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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". 

 

Tanked Out

Susan Boyd

When gas reached the $3 per gallon mark, a local ad for our county bus system showed a father at a gas station doubling as a pawn shop. He was looking to buy a few gallons of gas through the trade of his wife's wedding ring, a Waterford vase, even his youngest child, to which the owner says, "Now that's just sad." Then on the Today show this week they had a segment on people pawning their possessions to get enough money to buy gas. So fiction has become fact, which in this case is just sad!
 
The reality now exists that youth soccer as we know it may have to adjust if even middle class families are going to survive the year-round training and the travel involved. Recently I was at the State Championship in Appleton, Wisconsin and listened as people on the sidelines moaned about the cost of coming up to Appleton from Milwaukee and Madison for the weekend. The distance was only a concern as to how it affected the cost of travel. We had just gone to $4.19 a gallon in Milwaukee, so I can see everyone's point. The state association kindly adjusted my son's U19 bracket so that the teams had to come up just one day in order to save on gas.
 
My other son is in the US Soccer Federation Developmental Academy and travel should be their middle name. He traveled one day down to Bradenton, Florida to play the National Team and next week he will travel to Champaign, Illinois for one game. The days of $150 airfares to Florida are long gone, so the Bradenton trip cost around $450. Champaign is 250 miles away, so it will be nearly two tanks of gas at $65 a tank for that one game. I'm not sure when I reached the point of measuring my soccer expenses by the tank, but it had to be about the time I crossed the $50 threshold for a tank of gas. I'm now past the $60 threshold and I'm told to prepare for the $70 threshold.

I've always leaned more to the "green" side of life. I'm product of Haight-Ashbury, flower power and Boones Ferry wine, so count me on the liberal side of the fence. But I never really put much thought into what it cost to drive to a tournament or a game until the last six months, and now it seems to obsess me. Today Robbie suggested going to a western suburb to meet his friend for lunch, come home and then drive back out there to pick her up from school and go to her tennis match. Six months ago, I would have just nodded and said, "Okay." This morning I gasped and said, "No way!" So he's sitting in the school library reading magazines for two hours until it's time to pick her up.

I've talked about my van and its innumerable problems, but now it is losing gas mileage, down from 27 on the freeway to 21 on the freeway. That fact alone may force me into debt I can't afford just to get a car with 30 MPG on the freeway. I figure if gas prices keep rising, the car will pay for itself with the savings. 

I'm nearing the end of my soccer travels on a regular basis. I'll certainly be driving to see my grandkids play soccer, baseball, football or gymnastics. But it will have the extra pleasure of being combined with a visit and time to just enjoy the kids. I really do think about those of you who are just embarking on the journey. Suddenly travel team seriously equates big bucks. I have limited disposable income, but I'm lucky to have any. Many soccer families don't have that luxury, so traveling to games means sacrifice and even going into debt. That's not what sports should be about. 

I encourage clubs, state organizations and national organizations to begin to take into account the cost of traveling just to games, not to mention regional league, tournaments, and showcases. While each event may not seem to be a budget buster, organizers need to remember that players and families aren't just going to one event. Even at the youngest ages games can be a great distance away if the league is geographically large. Add one tournament each season and you have the makings of a chunk of change. Hopefully organizers and schedulers will look for ways to minimize travel by clustering league teams, adjusting tournament schedules to make the best use of time and distance for participants, and being sensitive to the issues of travel costs. Organizers will counter that the difficulty is in finding the right mix of competitiveness and an already overburdened and complex scheduling system. Hopefully some middle ground can be found that addresses and helps mitigate expenses for families, especially those just starting to play. We don't want to scare people off or have them make a decision about soccer based solely on economics.

