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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on every Monday. A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom." 
Opinions expressed on the US Youth Soccer Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of US Youth Soccer.


Closing In

Susan Boyd

It's getting close. I know that because I have made my ""say a little prayer"" appointment with the mechanic for Thursday. We are all hoping that he can adjust the brakes, replenish the oil, and give the tires a good rotation so we can make it to Des Moines okay. Actually my son is hoping that the car will disintegrate on contact and I will be forced to do an impulse purchase of a gas guzzling SUV preferably in jet black or fire engine red.

It's getting close because the practices have been stepped up. This week we had four scheduled, but Mother Nature did not cooperate last night, and practice was canceled. My problem is that practices not only have been stepped up, but also have begun even later, so that they aren't done until 9 PM. With a two plus hour ride home, I won't be in bed much before midnight and I have to be at work by 7:30 AM. I hope the coaches all read this blog!!

It's getting close because our manager handed me a bound folder with index tabs filled with details about U.S. Youth Soccer Regionals. Our manager is amazing. His name is Vago Galounis (yeah I outed you), and he handles every detail without a single misstep. I used to be a manager, so I know how hard it is to administrate a team. There's that delicate thin line you walk between the parents and the coach. It's hard not to fall off the tightrope but Vago manages to do an excellent job. This folder is amazing (I guess I need to also thank his secretary). It has maps – even a map to get to Des Moines from Wisconsin – schedules, how to find Starbucks, all the essentials. It will be my bible for six unforgettable days.

It's getting close because my son is feeling the pressure. That means there is more walking on eggshells in the house. On the other hand, he also exhibits great interest in the planning, the schedules, the uniforms, and lots of other details which shows me is as excited as he is nervous. I never did organized sports unless you count one year in college volleyball where I spent most of the season on the bench with a broken finger. I grew up pre-Title IX where our choices were limited to tennis, gymnastics, track, and volleyball. But I did do forensics. So I do understand that battle raging in his stomach and his mind, the self-doubts, the hopes, and the excitement. It's a lot of psychological baggage to be handling at 16 years of age, and some of the kids at Regionals are only 13! So as much as I hate being a punching bag, sometimes I just have to let him rage.

It's getting close because my job suddenly has 8,000 deadlines which fall during the six days of Regionals. I can go three weeks with deadlines that are manageable and then boom, right when I am trying to untangle myself from email, spreadsheets, phone calls, collations, photocopying, reports, you know the drill, it all just starts piling on. At Regionals I will be the crazy woman with a laptop cord wrapped around her neck, trying to see her LCD screen in the sunlight and get just one more email out before the whistle! I suspect, however, there will be lots of other crazy women and men in the same situation.

It's getting close because once again I have another week's vacation that is spent in some hotel I don't select, in some town that isn't a holiday destination, spending more money than if I were lounging in a gondola in Venice, and washing out uniforms in the hotel sink instead of selecting souvenirs from a vendor on the Ponte Vecchio (can you guess that I really want to be in Italy?). But in the end, I wouldn't trade the soft mattresses, the heat, the long days, the smelly soccer bag, and the junk food for any week in Italy because this is what my son wants to do, this is what we can remember for the rest of our lives as special moments, this is the thrill, the defeat, the victory, the agony, the joy, and the frustration of playing sports…which is to say, it is life and we get to share it all as a family.


Practice and winning regardless of a number

Susan Boyd

There's an old joke: A tourist in New York City stops a man on the street and asks, ""How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"" The man replies, ""Practice, practice, practice."" If practice were really all it took to succeed, I'd be a concert pianist right now instead of a soccer mom. In life, and in the journey to Regionals, it takes much more than practice.

Nevertheless I have watched clubs go to insane lengths to practice their players into winning US Youth Soccer State Cup or Midwest Regional League, the two main gateways to a Regional slot in Region II. It's not unusual to hear of three or four hour practices four or five days a week. Since I have a son who plays in Illinois and a son who plays in Wisconsin, I get to witness a lot of insanity. Still, practice is the one variable that can be controlled. Everything else is less manageable. So it's no wonder that clubs, coaches, and teams step it up.

My own son discovered this hard fact this past weekend. His team wasn't insane about practice, but they did their fair share. However, through a Series of Unfortunate Events (apologies to Lemony Snicket) practice was not going to be the answer to a state cup win. Soccer (life) is filled with those unpleasant surprises – shots that define physics, a defender slipping to the ground at a key moment, rain delays that change the momentum of a game, wind, heat exhaustion, and, my personal worst, injuries. Suddenly a game becomes a battle for survival, and sometimes the team doesn't survive.

