Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

Like our Facebook!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Nesquik

Capri Sun

Active Family Project

Active Family Project

Olive Garden

Play Positive Banner

Print Page Share

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". 

 

Raising Funds

Susan Boyd

Every non-profit has been feeling the pinch in this economy. Trying to just break even gets trickier, so groups depend heavily on fundraisers to supplement fees. This past summer I have had neighborhood kids at my door selling something for their team, church, and/or school. I've bought frozen cookie dough, geraniums, smell-n-write pencils, wrapping paper, chocolates, cookies, and seeds, none of which I need. But I'll buy because my own children were once out there trying to raise money for their soccer team, and I was grateful for neighbors, friends, and family who bought what they didn't need. 
 
Most fund raisers require the kids to go door to door, collect orders, return weeks later to deliver the orders, and collect the money. The items are usually overpriced with a huge amount of the money collected going to the manufacturer. But I've also found some good fundraisers meaning they fulfill three important criteria. First, whatever is being traded for money gives something of useful value or fun to the purchaser. Second, the non-profit gets 90 – 100% from what they sell. Third, the fundraising requires minimal/easy effort on the part of the non-profit. I really like the type of product that can be distributed immediately upon payment. Even better, I like the type of fundraiser that doesn't require any product. So here are my suggestions in no particular order.
 
1.      Concession Stand – Professional and college sports venues offer non-profit organizations the opportunity to man the concession stands taking home a percentage of the stand's proceeds. You have to get on their lists and usually only adults can work since many of the stands serve alcohol. But if your club does a great job and shows up consistently with responsible workers then the club can count on several regular working dates.
-        Pros – minimal investment by your organization other than gathering workers and putting in a strong effort when on duty.
-        Cons – could be difficult to get enough dates and usually only adults can work.
 
2.     Gift Wrapping – During the holidays many malls, department stores, bookstores, and boutiques offer free gift wrapping for their patrons. They contract with non-profit organizations to provide the actual gift wrapping and allow them to solicit donations for the service.
-        Pros – no investment by your organizations other than perhaps printing flyers to encourage people to shop and wrap when you're on duty.
-        Cons – seasonal work and you have to arrange your dates well in advance.
 
3.      Penny (coin) collection – Select a day for your volunteers to set up tables outside of various locations such as groceries, big box stores, and malls. Have large containers available for people to drop in pennies. Anyone making a paper bill donation could receive some inexpensive item such as a lollipop, penny candy, or sticker. Advertise that your organization will be collecting pennies ahead of time so that hopefully people who have penny stashes at home will bring them to drop off.
-        Pros – minimal cost for the organization for flyers and penny candy.
-        Cons – need some good coordination with stores so that you can have permission for multiple sites. This is a hit or miss fundraising event. If you advertise the week before and have flyers up at the participating stores you could collect hundreds of dollars.
 
4.     Discount card – This you coordinate with a service which provides the cards. They will canvas local businesses, get them to agree to discounts and freebies, and print off the cards. They will usually give a discount to your organization for upfront payment for the cards or they will accept payment later at a higher rate. Overall the cost is usually reasonable, and most aggressive organizations can sell enough cards to keep the cost in the 10% of profit range. 
-        Pros – you can give your contributors their card immediately and profits can be fairly high. A strong seller since the product is like a credit card, it fits in people's wallets, and the discounts last for a year.
-        Cons – there is a cost risk and you do have to do door-to-door sales.
 
5.      50/50 Raffle – This is an easy to sell fundraiser that you can do at tournaments, games, or along with another fundraiser such as a car wash or bake sale. All you need is a roll or rolls of raffle tickets which you can buy at most office supply stores. Sell the tickets for a set price such as one for 50 cents, three for a dollar, or an arm's length for five dollars. Your organization keeps 50% of the money and awards 50% to the raffle winner. Occasionally the winner will donate his or her winnings back to your organization.
-        Pros – a quick, easy way to make some money.
-        Cons – not a huge fundraiser, but if you do it several times during a season could be a big winner for your club.
 
