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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". 

 

Even the Mighty Fall

Susan Boyd

          I just watched Brazil, ranked by FIFA number one in the world, get defeated by the Netherlands, which is ranked fourth. Consider these statistics: When scoring in the first ten minutes of a World Cup game Brazil was 8-0-1 until today; when leading at the half Brazil was 35-0-2 until today; Brazil had never lost under coach Dunga when both Kaka and Robinho played together 30-0-4 until today; and the own goal to tie the game was the first own goal in Brazil's 97 game World Cup history. Adding insult to the inconceivable, Brazil lost Felipe Melo (who scored the own goal) to a red card in the 73rd minute, so they played a man down in the last 20 minutes.
            The lesson, painfully learned by the Brazilians, but oft repeated among all teams, is that no one is immune to defeat no matter what the numbers say. My grandson just lost his season championship in baseball. His team was undefeated all season and they were playing a team for the championship that they had beaten handily earlier in the season. To make victory even more certain, they had two chances to win since it was a double elimination tournament. Monday night they lost to the Cubs 4-3 and then Wednesday night they lost again 4-0. Losses are painful and even more painful when you are expected to win. But all sports have with them an element of uncertainty which makes them exciting to watch and subject to Vegas odds. 
            Having left the Region II Championship series earlier this week, I saw or learned of a number of upset victories. They are part and parcel of soccer. How often have we attended a game where one team dominated with dozens of strikes, but no goals? Then the opposing team capitalizes on an error and scores the winning goal with their only strike. ""That's soccer,"" the coaches will say. That's life too. We try hard to succeed, do everything right, play by the rules and end up getting short-changed. It happens because fairness isn't a guarantee. It happens because the serendipitous overrides planning on a regular basis.
            In the first round of Wimbledon two players, John Isner and Nicholas Mahut played a three day 183 game tennis match, the world's longest. After that marathon, where any mistake could spell defeat and an errant blade of grass or sudden gust could create those mistakes, it was amazing that they synchronized point for point over the course of the final set of the match which went 70-68. Isner eventually won, but in the end no one wanted to declare a victor. The Wimbledon governing committee even held a ceremony directly after the match that rivaled the Men's Singles Trophy presentation, including royalty to give gifts to the referee and the players. Mahut could only accept the gifts graciously and then melt into the locker room to lick his wounds. And Isner? He lost in straight sets in the next round. These history makers completely faded into the background of more well-known and still active names. Now the focus turned to a championship and away from the diversion of an aberrant match.
            I enjoy the World Cup because nothing is sure. Between cards, injuries, upsets, and untested match-ups, the outcomes take unexpected journeys. I also appreciate that the World Cup takes a moment to acknowledge the issue of racism, especially in a country well-known for its former racial policy. It's comforting to know that no matter what happens in the games, these nations and their fans are expected to respect all the cultures, races, religions, and political views of the participants since those are not the factors on the pitch determining wins and losses. Even the vuvuzelas (those bee humming horns that hang in the background of every match) prove that national cultural traditions will be tolerated during the matches. I don't expect the World Cup to foster sudden world peace or even a truce in conflicts. But I do like the fact that the conflict on the pitch has a definitive end and outcome that all sides must accept even if they feel it was achieved unfairly. Like all athletes, those who lose will feel that outside forces conspired against them and bad calls or bad plays contributed to their defeat. But even the mighty have to accept the score that exists when the final whistle blows. That's soccer.
 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Susan Boyd

           Driving eight hours home after three rather severe drubbings doesn't make for pleasant conversation or ebullient spirits. But all that comes part and parcel with the enthusiastic cheerfulness following three good wins. Tournaments can only promise a few participants that they will be elated at the results of their efforts.   So we returned to the hotel after the last game for a quick shower and a long ride back to Wisconsin. The showers didn't go so well since during our entire three day stay we had never gotten new towels. Teenage boys have not yet developed the specialization skills that go with hanging up a wet towel after use to allow it to dry. Instead they pile the towels one atop the other in a mountain of terry cloth retaining moisture and whatever else might be trapped within the folds. I knew that my room still had two dry towels, so between the three boys in Robbie's room they managed to get showers and dry off.

            Two things helped the ride home. The first was being able to listen to the Brazil – Chile game on radio and the second was listening to the heated discussions before, during, and after the game. In fact the discussions did more to stimulate conversation in the car and invigorate the boys' defense of their sport than any post-game pep talk from a coach. Brazil beat Chile…that outcome was about as safe a bet as one can make in soccer. But it was still fun to hear the runs, the shots, the fouls, and the goals translated into word pictures by a very animated by Tommy Smyth who invests as much of himself into the commentary as he does the facts of the game. He's the kind of guy that you either love or hate. There's no middle ground with Tommy. He loves the game, and that shows through, but he's also irascible like a footballing, mischievous troll.   When you hear him call a game, you can't help but be drawn into his opinions and pronouncements. Everyone ends up commenting, arguing, and laughing. It made the ride go smoother!