Luckily for Robbie's team, they had earned a slot at Regionals by winning Midwest Regional League. So losing State Cup wasn't quite as painful as it could have been. The really good news is that all the players handled the loss with dignity and maturity. I like to think that all this money I spend, all this time I lose driving, all the rainy games, all the sunstroke days ultimately result in good life lessons. Not every team can win State Cup, but every team can learn to face adversity with humility and patience. Players can learn to respect one another's talents and deficiencies. Coaches can learn to forgive bad play and find the pearls when they reveal themselves. Parents can learn to praise their kids no matter what the outcome and to not expect winning.

I love team sports, and soccer in particular, because they require dependence upon others. No player can claim predominance – every win, every loss involves every team member. We all point fingers, and I'm no exception, in an attempt to lay blame or to award honor. Yet, no team would win State Cup or any match if they only fielded their top scorer!

So how do you get to Regionals? Practice, attitude, opportunity, talent, athleticism, coaching and teamwork. But we can't forget about providence. Sometimes a win comes from that tiny moment when the ball bounces left off the post instead of right. Every bounce can have a huge consequence. If it results in a loss, then the team will return to the pitch and practice, practice, practice. If it results in a win, the team will advance to Regionals…and practice, practice, practice.


Soccer and the Car

Susan Boyd

Every soccer moment is all about the car for us, and the upcoming US Youth Soccer Regionals are no exception. We own this not so ancient but overdriven Toyota Sienna known as the ""cracked blue egg."" The check engine light has been on for two years. The ash tray pops open without warning spilling the hundreds of coins we stuff in there for tolls outside of Illinois and emergency Starbucks.

The parking brake doesn't work. Well, because I back out in a hurry and forget to disengage it…I think Starbucks might cause dementia for me. In fact, I once drove 20 miles down the toll way with the parking brake engaged wondering about that horrible shimmy. Returning from soccer practice I have slammed into a piece of concrete on the toll way in the dark going 75 miles an hour (yes I know the speed limit is 55, but if I drove 55 I would add 15 more years to my soccer driving life) throwing a rod into the air conditioning unit that I had had recharged only ten days before at a cost of $500, much to the delight of my mechanic, who tongue in cheek asked if I now wanted to purchase a warranty for my re-recharge.

On the way to another practice, my husband barreled through the toll booth gate in an I-Pass lane that said ""15 mph"", apparently the speed at which you must be traveling to totally obliterate the gate. In the process the shattered gate tore off the windshield washer cap on the driver's side so that for three weeks until the cap could be replaced, fluid merely gurgled out like a baby blowing bubbles.

The car has had six sets of tires, the rear door replaced after another soccer mom slid on the ice and rear ended me in her new SUV, the air conditioner has been refurbished twice (see above), the parking brake readjusted four times (see above again), the oil changed 55 times, the check engine light turned off just before state inspection so I could pass (it came back on during the drive home), the gas cap replaced eight times in an attempt to get the check engine light to turn off and stay off (see above in case you want to know if it worked), the transmission fluid changed six times (and the transmission still slips), the passenger side seat belt changed once, and enough gasoline pumped into it to keep the King of Burundi in gold for eternity.

The interior is so dirty that I have given up even trying to remember what color it is. If I remember, I think it is gray, but with the dirt that is very deceiving. I may have leather seats, or they may just be so coated in spilled sodas and Gatorade that they have achieved the same slippery smooth texture. The exterior is so dusty/muddy that no one can even hope to etch "Wash me"" into the plaster.

My 16 year-old son, the one who is playing in Regionals, is mortified by our car. On the Paris Hilton scale of chic, we can't even aspire to ""cool"". All we can hope for is mildly disgusting – though I'm not sure we can raise that high. It is a wreck of car that manages to transport us approximately 1,000 miles a week to and from soccer practice, games and tournaments. And with each turn of the key, each rotation of the tires, each mile on the odometer, we say a quick thank you to the vehicle gods for those small gifts.

So now we will be going to Des Moines, Iowa, some 384 miles one way from Mequon, Wisconsin. Will the ""cracked egg"" hold up? Will my son live through the embarrassment? Will gas prices drop? (That last question was actually meant to be ironic.) Will the road rise up to meet us or will it swallow us?

It's all about the car. If it can take us to Des Moines, then we have actually already won. There's no gold medal, but there is a celebration. If you see a family whooping and hollering in the hotel parking lot, throwing confetti, and in the bargain totally embarrassing their 16 year-old son, you have probably come across the Boyd family. Stop and say hello, or better yet, offer a sacrifice on our behalf to the vehicle gods.

I hear they love shattered toll gates.