stands in heat and humidity and watching defeat from our hotel room with air conditioning felt the same, although the first was more personal.  Nevertheless, tomorrow is another day at the Region II Championships and we have two more opportunities for victory.  The USA can only wait another four years for World Cup 2014 in Brazil.  As Landon Donovan said in his exit interview, "Soccer can be a cruel game."
 
Despite a tough day for the spirits, the Region II Championships continue to be an exciting event.  The fields we played on today were amazingly professional and the facilities beautifully groomed with rolling bluffs of grass, established and sapling shade trees, and a very efficient parking system.  We are at the smaller venue, so there isn't the same traffic in and out, but any parking can be a nightmare if not well coordinated and controlled.  Two of the three fields have bleachers, so I don't really need my chair, but we got to the fields early today just to be sure we got to the fields on time, so my chair came in handy as I waited for the start of the game in the shade of an old growth oak.
 
We did pass the other playing venue on the way to ours and it seemed to be running efficiently despite road work on the main highway in and out of the site.  We had a small delay heading back to the hotel because of the traffic and construction, but nothing horrible.  The only need for us to hurry was to make it back in time for the beginning of the World Cup game.  We were in our rooms before the game had been playing 10 minutes, so imagine our disbelief to see the score USA 0  Ghana 1.  Curse those early goals!
 
Part of the trip to the hotel was spent trying to order pizza for the game.  With searches on the IPhone, the boys were able to locate a Domino's that would deliver to our hotel.  Score!  Then came the $64,000 question – what is the hotel's phone number?  No one knew.  Why would we?  We all had cell phones and were therefore able to communicate without having to involve the hotel switchboard.  After another cell phone search the boys acquired the elusive, but necessary phone number, called back Domino's, ordered the pizza, and accomplished it all just as we exited to the hotel parking lot.  Score again!  Those two goals would have to suffice for the day for our team.  We had just left the soccer field with a defeat of 0-4.  Tonight is an all-you-can-eat spaghetti buffet at the hotel, which based on the response I got from the players, is enthusiastically awaited.
 
Waxing a bit poetic at this point, I do have to say that what happened to our boys' team today does prepare them for all the other let downs in life.   You learn that no defeat lasts forever.  You can lose 0-4 in heat and humidity and then score hand-tossed pepperoni pizzas in your air-conditioned room 40 minutes later.  You can study your heart out for a test and end up with a D but next week get all the pop-quiz answers right.  You can be benched for a game one day and find a $5 bill on the ground under the bench the next day which happened to Bryce.  Like the rolling bluffs at the soccer park, everything seems to undulate regularly.  Soccer wins and losses are just some of the unknown rolls we take during our journeys.
 
So miracles or not, I'm still glad to be here sharing in the games, seeing old friends from my soccer family, watching kids so excited about a win and so stoic about a loss, and remembering why kids play soccer – to have fun.   There's no glory in victory and no shame in defeat.  These are just the natural consequences of competition.  Kids compete because they love the game, they love the challenge, and they hope for success which can't be measured in just wins.  Each time they play, they learn something new about the game, about their character, and about the bonds of team.  In the end, all but one squad in each age group and gender will move on.  The rest will return to their states suntanned, tired, and hopefully satisfied.  Those who don't move on won't be able to claim any miracles, but they will be able to claim satisfaction for playing hard and to claim the hope that sometime soon they might have a miracle of their own.

 

Destination Dayton

Susan Boyd

Wednesday USA defeated Algeria in a stoppage time goal, that seemed to establish the perfect segue into our trip to the US Youth Soccer Region II Championships. If those scrappy Yankee upstarts can pull off a nail-biter victory, then maybe our soccer team assembled with spit and dental floss can have the same miracle success. To put it in perspective that one goal moved the US from out of the World Cup to bracket champions. Like ESPN's ads claim: One Goal is Everything. So we had optimism as we scraped together the last of the paperwork, found rides for everyone to the event, and figured out what time we had to really get up – Robbie voted for something in the PM range.
           