While I won't even go into global warming, because that has a whole horse cart of political baggage, I will point out that gas isn't going to suddenly multiply and have prices plummet. We are probably stuck in this ever upwardly spiraling price corkscrew into our lives. So we have to get creative in solving the money problem. Wherever possible, carpool to soccer practice, games and tournaments.   Clubs might seek out alternate practice sites in different parts of town and rotate among these so that certain families aren't always stuck with the long journey to the fields. With a bit of creative effort, we can probably help most families lop off 20 percent from their soccer travel expenses.   And that's money in the bank rather than the tank.
Starting next week, I will be bloggin from Rockford, Illinois at the US Youth Soccer Region II Championships.
 

Lessons from USA vs. Argentina

Sam Snow

Well, of course, last night we all watched the U.S. Men's National Team play against the number one national team in the world, Argentina. There are so many things for us to take away from the match. Indeed there are even a few items to take away from what we did before this match. 
 
Let's start with three in a row against some of the very best in the world, Argentina, England and Spain; all in preparation for 2010 World Cup qualifying matches for us here in CONCACAF. This is a great sign of the health of our sport.
 
Number one, USSF has the financial wherewithal to arrange such matches, which cost a pretty penny. Second it is clear that we have the confidence and foresight to take on very good teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers. This states indirectly that we want the experience that pushes our players and staff to their limits and helps them to grow beyond those limits. Further it tells every other team in CONCACAF how serious we are about qualifying for South Africa. These are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding last night's match.
 
Now, as to the match itself it was good to see us play a rather complete game. We went forward and attacked and created good scoring chances. That's a highly significant fact given the caliber of the Argentinean team. The U.S. squad did this with a mix of veterans and youngsters on the field. Bob Bradley showed real confidence in his personnel to give a good number of new faces to our National Team playing time in a high level match. This is great preparation for the depth of our team that no doubt will compete in South Africa in 2010. Yes, our play was a bit choppy at times, but I believe that's normal for most National Teams which get little time together to gel as a team. We are still in the testing phase of our pool of players. Several of them tested very well yesterday.
 
Now mind you it was a friendly and doesn't count in qualification or a league standing, although it will influence our FIFA ranking. Yet Coach Bradley and his staff took some chances with their approach to the match. Those chances were worth any possible risk given the experience gained and lessons learned. I wonder how many youth coaches actually plan such events for their developing players. How many adults involved with youth soccer will recognize what our National Team staff did which is that many of the players on the full Men's National Team are still quite young developing players?
 
Several players for the USA came into the match as subs. It's a real challenge to a player to step into a match already underway and get instantly into the flow of the game and literally up to match speed. In your development of your youth players do you intentionally set up these experiences? One of the great lessons from the World Cup winning team of France 1998 was the preparation of the team by Aime Jacquet and his staff. One aspect of which was that every player on the team experienced being a starter, coming on as a substitute and being taken off. In this way the team was mentally prepared for any mix of players in the lineup. Does your team while on the road to the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series take such an approach?
 
Late in the match the USA had a player ejected and found themselves playing a man down against the number one ranked team on the planet. Now I'm sure that as a coach, you have experienced your team playing a man down at some point. Did you prepare for such an experience? Have you taken your team through that scenario during a training session or a practice match with another team in your club? Waiting until the situation arises in a league match is not preparation. So in training run the players through situations of playing numbers up and numbers down and how do they adjust tactically and the possible repositioning of the personnel on the field.
 
Those are just two of the occurrences from yesterday's match that also occur in youth matches now and then. Coaches need to put into their curriculum for player and team development these types of scenarios and teach players and staff how to handle them.
Well, of course, last night we all watched the U.S. Men's National Team play against the number one national team in the world, Argentina. There are so many things for us to take away from the match. Indeed there are even a few items to take away from what we did before this match. 
 
Let's start with three in a row against some of the very best in the world, Argentina, England and Spain; all in preparation for 2010 World Cup qualifying matches for us here in CONCACAF. This is a great sign of the health of our sport.
 