            Before the game, at half-time, and after the game, people call in who seem to believe that because they have heard of the World Cup or know how to pronounce ""soccer"" have opinions that real soccer fans would find fascinating. The sad thing is that I do find them fascinating, but not in a positive, enlightened way, but in a morbid, gloomy way like looking at the cow with two heads pickled in a jar. Most of these callers spit at the concept of soccer as a sport America will embrace. They argue that soccer isn't growing, that the spike in interest for the sport created by the World Cup will diminish quickly with the end of the event. But empirically I have to disagree.   We just attended a tournament that celebrates the growth of youth soccer in America to over 3.2 million players, just days after the largest US audience for a televised soccer game (19.4 million) had watched Ghana defeat USA, we are in the midst of a bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup in America chaired by none other than Bill Clinton, and here we were passing car after car on the roads in Indiana and Illinois with soccer stickers in the window. These are empirical facts. Furthermore these talking heads have the audacity to argue that soccer is boring because no other game ends in a 0-0 tie with teams celebrating that outcome, while they overlook the tactics and shrewdness that even a tie offers in a tournament such as the World Cup. Plus they don't seem willing to hurl the same accusations at a basketball game that takes thirty minutes to complete the last two minutes of the contest as the teams attempt to manipulate the outcome by controlling the clock as well as the shots.

            I enjoy having my blood boil. It gives me a similar thrill to watching my boys play soccer and execute a cunning, successful run or snag a ball that seemed destined to score. This weekend I got to see plenty of plays develop, some in our favor and unfortunately many not. I got to watch players play because they love the game. I saw them rally after a bad loss to go back onto the field and try again. I witnessed team spirit as they supported one another even in defeat. These moments could never be boring. Talk to any parent whose son or daughter played this weekend, and boring will not enter the conversation. Maybe soccer's audience won't surpass those of football, basketball, and baseball, all quintessential American sports, but I know soccer is growing. I saw it this weekend. I see it every day in commercials, on fields, and yes, even within the disgruntled arguments of the soccer haters. Why bother hating something so insignificant? Unless, of course, it's actually beginning to challenge you.

            Home again…looking forward to the next adventure. I'm jealous of all the families who will continue to enjoy the US Youth Soccer Association Championship Series and those who have yet to experience it. From breakfast with bleary-eyed players to jubilant or petulant rides back to the hotel from the fields, to late night pizza parties, to forming good friendships I know how much bigger than a game these tournaments are. They will be a strong source of memories, motivation, and character throughout the players' lives. We survive the lousy outcomes and we savor the best results. But we all have to ride back home and return to studies, jobs, and chores. Soccer does shine than dim, but its light never goes out, ready to flare up again.
 

Indiana Soccer

Sam Snow

Last Friday, I arrived in Indianapolis, Ind. to work with the members and staff of Indiana Youth Soccer. I spent four days covering a number of events. The weekend included everything from the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series, Indiana State Championships, to staff meetings to US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer and then of course the 2010 World Cup. So, with such a broad scope of soccer events, I have a variety of observations to share with you.

On Friday evening, I meet with the director of coaching, Dan Kapsalis; executive director, Tom Geisse; coaches and several board members of the Pike S.C., which includes the Indy Burn. We spent 90 minutes talking about the resources available to both new and experienced coaches. We also discussed player development and how the club can include the Best Practices and the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model into the curriculum of the club. It is encouraging to have clubs working at the continued growth of experienced coaches and administrators in the club.   

On Saturday morning we held a class session for TOPSoccer Buddies. The TOPSoccer Buddies train and play alongside the players in TOPSoccer and provide them with physical, psychological and emotional assistance as needed. The class was a good mixture of teenagers and adults attending the session to become a TOPSoccer Buddy. Indiana Youth Soccer is making the effort to grow TOPSoccer in the state and this is step one. After a good class session and lunch with those attending the class and the players who had just arrived we went to the field for a training session.

Over the weekend, the 2010 US Youth Soccer Indiana State Championships took place at the Lawrence Soccer Park where the state office is located. Even with inclement weather, the matches took place and were of a good standard. It was enjoyable to see the U-12 age group playing 8-a-side and the tactics they were able to pull off on an age appropriate sized field. One aspect stood out and is one of those "only in America" moments which is wonderful to witness. Don Rawson is the executive director for Massachusetts Youth Soccer and used to hold the same position with Indiana Soccer. His family has not yet all moved to Massachusetts, so Rawson was in town and volunteered to referee matches. Where else but in our beautiful country would you see the executive director of one State Association referee matches (both in the center and on the line) for another State Association. Additionally, he helped to put up and take down banners, tents, tables, chairs – in other words the grunt work that takes place at every tournament. What a great American soccer family we have.