But because life is never what you expect, at 3:30 yesterday afternoon I got an urgent email. The manager's son injured himself at work and could not play, so she wouldn't be going on the trip. Could I please register the team? Of course, I replied, cheerfully. Robbie was less cheerful. His dream of driving into Dayton with the lights twinkling in the midnight sky would have to be subverted to the reality of cruising into Dayton at mid-afternoon with a bunch of other humidity distressed managers lugging a load of paperwork into a hotel.   I carefully calculated the time it would take to travel to Dayton, padded it by 90 minutes and announced that we could leave at 8 AM for a 4 PM registration time.
As we were sitting in the parking lot of a fireworks store awaiting the arrival of a player we were transporting to the tournament, we began discussing the U.S. game. Robbie said it was a good thing that the game was at 2:30 PM Eastern time because his game would be over in time to get back to the hotel and watch the US play. I said his game was at noon, so he would just be finishing playing at 1:30 PM. "But the game starts at 2:30 PM." "Yes," I replied, "Eastern time. But Central time…" Then it hit me. Dayton may be in the Midwest, but it is not in the Central time zone. I had forgotten we would lose an hour driving to our destination.
           
I pride myself on remembering details such as traveling between time zones, but this time I had focused on collecting paperwork, getting my packing done, making sure I had all my soccer essentials, and trying to let Robbie sleep as late as possible that I had completely forgotten the time difference. Now my well-planned, well-padded time table became a race against the clock. Lunch would have to be eaten in the car and there would be no malingering during our bathroom stop! I made it with 20 minutes to spare. Then the fun began.
           
Everything was well organized. Each state had a registration time that was carefully managed and controlled. Called into the registration tent at our allotted hour, we managers marched purposefully to our appointed registration table. I felt confident that there would be no glitches despite my 11th hour substitution. I clutched my trusty binder filled with carefully alphabetized medical releases and birth certificates. I patted the envelope with the signed registration sheets and the completed rosters. I proudly handed over my rubber banded pile of player passes. Piece of cake. "Do you have the coaches' passes?" The image of Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" flashed through my brain. I felt the confidence leaving my body like a deflating balloon. "But I have everything else…Look at how professionally I collated these medical releases!"" What's life without crisis or two?   Crisis averted when I found out the coach could get his credentials at the fields in the morning. The rest of this should be a piece of cake. "Did you pre-order your parking passes?" With supreme smugness I replied, "Naturally." "Okay, then get in that line to pick them up." She pointed over my shoulder and I turned around to witness a column that rivaled the line-up to audition for American Idol. 
           
I trudged to the end of a line that seemed to be as stagnant as the air. To add insult to injury, I was frozen in front of the table to purchase passes. It had no clients, because we had all pre-ordered and pre-paid, but it did have an enticing stack of crisp, ready to be used parking passes taunting me like candy in a window. Forty-five minutes later I was finally able to announce my state, my team name, gender, and age and was handed in an envelope the "stuff that dreams are made of "– my own Maltese Falcon. I wanted to run cackling with delight through the hotel, but I was far too wilted to muster anything more than a limp thank you and hobble exhausted to the table to collect programs and team goody bags. At that point I felt strongly that I should keep all the goody bags just as fair trade for all the water I lost standing in line. But I'll hand them out at breakfast because there are only so many samples of Degree deodorant someone can use but I have a feeling these are going to be quite useful this week and beyond.
           
Now I'm sitting in my room with air conditioning, but no internet. I hope I can find some in the business center. Otherwise this will just be an account vaporizing in cyberspace. I can't wait for the rest of the team to arrive…those who could leave later in the day and not have to rush to experience the delights of standing in line. The next time I stand in a line that long, in that much humidity, with only a few seconds of pay off, I'd better be at Disney World waiting to ride Splash Mountain. Still it's all about the kids. I can't wait for tomorrow for the games to begin. I love watching youth soccer.   And I especially love watching my own kids play. Tomorrow should be fun, win, lose, or draw. But I'm hoping for a victory, although I'm probably not the only one with those dreams.
           
