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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". 

 

Enjoy the Ride

Susan Boyd

When the transmission went out on my car, the mechanic was reluctant to install a new one since the value of my car was a mere $6500. I assured him that I was okay with my car being worth more dead than alive. With just 3000 miles to go before hitting the big 200,000 mark, I feel a certain obligation to keep the car running so it can achieve its milestone. That, and I can't afford car payments on a new car.

I would estimate that 70% of those miles are soccer-related, which means 140,000 miles in five years. That's the equivalent of five and half trips around the world. I've always thought that soccer was a way to see the world; I just didn't realize that it would be the same few 1000 miles of the world over and over and over and over again. Nevertheless each trip offers its own adventure and memories. If my car could talk . . . then I would have a T.V. series and be able to afford a new car.

With fall soccer season revving up, it's probably time to reiterate a few travel tips that can help make the trips less stressful and a bit more fun. First and foremost I encourage every family to keep a soccer survival box in the trunk. That way you have most of the necessary items at hand all the time. In my box I have paper towels, toilet paper, stocking caps, stretchy gloves, extra socks, extra shin guards, an old pair of cleats, garbage bags, gallon size storage bags, first aid kit, sunscreen, travel umbrellas, and "astronaut" blankets (large Mylar sheets you can get at camping stores).   The garbage bags I can lay on the floor of my car to keep mud and grime from hitting the carpets.  I personally can't live without my soccer chair, but I don't suppose it's a true necessity.

For really long trips I swear by audio books. You can rent these from the library or at Cracker Barrel restaurants. You can also download books from several different websites directly onto your MP3 player or burn a CD. Some require a membership and some are actually free, although be careful of shareware sites that can hide viruses. DVDs and video games can obviously while away the hours as well, although the driver is left out of that bit of fun.

If you want to avoid electronics, any number of "car trip" games can offer entertainment. Our favorite is the alphabet game whereby contestants look for and shout out the letters of the alphabet in order from the various roadside signs. Our rule is that letters have to be the first letter of words except for X, but to make it harder X can't come from the word "Exit." For younger kids you can do partners since their reading skills might not be up to quick letter identification. We also play "barrel of monkeys" where someone locates something on the roadside, say a cow, and then the next person has to find something starting with the last letter of that object, so maybe a wagon, and so on. Another variety has each person repeating the objects in order before adding their own. Another game is movie or book trivia.   To narrow it down we select categories such as plot, setting, and characters. Then somebody has to provide clues one at a time towards an answer in that category. So if the category was characters, someone might give clues like "glasses," then "scarred," then "orphan" for Harry Potter, trying to stump us. We usually limit the clues to ten. We also do movie titles by providing just the initials of the title, i.e. OHAOD for One Hundred and One Dalmatians. To simplify the game we can give genres such as cartoon, action film, comedy, etc.   We tried song titles, but it quickly became apparent that our circles of knowledge didn't intersect at all.

I recommend plenty of fluids and power snacks. The boys love chips, but they end up being messy and not very healthy, so I try to supplement with fresh fruit, trail mix, and protein. Hard boiled eggs travel very well as long as they are kept cool. I also have found packets of cheddar cheese cubes, string cheese, and I love "Gogurts."    We often have to leave early in the morning when no one is awake enough for breakfast, so I try to find snacks that satisfy the breakfast palette.   I haven't tried them, but I saw advertised a new treat called "Bagelfuls" which are individual packets of bagel wrapped around cream cheese. 

Don't forget pillows.   Naps help make the miles float by.   We also try to mix things up in the car by changing places whenever we stop. Highway rest stops provide quick access to clean toilets, maps, and vending machines without the enticement and time waster of fast food. On toll roads, service oases replace rest stops. This means you get one stop convenience for refueling, bathrooms, and food. We also always stop for a sit down meal on the road to give everyone 30 to 45 minutes to unwind and hopefully eat from all four food groups. But you can also achieve the same results with a packed picnic shared at a rest stop. Occasionally we are in a real rush, so we grab food on the way and eat in the car, though I don't like those trips as much.

