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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". 

 

Hopelessly Devoted

Susan Boyd

My oldest grandson, Keaton, was born on July 4, 2000, and I just returned from his 8th birthday party. His birth date came perfectly not only for easy memory but also because that was the year we were picking up a chocolate cocker spaniel puppy in Iowa. Keaton needed to arrive before July 7th or after July 11th. He accommodated us kindly and we retrieved our new puppy. We named the puppy Cobi Jones who was Robbie's soccer hero. Cobi, the puppy ended up with a scatter of hair on his scalp that looked exactly like Cobi's, the soccer player, dreadlocks. Robbie, himself, had dreads. We have a memorable picture on our refrigerator of Cobi and Robbie together when the Galaxy came to Milwaukee for an exhibition game. The two share both the same distinctive hair and the same captivating Cheshire Cat grin. Keaton's birthday reminds us that Cobi, the dog, is also eight, although given the dog year equation he is exponentially older than Keaton. Nevertheless they act like they are both eight, that is to say they are carefree, rambunctious, silly and occasionally naughty.

My second granddaughter's birth came while Bryce and Robbie were due to play in the Wisconsin high school state finals. So I was in Las Vegas to help out our daughter, Shane, who had been scheduled for an induction four days before the state final. I had my ticket home, but Megan decided to enjoy the hospitality of her mother's uterus for an extra three days. The boys' team won with Bryce making important saves and Robbie scoring the insurance goal. Luckily the entire game was available on our local cable access channel for several weeks after, so I did get to see their victory within the isolation of our family room. Megan's birth provides the requisite benchmark for remembering the anniversary of the championship, so every year she celebrates her birthday, we can fondly recall that highpoint of the boys' soccer experience.

Objects of devotion can be as varied as objects in the universe, but some are also simply universal. Devotion to family can encompass other objects of devotion, which in our family includes pets and soccer. Unfortunately as a family grows, so grow the conflicts. Trying to find balance and equity isn't always a successful venture. On the rank of events you don't want to miss, a granddaughter's birth and your sons' state championship come pretty close to equal. But with the assistance of digital recorders, cell phones, and email, I nearly managed to be in two places at once.   Still I've missed all of Keaton's football games, all but Andrew's first two birthdays, all but one of Bryce's college games live (although I did catch them through streaming video), several of Robbie's travel games, and the list will only grow. Fall of 2009 both boys will be in college and will have games perhaps thousands of miles apart.

I'm grateful every chance I get to be involved in my kids' and grandkids' experiences and lives. Select soccer is a cruel task master, requiring lots of money and, even worse, lots of time. I have friends with three and four kids in select soccer and they have an elaborate calendar to insure that they get to at least a couple of each kid's games. I feel lucky to have to juggle only two kids, but once I add the grandkids into the mix, the juggling qualifies for Cirque d'Soleil. Nevertheless I revel in those moments when I can share an experience with any one of my family. While soccer takes the lion share of time now, I feel my life separating from soccer and cleaving to other sports and activities as the family expands. It's actually invigorating to have such a rich plate from which to feast. 

This winter the entire extended family is headed to Orlando for a reunion. While the Disney Showcase will be in full swing then, it won't be a part of our week there. Instead we'll be devoting our time to getting reacquainted, giving the youngest kids a basket of good memories, and giving the older kids a well-deserved break from the rigors of school and soccer. I don't even think anyone will go into soccer withdrawal. In fact the first night there, the Packers are playing on Monday Night Football, and we all plan to be visions in our green and gold. I can't wait to get everyone together! I'm hopelessly devoted to them all.
 

An Ounce of Prevention

Susan Boyd

Twisted ankles, turf burns, torn ACLs, muscle fatigue, and hundreds of other bumps, bruises, and breaks afflict soccer players every year. Most soccer players mercifully avoid major injury, but everyone has run into harm's way while on the pitch.  Recently Robbie lost his boot while holding the ball in the corner. Someone stepped hard on his exposed big toe and seriously injured his toenail.  He couldn't play for two weeks because the swollen toe prevented him from fitting his foot back into his cleats. During the recuperation, we got treated to daily reports about his toenail – how loose it was and how much it was oozing - and then a demand that we look at it. That's akin to saying ""I think this meat is rotten. Here taste it!""  For most players such nicks and bumps will be the extent of their injury history, for which we can all be grateful. Nevertheless, since injury goes hand in hand with intense physical activity, we parents need to familiarize ourselves with techniques to minimize injury and to treat injury when it occurs.
 