6.      Windshield Wash – Here's an easy variation on the car wash. Arrange with a fast food restaurant in your area to set up a windshield wash service during a busy time at the restaurant drive-through line. Have a group of volunteers stand at the beginning of the drive-through and offer to wash the customer's windshields for free, giving them the option of making a donation. Then mark the cars that want their windshields washed with a post-a-note and have several crews working to wash them after they order their food and before they pay for their food. You can have two washers per vehicle, one on each side, working quickly to wet down, squeegee, and dry off the windshields. Crews should practice before coming on line so they can work efficiently and not slow down the drive through.  
-        Pros – less difficult and time-consuming than a full car wash, minimal expense, and you don't have to coax anyone off the street to agree to your service.
-        Cons – could end up with everyone accepting the service and not making a donation.
 
7.      Dollar Dive – Set up a table outside of businesses which have constant foot traffic. For a dollar donation, people can "dive" into a fish bowl and select a ticket or ping-pong ball whose number relates directly to prizes. Most prizes will be penny candy, but some will be money ($1, $5, $10, and grand prize $20), and perhaps things related to your club (t-shirts, scarves, etc.). Check for any local ordinances which prevent you from offering money as a prize. In a variation you could have a box filled with small prizes that you can buy at a party supply store and let kids "dive" in the box to get a prize.
-        Pros – minimal cost for the tickets and prizes. You could even ask people who can't work the tables to donate $10 to purchases the prizes. You can have dozens of tables set up at multiple locations on a single day, improving your fundraising possibility.
-        Cons – need to coordinate with the businesses to set up your tables outside of their doors and you will need to do some preparation work to create your prize number sheet. Need a number of volunteers.
 
Each of these fundraising ideas can be combined with one another or with a tournament you are holding to add extra money. Other than the gift-wrapping, these fundraising opportunities can be done any time of the year in just about any circumstance. With some creativity, you can probably tweak these ideas to make them work even better for your group. Most of these fundraisers will produce in the hundreds of dollars, and since they don't rely on Uncle Charlie needing more magazines, you can do them multiple times with the same clientele. In fact, some of these might actually get people excited about donating and looking forward to being separated from their money, since these possibilities are fun and painless.
 

Those Who Can't Do Teach

Susan Boyd

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to watch a soccer game through the eyes of a novice viewer. Over the years, most of us have had this experience as we indoctrinate grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, friends and any other person willing to share a weekend game or two with us. Soccer takes on a whole new meaning when explaining "off side" or "penalty kick" to the uninitiated. The boys have played long enough that we've managed to introduce nearly everyone we know and love to the game. Most of our family and friends knew that eventually they would have to participate in a sideline visit no matter how much their preconceived notions about soccer warned them away. Eventually, as the boys traveled more, the soccer came to their town so that they could no longer politely refuse to come to watch. I admit I behaved something like an itinerant preacher for soccer, praising the sport with a zeal they couldn't refuse. I managed a few converts over the years, but I didn't win them all. Nevertheless, I loved the thrill of giving someone the informational tools to begin to enjoy the sport.
 
So imagine my delight a few weeks ago when the bus driver who brought our team to Huntsville, Ala. for a tournament sat down next to me and said, "This is my first soccer game." Now I had double the reason to enjoy the game: I could watch my sons play while opening the door to the world of soccer for my new student. I quickly established our starting point. She had children, but they had never played. She truly had never seen a soccer game, not even snippets of the World Cup. She had heard of Pele, but no one else. She knew players couldn't use their hands except for the goal keeper, and she knew they tried to score in the opponent's net. She didn't know how many players were on the field, nothing about their positions or responsibilities (except for the goal keeper), and she didn't know how long a game ran. This was going to be fun!
           
I need to stop for a moment in my story to point out two very significant benefits of teaching someone about the game. First, you need to really understand the rules and the nuances of soccer in order to explain them to someone else. I thank youth soccer for providing me with a strong base upon which to build my knowledge. Although I had lived in Europe and had been initially introduced to soccer in my teens, I didn't really care much about rules until my own children started playing. I was blind to the intricacies of soccer until I had the chance to slowly develop an understanding by watching youth games. Just as my kids grew up learning soccer, so did I. Second, you get the opportunity to invest yourself in the game beyond hassling the referees or pushing your child. Taking the time to see the game through the eyes of a neophyte affords you the chance to step back from deep involvement in the game and re-experience your own first introduction to soccer.
 