Number one, USSF has the financial wherewithal to arrange such matches, which cost a pretty penny. Second it is clear that we have the confidence and foresight to take on very good teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers. This states indirectly that we want the experience that pushes our players and staff to their limits and helps them to grow beyond those limits. Further it tells every other team in CONCACAF how serious we are about qualifying for South Africa. These are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding last night's match.
 
Now, as to the match itself it was good to see us play a rather complete game. We went forward and attacked and created good scoring chances. That's a highly significant fact given the caliber of the Argentinean team. The U.S. squad did this with a mix of veterans and youngsters on the field. Bob Bradley showed real confidence in his personnel to give a good number of new faces to our National Team playing time in a high level match. This is great preparation for the depth of our team that no doubt will compete in South Africa in 2010. Yes, our play was a bit choppy at times, but I believe that's normal for most National Teams which get little time together to gel as a team. We are still in the testing phase of our pool of players. Several of them tested very well yesterday.
 
Now mind you it was a friendly and doesn't count in qualification or a league standing, although it will influence our FIFA ranking. Yet Coach Bradley and his staff took some chances with their approach to the match. Those chances were worth any possible risk given the experience gained and lessons learned. I wonder how many youth coaches actually plan such events for their developing players. How many adults involved with youth soccer will recognize what our National Team staff did which is that many of the players on the full Men's National Team are still quite young developing players?
 
Several players for the USA came into the match as subs. It's a real challenge to a player to step into a match already underway and get instantly into the flow of the game and literally up to match speed. In your development of your youth players do you intentionally set up these experiences? One of the great lessons from the World Cup winning team of France 1998 was the preparation of the team by Aime Jacquet and his staff. One aspect of which was that every player on the team experienced being a starter, coming on as a substitute and being taken off. In this way the team was mentally prepared for any mix of players in the lineup. Does your team while on the road to the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series take such an approach?
 
Late in the match the USA had a player ejected and found themselves playing a man down against the number one ranked team on the planet. Now I'm sure that as a coach, you have experienced your team playing a man down at some point. Did you prepare for such an experience? Have you taken your team through that scenario during a training session or a practice match with another team in your club? Waiting until the situation arises in a league match is not preparation. So in training run the players through situations of playing numbers up and numbers down and how do they adjust tactically and the possible repositioning of the personnel on the field.
 
Well, of course, last night we all watched the U.S. Men's National Team play against the number one national team in the world, Argentina. There are so many things for us to take away from the match. Indeed there are even a few items to take away from what we did before this match. 
 
Let's start with three in a row against some of the very best in the world, Argentina, England and Spain; all in preparation for 2010 World Cup qualifying matches for us here in CONCACAF. This is a great sign of the health of our sport.
 
Number one, USSF has the financial wherewithal to arrange such matches, which cost a pretty penny. Second it is clear that we have the confidence and foresight to take on very good teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers. This states indirectly that we want the experience that pushes our players and staff to their limits and helps them to grow beyond those limits. Further it tells every other team in CONCACAF how serious we are about qualifying for South Africa. These are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding last night's match.
 
Now, as to the match itself it was good to see us play a rather complete game. We went forward and attacked and created good scoring chances. That's a highly significant fact given the caliber of the Argentinean team. The U.S. squad did this with a mix of veterans and youngsters on the field. Bob Bradley showed real confidence in his personnel to give a good number of new faces to our National Team playing time in a high level match. This is great preparation for the depth of our team that no doubt will compete in South Africa in 2010. Yes, our play was a bit choppy at times, but I believe that's normal for most National Teams which get little time together to gel as a team. We are still in the testing phase of our pool of players. Several of them tested very well yesterday.
 
Now mind you it was a friendly and doesn't count in qualification or a league standing, although it will influence our FIFA ranking. Yet Coach Bradley and his staff took some chances with their approach to the match. Those chances were worth any possible risk given the experience gained and lessons learned. I wonder how many youth coaches actually plan such events for their developing players. How many adults involved with youth soccer will recognize what our National Team staff did which is that many of the players on the full Men's National Team are still quite young developing players?
 