 

Sunscreen . . .Check!

Susan Boyd

           Traveling for soccer requires a mobilization of resources that stay pretty much the same whether you're going ten miles for a league game or hundreds of miles for a tournament. I divide these resources into the bare essentials and my essentials. Traveling by car makes the transport of all these essentials easier than going by air, so I have some hints for the later. But first – the list.

            I keep a ""soccer box"" in my car stocked with the following items: paper towels, toilet paper, wet ones, bug spray, sunscreen, quart size plastic bags, plastic shopping bags, 33 gallon plastic garbage bags, hats, visors, gloves, travel-size umbrellas, rain ponchos, extra socks, safety pins, duct tape, travel sewing kit, band-aids, anti-bacterial cream, and scissors. A few of these smaller items I grab out of the box and stick in a bag to take with me directly to the field since they might be more useful there than in my trunk. The plastic bags are invaluable for keeping your car clean and not smelling like wet grass and sweat. I cover the floor of my car with the large garbage bags like cheap floor carpets. I can fold up any mess, shake it out on the ground, and then reuse the bags. Believe me having a roll of toilet paper at these large tournaments has been a blessing. I hate, hate, hate portable toilets, but you can't avoid them when you're playing in a corn field fifty miles from a sewage line.  There's only one thing worse than a portable toilet and that's a portable toilet without toilet paper. The wet ones may be your only sanitizing possibility after visiting these traveling thrones.

            Besides the ""box"" I have several other items in my car. These include full-size umbrellas, portable chairs, a shoe drier, binoculars, maps (despite GPS these can be useful), light and dark t-shirts (you never know who will forget a uniform), and lots and lots of water. These are all easy to have along with you if traveling by car, but once you have to fly, the rules change. Now since airlines charge for the oxygen you breathe and expect you to bring your own flotation device, it's not the same game for soccer travelers. Here's where bare and my essentials come into play.

            Bare essentials are uniforms, cleats, shin guards, keeper gloves and necessary forms. Players and spectators on a very sunny day or at dusk when the mosquitoes arise will argue that sunscreen and bug spray are bare essentials. However, when I travel I say that if I have my tickets, my ID, a credit card and some cash, I'm good to go. I can find everything else once I land. I'm resourceful if nothing else. I can easily make my own soccer box for my rental car. Toilet paper's a snap…I just take the extra roll from the hotel and return it if I don't use it. I also ask housekeeping for a roll of paper towels. TSA's restriction on liquids means that I leave the bug spray and sunscreen at home. Instead I depend on a big box store to supply me with my essentials. 

            I make a run often before unpacking. I collect the bug spray, sunscreen, anti-bacterial cream, tape and scissors, since they may qualify as a weapon when flying. As many of you know, I love a good portable chair. I have a favorite that I like to use, but I can't take it on air trips any longer. So I just nab a cheap one from the store. The cheap ones usually advertise some local team, so that's why on recent trips I have been a supporter of the Dallas Cowboys, the L.A. Angels, and the Orlando Magic. After the last game I make a gift of the chair to someone at the park.

            (Pardon the interruption…the U.S. just scored against Algeria in the 92nd minute insuring us to move into the round of 16)

            Many of the other items I can tuck into the corners of my luggage such as rain ponchos, plastic bags, sewing kit, visors, safety pins, extra socks, and travel umbrellas. In fact I used to keep a separate ""airplane soccer box"" but I never put it back together after the flooding in my house. Still, it's not a bad idea to have a few sandwich bags filled with these items set aside in a drawer that you can quickly gather and toss into the bags as you pack them. You can even throw the rain ponchos in the soccer bag, since they can provide some much appreciated cover while on the bench. I used to keep in the soccer bags one of those ""solar"" blankets made out of mylar that you can get at a sporting goods store. But they both disappeared after games and I never replaced them. But they can be great wind and rain guards for team members on the bench during a stormy game.