With an apprentice sitting next to me anxious to absorb all my nuggets of wisdom, the ball skittered over the goal line and the keeper set up for a goal kick. "Why's he doing that?" So I got to explain the two actions that can happen depending on which team sends it over the end line. She caught on pretty quick to the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick. Throw-ins were a cinch. Fouls were trickier because, well because they are occasionally subjective and therefore obviously wrong, so explaining them required some restraint not to editorialize. I left that to my fellow fans. I did get to explain about cards when she couldn't understand why some fouls were just fouls and some were carded. Again, I did my best to explain why one offense was treated more egregiously than others. Some were easier, especially when they were called against our opponents. When a player received a red card, she wondered why his foul was worse than any other foul. Since the card was given to one of our players, I actually had the same question. But I had to find the reason and make it plausible. "Our player took down the opposing player from behind without going for the ball. That was considered dangerous play and in the eyes of the referee warranted a red card. It was also an attempt to prevent the player from scoring a goal which is considered a tactical foul. Thank goodness it happened outside the box." I had to explain then about fouls in the box and PKs which was actually a good teachable moment and took my mind off of being upset about the red card.
 
Suddenly an opposing player went down while we were making a run to the goal. He crumpled, rolling on the field in agony, yet play continued. My student rose to her feet in deep concern and wondered aloud why no one was doing anything. I had to explain the tactic of injury. I assured her that the player was just fine, and collapsed in the hopes of slowing down or stopping our team's rush to the goal. Sure enough, when this fallen comrade was completely ignored, he leapt to his feet and rejoined his team's defense. Welcome to soccer! "How does the referee know when an injury is real or fake?" I felt like Master Po with my "Grasshopper" or Yoda with Luke Skywalker ("much to learn you still have. . . .") "Years of experience,"" I responded. The words were barely out of my lips when Robbie went down, and I jumped up. "What happened?" I had forgotten to add that mothers also know when it's real or fake. Robbie's injury let me explain the substitution rule because he went out and no one came in for him. "If they sub for him then he is out for the rest of the game. So they are going to see if he can come back in." She looked confused, "But if he's injured, then wouldn't an uninjured player be better?" That did sound reasonable. How to explain without sounding vain about my child? I opted for the "it's early in the game and the coach doesn't want to start subbing too soon." I don't think she bought it since again having nine players on the field while waiting for a possibly injured player to step back in didn't seem logical. She was learning, as we all have, that soccer often defies logical explanation.
 
My pupil also noticed in the waning minutes of the game that our team seemed to have more players up top. So I got to explain about 4-4-2, 3-4-3, and other formations that coaches choose. We had been using a 4-5-1 formation, so when we went to 3-4-3 the bus driver noticed the difference. And for once my reasoning seemed logical. We were behind and needed to score, so we put in three forwards and four midfielders to push for some goals. We lost the game, but the driver announced that she'd had a good time. So had I.
 
Parents should take every opportunity to educate themselves about soccer, which includes helping one another out. If your child stays with the game, you'll need to be able to keep up with the complexity that grows at each level. Roughness of play increases, so we have to temper our upset when our little ones get knocked down. Defenses improve, so we have to accept that we won't be seeing those long runs down the field by our darling player. Speed of play increases, so we have to adjust how we watch play unfold. The field gets larger, the goals do too, the substitutions get tighter, the travel increases, things are always in flux, and so we have to get smarter and adjust. Youth soccer gives us the opportunity to all be neophytes and to all become experts. While I would never discount the joy of watching our children play, I also would encourage parents to talk to one another in order to learn the game. The more I understand the more I love the sport. I partially exercise that enthusiasm by sharing what I know with others and engaging in conversation about the game whenever I can. I'm certain my sons would cringe hearing some of what comes out of my mouth, but I'm also certain they'd be pleasantly impressed with how much their mom knows. I can't coach the game, I certainly can't play the game, but I can engage a fellow traveler so we can educate one another about our journeys.  How else do you get those insights that make the trip special?
 