On Sunday, after watching more of the Indiana State Championships, the state technical director, Vince Ganzberg and I attended the Chris Akunda Memorial Soccer Match. Here's an excerpt from the thank you letter from the Akunda family 

"Yesterday was a touching day for many reasons. The first reason was the amazing turnout for the Chris Akunda Memorial Soccer Game. We had over 46 players come to play in the game and maybe even more spectators! The amazing group of young (and older) soccer players represented many different soccer groups in our state and came together to honor their fellow teammate, Chris.  There were players of all ages from our own Fishers Soccer Club, players from ODP, Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield teams, players who are no longer playing in travel soccer, but knew Chris, the three trainers who have worked with our team the last three years, Vince Ganzberg, from Indiana Youth Soccer, Sam Snow from US Youth Soccer, family and friends, and of course, Chris's Dad, Eric.  We can't imagine a better tribute to Chris than to have such a variety of people come out to play soccer in his honor."" 

What a wonderful example of the soccer family coming together to celebrate the life of a fellow competitor and to enjoy the beautiful game.

Finally, on Monday I met at the state office with the instructors of the state coaching courses for Indiana Youth Soccer for continuing professional development. We went over how to teach in the "D" license course, the new upcoming curriculum for the "E" certificate course, fully implementing Best Practices in the state and the upcoming on-line portion of the two state Youth Module courses. We worked on how to make classroom presentations and how adults learn. It was a bonus when Dr. David Carr, co-author of the National Youth License course, was able to join us and discussed initiatives that he and Coach Ganzberg are doing to grow the game with children who are not currently engaged with soccer. Look soon for a wonderful program called Human Development being launched by Indiana Youth Soccer.

So you can see it was a full four days, but always worthwhile and exciting to see our game grow on so many levels.
 

Into the Fray

Susan Boyd

What do you do when you lose your first game, your coaches call at 11:30 p.m. to say they are just now leaving Wisconsin, and the heat index keeps rising?  You throw yourself back into the fray and muster on.  The boys have been showing the effects of playing a tough game yesterday in the heat and humidity.  Some even slept through dinner and breakfast.  But at the team meeting they were all in the lobby ready to hit the pitch with renewed vigor and determination.  You have to love this game when you know you're going back to the same field at the same time in the same weather where you didn't do so well last outing.
 
We gave this second team in our bracket a good run for their money.  We managed to keep the game tight, but in the end we lost 2-3 in a tough but civilized competition.  It's difficult not to let tempers flare when you're hot, tired, and frustrated – and teenagers to boot.  But the boys on both sides kept their cool.  Speaking of cool, before their game I was able to watch a girl's game where one side was wearing black uniforms.  I felt so badly for them as the sun blazed overhead and the moisture hung in the air.  Then I climbed up the hill to our game to discover the opposing team also dressed all in black.  I'm beginning to think that clubs need "summer" wear in addition to their other jerseys – something light that doesn't absorb the heat.  However, ironically, the teams dressed in black won their games, so maybe there's a motivating factor to being in the most oppressive uniform.  They have to keep running to escape the sun.
 
I know that this loss means we're going home after tomorrow's game, which makes me sad.  I really enjoy seeing the caliber of games in the semi- and final rounds, but Robbie won't want to stay because he has things drawing him to home like his own bed and his girlfriend.  Plus it's not as much fun just watching other teams play.  So we'll be on the road once our game is over and the boys have a chance to shower.  Those samples of Degree deodorant in the goody bags seem a stroke of genius at this point.
 
I'm hoping those of you in the general area of Regional Championships or the National Championship takes a couple of hours to stop by and catch some games.  These players will be the names you'll hear in the future at the college and professional level.  You'll have the opportunity to see how terrifically these kids play.  After I see a few of the youth games these past two days and then return to my hotel to watch the World Cup, I'm amazed at how closely they compare.  These youth teams understand team tactics at a far more sophisticated level than when my sons were young.  And the World Cup players seem to make the same "rookie" mistakes including a Mexican defender passing the ball across the goal mouth to another defender only to have it stolen by an Argentine striker for a goal.  Such play just confirms the fact that soccer is a game of finesse and a game of blunders at any age.  While we hope no one makes a mistake, they happen, so we need to be forgiving since you can be a thirteen year old club player or a twenty-eight year old World Cup player and still pass the ball into trouble.
 
By the way, they don't have a T-shirt stand at our playing venue, so I'm not able to purchase a shirt for a souvenir of the event.  Despite the many years of soccer I still pull State, Regional and National Championship t-shirts out of the dryer.  There is a strong sense of pride in the accomplishment of making it to one of these events as well there should be.  So I might stop by the other venue tomorrow just to buy a t-shirt.  If we can win tomorrow, that would definitely be worth having a shirt for memory's sake.