With the popularity of navigation systems travelers can rely on instant directions. I haven't bought a system for my car, so I still rely on maps. On the other hand, having an electronic Sacagawea in my dashboard telling me where the nearest Starbucks or Pizza Hut is located would be nice. I love Google maps because I can get a satellite map with a street map overlay. The satellite map offers visual cues which have proven very helpful in locating fields off the beaten track. Although don't rely too much on the house photos from an address. When incorrect those photos can prove embarrassing picking up a kid at 5 AM – trust me!

Robbie had his first soccer game Tuesday of his last high school season. So as autumn leaves change so do our lives. Sorry, but if I can't have a talking car maybe I can make a living coming up with hackneyed images. Enjoy the ride, wherever you are going this season.
 

We Know Drama

Susan Boyd

The Olympics are over, so I'll be in withdrawal for at least a week as I channel surf for weight-lifting at 2 a.m. The Olympics are a hard habit to break – a sports soap opera with melodrama, bad acting, gorgeous characters, and story lines that include every type of illness, tragedy, human failing, and bad luck. We have the French threatening the Americans with the phrase, "We will smash you," and then the U.S. prevailing by eight one hundredths of a second. We have a 200 meter sprinter doing his victory lap for winning the silver only to watch his face as he discovers he was disqualified for stepping on the lane line. We have a Chinese gymnast who clearly is still teething being passed off as sixteen and then being revealed for her true age. The fallout from that debacle may include a huge readjustment of gold medals in the favor of the U.S. team. Stay tuned.

The human interest stories attract me. I can't help it – truth is stranger than fiction. The soap opera elements explode with a swimmer who lost her leg, a diver competing with a torn tricep, a boxer who nearly went blind, and a family who mortgaged their house three times to keep their athlete in the sport (wait, I think that's my story). The dramatic stories of the Olympics rarely outweighs the excitement of the competition.   But the network can't just let the competitive drama unfold on its own. Back stories add some punch that keeps viewers hanging on long enough to catch that Coke or Budweiser commercial for the umpteenth time. But the unexpected drama of the competition remains steadfast.   Both the U.S. men's and women's 4 X 100 track relay teams dropped the baton in the first heat, leaving the U.S. track team sputtering and choking back tears at the post-heat interviews. What do you say when asked, "What happened and how does this affect you?" Years of training, sacrifice, and expense dashed in a split second. After dropping the baton, Lauryn Williams turned around barely avoiding several runners, picked up the baton and finished the race even though she knew the U.S. was disqualified. As she put it, "I had to finish the race. I couldn't go home without finishing." Now that's powerful drama!

Soccer drama came early with the elimination of the U.S. men's soccer team. They didn't make it out of their bracket losing to Nigeria in their last game. The pundits had lots to say about the reason for the lackluster team performance. Soccer message boards were overflowing with opinions, recriminations, support, and just plain babble. In the meantime the U.S. women trudged through their matches without the steady, experienced, but injured, Abby Wambach, pulling together as a team of equals and managing to overcome the Brazil women in the gold medal match with an appropriately named "golden" goal in the second overtime. The U.S. women were underdogs, but didn't play as if they were. The Brazilians had their superstar Marta but still couldn't manage to scoot a goal past Hope Solo who stepped up with new maturity and determination after her World Cup meltdown and banishment from the team. Reads like a Lifetime movie.

Apparently soccer wasn't dramatic enough as NBC didn't highlight it. The men's games were easier to find than the women's, but soccer wasn't really a priority on the NBC five network lineups. Executives did create two special channels just for soccer and basketball, but less than half the cable providers carried the feeds. However there was no shortage of beach volleyball. I enjoyed watching these games and got very excited by the double win of gold for both the American women and men.  In the meantime the women's soccer final game was difficult to find and NBC carried few highlights after winning the gold. I guess a two hour game with women in shorts isn't as easy to market to advertisers as a 45 minute game with women in bikinis, drama or no drama.

The opening ceremonies set the stage for emotion and awe and the closing ceremonies made us hunger for more. I'll be wishing for another tooth and nail finish, another heart-tugging tale, another controversy, another surprising triumph, and another chance to feel pride in my country and in the world. While the Olympics can reveal the ugly tears in the world's political fabric, it can also make us root for first Olympic medal for Uzbekistan and cheer for the female sprinter from Bahrain in traditional head scarf and covered neck to ankle in a running suit. We can respect the traditions, spirit, and dreams of all the athletes.   I really do love the Olympics.
 