Several players for the USA came into the match as subs. It's a real challenge to a player to step into a match already underway and get instantly into the flow of the game and literally up to match speed. In your development of your youth players do you intentionally set up these experiences? One of the great lessons from the World Cup winning team of France 1998 was the preparation of the team by Aime Jacquet and his staff. One aspect of which was that every player on the team experienced being a starter, coming on as a substitute and being taken off. In this way the team was mentally prepared for any mix of players in the lineup. Does your team while on the road to the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series take such an approach?
 
Late in the match the USA had a player ejected and found themselves playing a man down against the number one ranked team on the planet. Now I'm sure that as a coach, you have experienced your team playing a man down at some point. Did you prepare for such an experience? Have you taken your team through that scenario during a training session or a practice match with another team in your club? Waiting until the situation arises in a league match is not preparation. So in training run the players through situations of playing numbers up and numbers down and how do they adjust tactically and the possible repositioning of the personnel on the field.
 
Those are just two of the occurrences from yesterday's match that also occur in youth matches now and then. Coaches need to put into their curriculum for player and team development these types of scenarios and teach players and staff how to handle them.
 

New State Course

Sam Snow

US Youth Soccer has delivered a new coaching course to the 55 state associations. The course is for coaching in The Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPSoccer). The TOPSoccer coaching course is a state association delivered four hour course.  The course is three hours of classroom work and one hour on the field.  The field session is done with the instructor and candidates, so no players are required for that portion.  There are PowerPoint presentations and group breakout work during the classroom session.   Our broad goal with the course is to get more folks involved in coaching TOPSoccer players and to increase the number of participants nationwide in this program.
 
The materials for the course have been delivered to the state associations. Those whom the Association will designate as instructors of the TOPSoccer course must first earn the certificate. This will provide continuity for the instructors. This is the standard operating procedure for all of our coaching education, you have to actually hold a certificate or license before you will be considered as a possible teacher of the course. So to get the course off the ground US Youth Soccer is conducting regional symposia for TOPSoccer administrators and coaches. The course will be delivered during the symposium. Check your region's web site for the details on the TOPSoccer symposium in your region.
 
Please note that the region symposium is NOT an instructors' course.  Many folks may attend the symposium and earn the TOPSoccer coaching certificate but they are not automatically a state instructor of the course.  Who teaches the course within each state association is to be decided by the state Technical Director.  Candidates who successfully complete the course will earn a certificate issued by the state association. Then for those who have earned the certificate continuing education for TOPSoccer coaches and administrators will take place at regional symposia.
 
Here are the topics covered in the course. 
       Why People Play Soccer
       Players' Challenges
       Qualities of Coaches
       Prevention and Care of Injuries
       Risk Management
       Communication
       Ideas for Coaching
       Characteristics of well-selected games and inclusion activities
        Organizing a training session
 
The course objectives include:
  1. Apply existing coaching skills and experiences to meet the needs of players with disabilities
  2. Establish basic communication skills
  3. Appropriate safety and medical considerations
  4. How do we modify activities to include all players
  5. Demonstrate coaching methods
 
Remember that we all have disabilities, in some of us they show!
 

Favorite Things

Susan Boyd

Last week I bought a new soccer chair that I had seen advertised for the Memorial Day holiday. This is high entertainment for me, picking out a new chair, testing it in the store and then unveiling it on the soccer sidelines. I bought this chair in the middle of the U.S. Soccer Federation Developmental Academy spring college showcase, so I had my old chair one day and my new chair another day, which allowed me to enjoy the ooohs and aaahs of the other parents. This chair is royal blue and has a canopy which shelters me from sun and rain. It doesn't require a bag, so ends up being high end in the transportation area as well. I am a very happy soccer mom right now.
 