The most significant way to reduce injury is stretching both before and after activity. Think of joints and muscles like a fine sports car. Despite the tactics of James Bond, most drivers of elite autos know they need to warm the engine up before laying rubber. Likewise the body has its own need to rev up for a spin on the pitch. Joints need gentle activity to loosen up movement and slowly bring them up to a strenuous level rather than suddenly jarring them into a full run. Muscles benefit from the slow increase of temperature and blood flow that a warm-up provides. The warmer the muscles, the more effective they can be in processing the chemicals necessary to produce energy. The heart can't be ignored in this process. It benefits from the slow warming and can more effectively provide blood flow with its rich oxygen supply to the muscles and joints. Following activity joints and muscles need to cool down to resting status. Exercise produces certain toxins in the muscles that can build up and cause pain if not allowed to release. Incrementally ratcheting down the activity allows these toxins to be released slowly without building up again; otherwise they just sit in the muscles. In addition moving from strenuous activity to normal activity without a gradual slow down can have as jarring an effect on the body and heart as can a sudden increase in activity.
 
Having a physical every one to two years can help detect any problems which might lead to injury. Be honest with the doctor about any problems you have encountered during the intervening time between physicals. This includes joint pains, breathing problems, chest pains, dizziness, neck pain, headaches, and general energy levels. Keep your doctor informed about the level and intensity of activity you participate in for soccer and other sports. Sometimes even medications can interfere with activity and contribute to some weakness of muscles and joints, so your doctor needs to know a complete history to find the most compatible remedy for your lifestyle.
 
Listening to your body is extremely important in avoiding injury. Pain is the body's way of letting us know to stop doing something. If you touch a hot iron, the body actually retracts your hand instinctively. Chronic joint and muscles pains are the body's same instinctive reaction to inappropriate activity. Only the body can't jerk you away from a soccer match. So you need to recognize the signals and respect them. I'm not suggesting hypochondria as a guard against injury. Rather, I encourage players and parents to simply pay good attention to the signals a body is sending out. Swollen joints or muscles requiring ice after every training and game are probably in need of a doctor's diagnosis. If a player is popping ibuprofen or acetaminophen day after day, that's no good for his or her stomach and signals that the pain isn't transitory.  Most problems simply require rest. It's difficult to agree to rest when the big game is coming up or a fun tournament looms just days away. But many injuries occur because players put more stress on their good joints in order to avoid the pain they have in their strained joints. And ignoring the pain can turn an injury requiring only rest into an injury requiring more invasive treatment. 
 
Something as simple as keeping fully hydrated helps muscles and joints maintain both their elasticity and their ability to create energy. The body is technically an electrical machine that requires electro-chemical reactions to produce the runs, kicks and jumps of sports. Cramps are the body's way of saying "I'm out of gas." The muscles don't have enough electrolytes to produce the energy they need to function.  When they are weak and poorly functioning they are far more susceptible to injury when as full power.
 
The best way to keep from getting injured is to be fit in the first place. Those players with the strongest muscles and well-conditioned joints end up with the best protection against the injury inducing stress of strenuous activity. Soccer has the reputation of having one of the lowest incidents of serious injury. While players certainly get their share of bumps, bruises, bloody noses and strains, they get fewer fractures and muscle and ligament damage than other contact sports. A great part of that protection comes from the fitness soccer players aspire to. Another part comes from good training that strengthens players' joints and muscles. Since soccer is a year-round sport, players enjoy the benefit of consistent training. While there is a debate about repetitious stress injuries, the overall effect of regular supervised activity ends up with positive results for players.
 
If your son or daughter should have the misfortune of an injury requiring medical treatment, be sure to follow the treatment plan completely. Returning to play too soon leaves an injured body part to fend for itself in a weakened condition. That means it can't fully heal, may be susceptible to re-injury, and may never get its full strength back. While it's difficult to sit and observe when you feel fit and fine, the regimen your doctor gives you is not only well-considered but has the authority of experience. Most players who remain plagued with injuries throughout their lives never gave their original injury the opportunity to heal totally. Once a player is strong enough to return to practice and playing, he or she may still need to continue some physical therapy to maintain and build on the strength already achieved. 
 
Occasionally the admonition to play through the pain serves a good purpose: it encourages a player to judge for him- or herself whether or not he or she can continue. And we all know that soccer is a dramatic sport with lots of tumbles to the ground in agony only to have a player spring up Phoenix-like and score the winning goal. So sometimes it's not easy to judge when an injury is serious enough to stop play and seek medical attention. No one expects an injury to occur, so players aren't always capable of judging when enough is enough. Parents, coaches, and referees need to err to the side of caution especially with the youngest players to insure that no one moves from an easily treatable injury to one requiring surgery and long recuperation. The old adage of "an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure" definitely applies when dealing with soccer injury.
 