            The final tip I'll offer is to go to these coupon web sites and look up some of the restaurants you might visit on your way to the tournaments and while you're at your destination. Some coupons even have 2 for 1 offers which can make trips much more affordable. Check out what restaurants, entertainment options, malls, etc. can be found at your destination. Most mapping websites such as Google Maps have the ability to indicate these options on their maps. That way you'll know ahead of time where you can nab that early morning mocha or bowl a few lines. You'll also know what coupons to be on the lookout for.

            For this trip we're driving, so I have the advantage of being able to take everything along that I want including my favorite chair. I'll toss in my list of nearby attractions, fold my coupons into my wallet, turn on my satellite radio to listen in on World Cup games, and take off for Dayton. I'll let you know how the drive went.
 

Another road trip

Susan Boyd

I'm excited. I get to attend the US Youth Soccer Regional Championship for Region II because Robbie's team won State Cup. I love Regionals. There's pageantry and an expectation that fills the event with energy. I love going to different states to see different soccer fields. It's like having the office over for dinner. You get out the good china, you polish the silver, you clean the house, you buy flowers, and you put on your best outfits. I'm so happy to be on the guest list!

Getting to the championships means working through several rounds of competition. Emerging victorious puts teams in an elite group that only grows more elite the farther up you go. Any young soccer player who aspires to higher levels of soccer will want to play in his or her State Championship and hopefully in Regional and National Championships. Many of the best American players have had the thrill of playing in and even winning these events. It starts with working hard at practice, developing individual and team talent throughout the year, being dedicated to fitness (Robbie hated running 7 miles a day with his team but it paid off), and making some sacrifices along the way. But the result is a week of great competition, fun, and networking. Some of Robbie's and Bryce's soccer friends are kids they met at these events. Players can't help but be impressed by the talent they face and the elevated level of competition required of them.

By the time you read this Region III will be ready to enter its quarterfinals in Baton Rouge, but Region IV will just be getting the first games of the round robin started in Albuquerque, N.M., Region II will kick off on Saturday in Beavercreek, Ohio (a suburb of Dayton), and Region I will begin July 2in Barboursville, W.Va., home to Marshall University. If the event is nearby your hometown, then by all means take a day to see what your Region has to offer and what your own players can aspire to achieve. Schedules are on the various regional websites which can be accessed from http://championships.usyouthsoccer.org/2010_Play_Dates_Regional_and_National_Competitions.asp?. The events will cost you no more than a parking permit and you can then share in all the activities, booths, and viewing the competitions that Regionals offer.

I did check that my hotel has ESPN and ESPN2 so I will miss as little as possible of the World Cup action. But I have to admit that attending the Region II Championship to watch my son and his team play serves as a significant reason to miss a World Cup game!! While each age bracket begins with around 12 to 16 teams, only one will advance to the National Championships. So every game provides the heart-pounding repercussions that a World Cup team faces, only with your own children facing them. The oohs and ahhs that accompany every shot, every save, every pass, and every foul have far more electricity than your same investment in a World Cup game. Thank goodness it's only one game a day, unless you have two or more kids on different teams. There were two years where both boys competed, and I think I owe my grey hair to the stress of two games a day for those three days each year.

I'll have a few more blogs this next week because I'll be at the Region II Championships, and I hope to pass on a bit of the flavor of the event. We'll be driving 400 miles to Dayton, which in and of itself could be a saga since we will be carpooling a number of boys and then I am half of the official chaperones. There will be hotels, trips to and from the fields, discovering things to do for 18 restless boys, and reconnecting with my old haunts in the Dayton area. I am an Ohio girl although I only lived there the first five years of my life. But nearly every relative on my father's side and a fair number on my mother's side filled out a significant percentage of the Ohio census forms. I used to say that you couldn't name a town in Ohio that didn't have one of my relatives living in it. That's less true now as I've gotten older, but I have relatives in some pretty out of the way hamlets as well as the cities. So I'm ready for another road trip. Bring it on!