Playing Numbers - Small-Sided Games

Sam Snow

Hello Coaches,
 
Several years ago the state Directors of Coaching of all 55 state associations wrote a paper on Position Statements.  These are statements on factors concerning youth soccer that they feel must be addressed to improve the quality of the youth soccer experience.  Over the last few years each state coaching detector has been working to implement these Position Statements into the fabric of soccer in each state.  I will share with you over the coming weeks these Statements so that as we all begin a new soccer year we can perhaps team up to grow our game in our country.

Playing Numbers - Small-Sided Games #1

The intent is to use small-sided games as the vehicle for match play for players under the age of twelve.  Further we wish to promote age/ability appropriate training activities for players' nationwide.  Clubs should use small-sided games as the primary vehicle for the development of skill and the understanding of simple tactics.  Our rationale is that the creation of skill and a passion for the game occurs between the ages of six to twelve.  With the correct environment throughout this age period players will both excel and become top players or they will continue to enjoy playing at their own levels and enjoy observing the game at higher levels.  A small-sided game in match play for our younger players create more involvement, more touches of the ball, exposure to simple, realistic decisions and ultimately, more enjoyment.  Players must be challenged at their own age/ability levels to improve performance.  The numbers of players on the field of play will affect levels of competition.  Children come to soccer practice to have fun.  They want to run, touch the ball, have the feel of the ball, master it and score.  The environment within which we place players during training sessions and matches should promote all of these desires, not frustrate them.
 
·         We believe that players under the age of six should play games of 3 v 3.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment.  No attempt whatsoever should be made at this age to teach a team formation!  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2003.
 
·         We believe that players under the age of eight should play games of 4 v 4.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment.  Players in this age group can be exposed to a team formation at the start of the game, but do not be dismayed when it disappears once the ball is rolling.  The intent at this age is to merely plant a seed toward understanding spatial awareness.  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2003.
 
·         We believe that players under the age of ten should play games of 6 v 6.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment.  The coaching of positions to children under the age of ten is considered intellectually challenging and often situates parent-coaches in a knowledge vacuum.  Additionally, premature structure of U10 players into positions is often detrimental to the growth of individual skills and tactical awareness.  This problem is particularly acute with players of limited technical ability.  We also believe that the quality of coaching has an impact on the playing numbers.  We recommend that parent-coaches would best serve their U10 players by holding a Youth Module certificate.  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2003.
 
·         We believe that players under the age of twelve should play games of 8 v 8.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate environment.  The U12 age group is the dawning of tactical awareness and we feel it is best to teach the players individual and group tactics at this age rather than team tactics.  These playing numbers for the U11 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2004.  These playing numbers for the U12 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2005.
 

Small-sided games for Under-12

Sam Snow

Surveys of young players over the last few years have shown that the primary reason for players under 12 dropping out of soccer is that they were not having fun. The secondary reason is that they do not like their coaches.
 
Both reasons would indicate that those players were not exposed to an appropriate playing environment for their age and/or ability levels. Too much at too young of an age would cause players to become disenchanted with the sport. Too little activity in practice sessions (drills) and games (too many players on the field) would cause players to become bored.
 
Physiologically and psychologically, the ages of 9-11 are ideal for development. At that age, children have grown out of infant instability but are not yet encumbered by the awkwardness of their early teens. This is ideal for challenging skills practice.
 
This age group also observes the important crossover from "selfishness" to the ability to socialize. In soccer terms, through this age period, children learn to understand the importance of cooperation in team play. Most soccer educators generally accept the age of 13 as the age to begin "11-a-side play". Players must be given time to experience and develop within the "adult game" before exposure to the pressures of tournament play.
 
I am very optimistic that the influence of the National Youth License, which was implemented at state level in 1998, will also help to create a better understanding of the requirements of play between the ages of 6-12.
 
With the cooperation of the states we can dramatically reduce the numbers of players dropping out of our sport before the age of 12 and increase their enjoyment of the game.