Susan Goes to Regionals

Susan Boyd

This week Susan will be back at the US Youth Soccer Region II Championship cheering on her Under-19 son Bryce and his teammates.

If you want some inside scoop and some "don't forget to do this" and "oh by the way, you'll need to remember this"...you've come to the right place. 

Susan's Regional Blog will be posted daily here.  You can check out all of the championship bloggers, yep, we've got players giving their take, here.

 

Pet Peeves

Susan Boyd

As the Euro Cup plays out in the upcoming weeks, I have once again had to live through those agonizing moments that crop up during every sportscast and put an absolute damper on my viewing pleasure.  I can guarantee whether it is the NBA Playoffs, Euro Cup, Track and Field Trials, Kentucky Derby, or Little League World Series each of these pet peeves will erupt with painful regularity.

While I consider myself a moderately intelligent woman, apparently NBC and ABC have higher expectations for me and other viewers.  Both networks have instituted what I call the ""Abstract Flag"" designation.  When athletes are ready to compete they are recognized on the screen with a flag next to their name.  Obviously I recognize the United States, Canada, and Japan.  I saw ""Cool Runnings"" and love Bob Marley, so I also recognize the Jamaican flag.  After that it gets a bit fuzzy.  The problem is that the flags aren't full flags, merely representations.  So England, New Zealand, and Australia appear interchangeable.  Central American countries are a blur of yellow, green, and red with tiny, indistinguishable emblems.  I have a 52"" TV so I can't imagine how these mini-flags come across on a 17"" TV.  Although I can probably survive without knowing if the runner on lane four is from Kenya or Ethiopia, I am nonetheless peeved that the networks taunt me with my lack of diplomatic knowledge.  At the bare minimum I wish they would provide the three letter country code like Fox Soccer Channel wisely does.  After watching the Prefontaine Classic last weekend, I awoke in a panic that night with the realization that I had less than eight weeks to study up on and learn the world's national flags before the Summer Olympics.  Then I have to further prepare in order to recognize them in miniature, abstract forms.  I've already got an appointment with my ophthalmologist.

Without exception, every network wallows in my next pet peeve.  I'm convinced that announcers either believe every viewer is a novice to the sport or commentators just don't have the expository speech skills that actually justify a six figure income.   Why educated, experienced, professional announcers, coaches, and players can't avoid these flat out obvious statements continues to amaze and frustrate me.  ""If this team expects to win, they'll have to put some points up on the scoreboard.""  ""Big Brown has to outrun his competition in order to win this race.""  ""The young Kenyan has the talent to succeed.  All he has to do is be first across the finish line.""  ""Down three games to nothing, the Boston Red Sox have to win or the series is over.""  ""It's not enough to have talent; you also need to score some goals.""  I would think even ET arriving on earth and just learning the language and customs of America would wince at these banal profundities.  ""Both teams are hoping for the best.""  Yeah, well so am I – but it never happens.

I'm a mom, so I have seen my share of bloody noses, broken bones, and split tongues.  However, I don't need to immortalize these moments.  Sports program directors disagree.  They command their cameras to linger on every disgusting player activity.  I don't need to watch players spit, blow their noses onto the grass, adjust their cups, or cough up something left over from The Exorcism.  My full sports experience will not be diminished if I miss the bazillion close-up of a leg breaking or a head wound flailed open to the bone.   I especially do not need a slow-motion replay every time some player receives a blow to the ""sweets"".  Suffice it to say, even as a woman I can imagine the pain, so watching it over and over doesn't help enhance my understanding of the agony.  I will admit that my husband, a physician, seems to derive some perverse pleasure from the injury replays, since he uses them to confirm his original diagnosis of the injury as it occurred.  But I have to believe that's a rather select segment of the population.  It's even more fun when these visuals are coupled with inane commentary.  ""That's gotta hurt"" seems redundant given the slow motion close-up image of a fibula cracking backwards across my television screen as my husband shouts, ""See, I told you!""

Luckily, when I go to watch my kids play I can avoid all of this.  I know where the teams come from, I make my own commentary, and I can limit the visuals to a single viewing.  I'll get the opportunity to continue my unsullied soccer experience this June at the Region II competition in Rockford, IL as Bryce's U-19 team competes.  It's his first visit to Regionals, so he's extremely excited to be participating.  I'm just happy to have the opportunity to immerse myself again in this great youth soccer event.  Next week I'll begin blogging about the preparations, what Regionals mean to a player, a team, and a family, and the little moments that enrich the week.  I promise not to refer to teams by cryptic, abstract designations, avoid clichés, and refrain from lingering on anything gross.  Now if I can just get that six-figure income.