Buying the chair got me thinking about my other favorite soccer things. Naturally my boys and grandkids rank at the top of my list of favorite soccer things, but they have an edge being flesh and blood and cute. So I just wanted to focus on the top ten things that aren't related to me.
 
10. Updated soccer rule book. I pick up a copy every few years as rules change, especially for the younger ages. The book is available at my soccer supply store for less than $10 and gives me good guidance in what constitutes fouls, off-side, and other soccer regulations. I keep it with me in the car. Every once in awhile I do need to haul it out and give it a look. The referees at one game even used the book to resolve a complicated overtime issue.  
 
9.   Finding a parking spot right near the gate into the world's largest soccer complex. I know I already have a two mile walk to the field, so I love not having to walk another mile from my parking spot just to get into the park.
 
8. Getting Crocs on sale. I live in Crocs, winter, spring, summer, and fall. I have fleece-lined Crocs for the winter and Mary Jane's for those formal soccer events. They are perfect for those two or three mile hikes to and from fields at tournaments.
 
7. My ten year old, slightly broken Dry-Guy about which I have waxed poetic in other blogs. This machine is the size of a small toaster, packs in a gear bag easily, and saves blisters, muddy floor mats and smelly rides home.  With a car adaptor, you can use it right at the fields to dry out shoes and socks. With a goalkeeper son it provided dry gloves for important games and helps the gloves last longer. 
 
6. I absolutely dote on audio books. Even the boys got into some of the books on our long trips. You can find audio books on any topic, by any author, and of any length. My brother gave me Pepys' Diary as a gift, and it got us through a trip to Florida. I think we listened to a John Grisham novel and Harry Potter on the way home. Cracker Barrel Restaurants have a loan policy on audio books that provides us with unlimited books for a small use fee on each one. The only drawback is that the restaurant tends towards romance and crime novels. Your local library will usually have a collection of books to check out as well.  Parallel to the audio books would be my satellite radio which offers English Premier League games, talk radio, and a 60's music station to fill the hours of driving.
 
5. Sudoku puzzles while away those empty minutes between when I have to drop the boys off at the fields and when the game begins. I can sit in the car, or now, in my canopied chair, and give my brain some exercise.
 
4. Express lanes! With all the driving I do, I love when I see the sign "Express Lanes Open." Sometimes they reduce my trip only a few minutes, but there are days when I breeze past totally stopped traffic in the other lanes.
 
3. In the same vein I love my I-Pass which is now linked with some other states. Once they make these electronic tollway fee payment gadgets valid nationwide I'll be in soccer heaven. I can breeze through toll booths rather than dig for change and wait in long lines. Of course I have to watch out for the few I-Pass lanes that have gates, which do still exist.
 
2. Warm blankets that roll up in tiny packages. Since soccer games can be played scores of miles from home, weather won't always be as warm or cooperative as where you came from, so being prepared without having a lot of bulk to do so adds convenience to comfort. I have one blanket that is waterproof on one side and fleece on the other and fits in its own easy to carry bag. I love that blanket.
 
1. All soccer gear on sale or even better, free!   There are often tents at large tournaments with soccer gear and jerseys. I've found that vendors don't want to repack everything at the end of the tournament, so you can make some really good deals. I've become expert in digging through bins to find shorts and jerseys which usually come in only one size. I got a brand new Barcelona jersey for $20 because it was the last one and a size small. I have found socks four pairs for $10 that usually sell for $7.50 a pair. I love the bargains and make shopping for them part of my soccer week.
 
Since my chair and I have a significant relationship, I didn't include it here. I think everyone should have a chair they love and use. I donate my older chairs to other soccer families and keep two or three on hand for those times when guests come along to a game. While I really love my new chair, I was told by another mom that she had spotted the same chair with a foot rest. So my favorite chair may no longer be my true love. Call me fickle, but come on – it has a canopy AND footrest. I think anyone would trade up!