Monday, March 24, 2008
With spring soccer season sloshing its way into our lives, I got to thinking how I survive the mud, the rain, the snow, the cold and the puddles. Since, every soccer season offers its own obstacle course of weather and locations, I thought it might be a good time to recap some of the survival techniques I have gleaned from other wiser and more experienced soccer parents. I can lay claim to a few of these suggestions, but in truth I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who have journeyed before me and made my own trek much easier.
I throw my soccer kit into my trunk as soon as my momnesiac mind (see previous blog) can remember to do so. In the kit (actually a box) I store the following: towels, folding umbrellas, gallon size zip-lock bags, four or more 33 gallon garbage bags, NASA blankets, gloves, stocking caps, extra socks, extra underwear, old pair of shin guards, old pair of cleats, Dry-Guy, paper towel roll, toilet paper roll, safety pins, bottled water, small broom, Wet-Ones and first aid kit. The NASA blankets you can get at most sporting goods stores. These are the tin foil looking thin sheets that are actually very warm and great protection for the team shivering on the bench. They fold up into a tiny package, so are easily transportable. Whenever I see those stretchy one size fits all knit gloves and hats on sale I buy a dozen, usually at Walgreen's or CVS. They disappear fast and are godsends on those days when the wind is really whipping around. The Dry-Guy I mentioned in an earlier blog. It's a machine that looks like an upside down table with a protrusion for the motor. The four "legs" are actually tubes through which warm air blows. It can dry out a pair of cleats or socks or goalie gloves in a matter of hours, so it's really useful for tournaments when you don't have much time between games. The toilet paper has come in so useful over the years for those port-a-johns that are missing a roll and for those au naturelle visits you sometimes have to make on isolated fields. I put the garbage bags down on the floor of the car and they really work to collect the mud, water and yuck that soccer cleats bring into your vehicle. You can then carefully remove them and shake them out and reuse them. The broom is for those games in the snow – you can use the broom to brush off the lines on the field and later the snow off the shoes.
In the summer I just add sunscreen and more water to the kit. While we can hope that mud and rain are well behind us, the occasional thunderstorm can create the same soupy conditions that long-term spring showers produce. On really hot days you might want to bring along a cooler filled with ice water in which you put several dozen hand towels. Placing these soaked towels on the back of a neck can really help reduce temperature and are great for players to use during a game. Most big box department stores will have packs of towels you can buy for under $10 a dozen, especially in August when kids are college bound. It's an easy quick fix for a really muggy day. Kids usually don't want to put on sunscreen but if you can catch them and rub some on the high risk areas it will help minimize pain later in the day: tops of ears, necks, faces, back of legs and if they have those buzz cuts, top of the head or even the part for a pair of braids.
I learned a really great tip when I travel to tournaments. Because I invariably have a fistful of papers confirming hotels, rental cars, airline itineraries, and soccer schedules it's difficult to keep them all sorted out. I read about this trick in a travel magazine and I thought "genius!" Print each one on a different color of paper. That way when you look in your bag or purse or notebook you can identify the one you want to see right away. Sometimes I have to get a bit creative on colors if I have maps to several different fields and the hotel in addition to everything else, but it certainly is so much easier to just pull out the sheet I want instantly. I also am a huge fan of www.maps.google.com
because you can click and drag the map to position it exactly how you want to print it out. They have a service called "My Maps" that you register for, but it's free. You can design the map anyway you want with great logos including a soccer player to mark your destinations. They have different fonts, lines for routes in different colors which you can label, and as you place the lines it tells you distance and time of travel. You also can print it with both roads and satellite photo or a new feature called "terrain." This may sound silly, but I can't tell you how often seeing a landmark has helped us locate the turn we want to make. I know many people are Buck Rogers in the 24th
century with their navigation systems, but for those of us mired in the 21st
century, the Google maps work really well.
If kids are traveling overseas be sure to make a copy of the main page of their passports and keep in a safe place at home. That way if the passport is lost or stolen, you can fax the copy to the American Embassy or Consulate and it really speeds up the replacement of the document. If you are lucky enough to tag along, then leave the copies with a friend or relative. We also learned the hard way that for our kids under 18 it helps to have a copy of their birth certificate when traveling within the U.S. by plane. Robbie's name has been placed on the no-fly list which we didn't find out until returning to Milwaukee from Tampa one hurried evening. Luckily I had a copy of his birth certificate with me left over from getting him his driver's permit and that helped get him on the plane. It didn't matter that the Robert Boyd they were looking for was in his mid-forties and Caucasian, while our Robbie is 17 and African-American. Seeing was not believing. They wanted proof of where he was born and when! We have heard of other parents traveling with their minor children who still had to show some proof that their kids weren't eighteen hence the value of a birth certificate. Finally bring your insurance card and be sure your kids have a copy with them if they are traveling without you. If you have your SSN on the card, black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Wisely, most insurance companies are now going to group and participant numbers that have nothing to do with SSN. Besides proof of insurance, hospitals need the telephone number of the insurance company so they can get charges authorized before treatment, so check that the number is on the card and copy.
I also have learned to keep the following in my car: jumper cables, kitty litter, a folding shovel, an up-to-date atlas, puzzle book or magazine with pencil, a deodorant spray like Febreeze, Lysol or Oust and folding chairs. The boys will add things like PS2, DVD, PSP, MP3 and whatever other alphabet products are necessary for a road trip. To that end I have added a six outlet power cord and an outlet transformer plugs into the lighter. It was nearly a panic to rival Wall Street's Black Thursday when the power cord went missing one trip! Those of you who live in the south may not think you need the kitty litter, but if you get some freezing rain or black ice, it sure comes in handy. The puzzle book has saved my sanity during several long bouts of rain delays. The spray I believe is self-explanatory!
Lastly, when we are traveling to another city for a tournament I do a bit of internet browsing to discover "time busters" near the hotel or the fields. I check out shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, parks and attractions. I put them on a sheet with phone numbers and operating hours. Sometimes nobody wants to go out at all, so I make sure to jot down the numbers of food places that deliver. Sure they have a phone book in the hotel, but if you don't know the area, it doesn't always help identify places close enough to be reasonable. Actually this is where Google maps come in again. When I locate an address, I can also locate specific restaurants by either name or type, and attractions in the vicinity. Google provides the address, phone numbers, and occasionally the operating hours as well as links to a business website when available. So it makes it quick and easy to do.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you have an enjoyable and organized soccer season. I'm sure lots of you have other tips to add, so put them in the comments section. That way, I'll continue to look even more organized and wise than I really am.