Protective Order

Susan Boyd

They sit there, the behemoths of the soccer field, tempting anyone who has energy and imagination to take a few chin-ups from the cross bar. They look as solid and stable as Stonehenge. What could go wrong? Plenty actually. Movable goals are responsible for over 120 emergency room visits a year, thousands of minor injuries, and, sadly, since 1979, 36 deaths. Very few soccer clubs use permanently anchored goals since these do not allow for resizing and reconfiguring fields to get the maximum use from the minimum area. Moving goals allows the overworked areas in the goal mouth to rest and rejuvenate. But with the ease and convenience of movable goals comes some neglect. Anchoring the goals makes them less flexible since pulling up the anchors can be a chore. Some clubs opt for sand bagging the back base of the goal, but this doesn't offer as much stability as the auger and stake anchors that manufacturers recommend and more and more states are requiring by law or by commerce act.

This last week, "Zach's Law" was signed by Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois requiring proper anchoring of all movable goals. Presently there are close to half a million movable goals in use in the United States. Although the ratio of deaths to goals is small, most of the deaths involve children between 9 and 11, a tragedy that can be easily prevented. Illinois' Law joins California, Arkansas (Jonathan's Law), New York, and Wisconsin in implementing acts that enforce proper anchoring and have the power to levy fines when not. Movable goals weigh between 150 and 500 lbs. and fall for a variety of reasons. Some tip because they are placed on uneven or too soft a surface, some tip because of the temptation of performing a chin-up on the cross bar, some tip because of wind gusts, and some tip from being knocked during a game. No matter the cause, the bones and skulls of children are no match for that amount of weight toppling from that height.
           
In 1995 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission adopted and published guidelines for movable goals. (http://www.odsl.org/docs/home/goal%20safety.pdf) The guidelines are comprehensive and the same guidelines incorporated by states into their laws. They are also the same guidelines endorsed by U.S. Youth Soccer Association. Unfortunately the USCPSC has no enforcement capabilities, so these guidelines must be adopted and followed by the organizations they affect in order to be effective. Since so few states have given these guidelines legal teeth, I encourage you to print off the guidelines and provide them to your soccer club, school district, church, and youth organizations, anywhere there might be goals. Educate both parents and children about goal safety including not to use goals as a climbing wall or a chin bar. The guidelines include a warning sign that organizations can print off, duplicate, laminate and attach to the goals. When goals are to be moved only adults should do the job. Kids naturally want to pitch in, but the danger of a tip over makes this a task best left to grown-ups. 
           
In addition you can lobby your state legislature to adopt a law that gives power to the safety guidelines. In this age of partisan squabbling, this is an issue that all politicians should be able to get behind. There is minimal financial impact on the organizations affected other than to purchase sufficient and proper anchoring, unless they violate the law, in which case fines can go from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the type of offense. Truth be told, we shouldn't need a law or fines to make sure that the equipment our kids use is safe for them. In most cases, educating organizations about the dangers of movable goals and the ways to prevent these dangers should be sufficient. But a law does get the attention of anyone affected by the law, so in the end it can speed along the process of making products safer and stronger. And for the few stubborn souls who don't think anchoring is necessary, it provides the means to compel compliance.
           
The best thing you can do as a parent is to make sure your kids understand the power that goals possess. Make sure they don't use the goals as gym equipment. Don't be shy about telling children you see hanging or climbing on goals to get down. Even when anchored, the laws of physics still apply.   If enough weight is exerted on the top of the goal, it can tip on the fulcrum of the front posts. So educate your kids to respect goals, to use them as directed, and to let their friends know about the dangers. If we work on proper anchoring, proper respect for the equipment, and proper movement of the goals, we should be able to prevent not only deaths, but injuries as well. Zero goal accident deaths should be our target. It's an achievable objective we should all aspire to. It won't bring back 10 year old Zach Tran, Jonathan Nelson, or Hayden Ellias, but it honors their lives by protecting the futures of other 10 year olds, one of whom might be your own.
 

A Sense of Pride

Susan Boyd

The turning point in "The Music Man" comes in the River City (Iowa) high school gym. The townspeople are convinced that Professor Harold Hill should be tarred and feathered for cheating them by selling them useless, overpriced band instruments and uniforms. Their children have had no lessons and can't possibly play these expensive toys. Suddenly the young people burst into the gym in uniform, carrying their instruments. Hill is encouraged to lead them in the "Minuet in G" which they have been learning using the "think method" for several weeks. He raises his baton, the children begin to play, and a caterwaul rises from the group. With barely any hesitation the parents stand up and shout out in pride – "that's my son playing!" Amid the wretched sounds that jarred the deaf Beethoven in his grave, the parents heard what they wanted to hear and that was perfection.

The moral of the story: We parents naturally take pride in our kids' accomplishments no matter how off-key.   Evidence of our pride surrounds us. Every living room contains at least one ceramic handprint next to the Wedgewood. My mother actually framed my pictures from middle school art class and hung them next to her Picasso lithograph. Clusters of trophies, photos, and art projects fill every child's home without regard to the interior design. We give up a sense of style and perfection in order to honor the achievements of our children because those mementoes are worth more than gold. We save school homework, we film the third grade concerts, we cheer at dance recitals, and we sit through three hours of beginner piano pieces just to hear our son's one minute performance. We tell our children how good they are no matter how their talent compares to the rest of the world because in our eyes they are wonderful and worthy of our pride.

The difficulty comes when our pride gets mixed up with expectations. Telling your daughter how wonderful her shot on goal was is different than telling her she's good enough to make three goals a game. When we only see our children through the filter of our own standards, we do them a disservice. While it would be wonderful that every child who took up the piano or ballet or soccer could become an international sensation, the reality remains that most kids will do their hobbies for a few years, have some success, and then move onto a regular career and family path. If we treat our children as if they have a gift, when in fact they don't, we pressure them rather than uplift them. 

Certainly nurturing and encouraging a budding talent is part of a parent's job, especially when our children show the interest and commitment to move to a higher level. But having an unrealistic view of their talent can lead to unhealthy demands and put you at odds with coaches and teachers. I hear all the time on the sidelines how parents think the coach doesn't understand how good their child is. We take the job of being a good parent as translating into being a good judge of athletic, artistic, or academic talent in our children. We know our child but not necessarily how our child compares to others in her peer group. We single out the one skill our child has and somehow expect that to be enough to put her in the top echelons of the activity. And we can often feel that the coach is ignoring that talent. Most coaches and teachers see the bigger picture because they have two advantages we parents don't have: they have years of experience in the activity so they understand the levels and skills which are either normal or exceptional; and they don't have the bias of our pride to cloud the issue.

Nevertheless, it's difficult for parents to not let their pride dictate how invested they get in their kids' activities. Finding a balance which gives a parent a clear view of how truly good his or her child is makes for less stress. Rather than talking to coaches and teachers about how they should recognize our child's talents, we should be asking them to help us put those talents in perspective. We should be asking "what could Mary be doing better?"; "are there additional classes or training sessions she could be taking?"; "do you see any special spark or talent in her we could be nurturing?" We also need to be sure that we have a good read of our children's interest in an activity. Sometimes we'll need to encourage them over a hump where their interest flags temporarily and sometimes we have to accept that they no longer have any interest. We have to be able to step out from behind our pride and offer good advice that encourages but doesn't pressure. It's difficult. I know this from personal experience – our daughter who had the chance to dance with some of the top ballet companies in the United States decided she couldn't take the pressure of the constant threat of rejection. She continued to take dance classes to keep up her fitness and her love for the art, but she no longer wanted to pursue dance to the next level. 

When "The Music Man" parents shouted out their pride in their children's musical talents in the film, it probably seemed a bit ridiculous to the movie audience. We could all hear how terrible they were. But the message wasn't off the mark. We see the possibilities in our kids and we are delighted when they reach even the fringes of those possibilities. The pride in the child who is 15th chair in the orchestra is no smaller than the pride in the child who is 1st chair. But the pride has to be grounded in some realism. Parents, even the parents of River City, have the ability to recognize the limitations of their children's talents. We have to be willing to exercise that ability while never giving up on our pride in what our kids do. Kids are smart enough to figure out what they love to do and what they are good at. They have a keen sense of how they fit in with their peers. So our pride in the things they do isn't giving false hope, but if we push, if we buy into false hope, then we create pressure rather than support.