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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.


Into the Fray

Susan Boyd

What do you do when you lose your first game, your coaches call at 11:30 p.m. to say they are just now leaving Wisconsin, and the heat index keeps rising?  You throw yourself back into the fray and muster on.  The boys have been showing the effects of playing a tough game yesterday in the heat and humidity.  Some even slept through dinner and breakfast.  But at the team meeting they were all in the lobby ready to hit the pitch with renewed vigor and determination.  You have to love this game when you know you're going back to the same field at the same time in the same weather where you didn't do so well last outing.
We gave this second team in our bracket a good run for their money.  We managed to keep the game tight, but in the end we lost 2-3 in a tough but civilized competition.  It's difficult not to let tempers flare when you're hot, tired, and frustrated – and teenagers to boot.  But the boys on both sides kept their cool.  Speaking of cool, before their game I was able to watch a girl's game where one side was wearing black uniforms.  I felt so badly for them as the sun blazed overhead and the moisture hung in the air.  Then I climbed up the hill to our game to discover the opposing team also dressed all in black.  I'm beginning to think that clubs need "summer" wear in addition to their other jerseys – something light that doesn't absorb the heat.  However, ironically, the teams dressed in black won their games, so maybe there's a motivating factor to being in the most oppressive uniform.  They have to keep running to escape the sun.
I know that this loss means we're going home after tomorrow's game, which makes me sad.  I really enjoy seeing the caliber of games in the semi- and final rounds, but Robbie won't want to stay because he has things drawing him to home like his own bed and his girlfriend.  Plus it's not as much fun just watching other teams play.  So we'll be on the road once our game is over and the boys have a chance to shower.  Those samples of Degree deodorant in the goody bags seem a stroke of genius at this point.
I'm hoping those of you in the general area of Regional Championships or the National Championship takes a couple of hours to stop by and catch some games.  These players will be the names you'll hear in the future at the college and professional level.  You'll have the opportunity to see how terrifically these kids play.  After I see a few of the youth games these past two days and then return to my hotel to watch the World Cup, I'm amazed at how closely they compare.  These youth teams understand team tactics at a far more sophisticated level than when my sons were young.  And the World Cup players seem to make the same "rookie" mistakes including a Mexican defender passing the ball across the goal mouth to another defender only to have it stolen by an Argentine striker for a goal.  Such play just confirms the fact that soccer is a game of finesse and a game of blunders at any age.  While we hope no one makes a mistake, they happen, so we need to be forgiving since you can be a thirteen year old club player or a twenty-eight year old World Cup player and still pass the ball into trouble.
By the way, they don't have a T-shirt stand at our playing venue, so I'm not able to purchase a shirt for a souvenir of the event.  Despite the many years of soccer I still pull State, Regional and National Championship t-shirts out of the dryer.  There is a strong sense of pride in the accomplishment of making it to one of these events as well there should be.  So I might stop by the other venue tomorrow just to buy a t-shirt.  If we can win tomorrow, that would definitely be worth having a shirt for memory's sake.

I Still Believe in Miracles

Susan Boyd

Today did not deliver any miracles unless you came from Columbus, Ohio or Ghana.  Our boys' team lost to the Columbus Crew Juniors and the USA lost to Ghana – one right after the other.  Watching a defeat once from the stands in heat and humidity and watching defeat from our hotel room with air conditioning felt the same, although the first was more personal.  Nevertheless, tomorrow is another day at the Region II Championships and we have two more opportunities for victory.  The USA can only wait another four years for World Cup 2014 in Brazil.  As Landon Donovan said in his exit interview, "Soccer can be a cruel game."
Despite a tough day for the spirits, the Region II Championships continue to be an exciting event.  The fields we played on today were amazingly professional and the facilities beautifully groomed with rolling bluffs of grass, established and sapling shade trees, and a very efficient parking system.  We are at the smaller venue, so there isn't the same traffic in and out, but any parking can be a nightmare if not well coordinated and controlled.  Two of the three fields have bleachers, so I don't really need my chair, but we got to the fields early today just to be sure we got to the fields on time, so my chair came in handy as I waited for the start of the game in the shade of an old growth oak.
We did pass the other playing venue on the way to ours and it seemed to be running efficiently despite road work on the main highway in and out of the site.  We had a small delay heading back to the hotel because of the traffic and construction, but nothing horrible.  The only need for us to hurry was to make it back in time for the beginning of the World Cup game.  We were in our rooms before the game had been playing 10 minutes, so imagine our disbelief to see the score USA 0  Ghana 1.  Curse those early goals!
Part of the trip to the hotel was spent trying to order pizza for the game.  With searches on the IPhone, the boys were able to locate a Domino's that would deliver to our hotel.  Score!  Then came the $64,000 question – what is the hotel's phone number?  No one knew.  Why would we?  We all had cell phones and were therefore able to communicate without having to involve the hotel switchboard.  After another cell phone search the boys acquired the elusive, but necessary phone number, called back Domino's, ordered the pizza, and accomplished it all just as we exited to the hotel parking lot.  Score again!  Those two goals would have to suffice for the day for our team.  We had just left the soccer field with a defeat of 0-4.  Tonight is an all-you-can-eat spaghetti buffet at the hotel, which based on the response I got from the players, is enthusiastically awaited.
Waxing a bit poetic at this point, I do have to say that what happened to our boys' team today does prepare them for all the other let downs in life.   You learn that no defeat lasts forever.  You can lose 0-4 in heat and humidity and then score hand-tossed pepperoni pizzas in your air-conditioned room 40 minutes later.  You can study your heart out for a test and end up with a D but next week get all the pop-quiz answers right.  You can be benched for a game one day and find a $5 bill on the ground under the bench the next day which happened to Bryce.  Like the rolling bluffs at the soccer park, everything seems to undulate regularly.  Soccer wins and losses are just some of the unknown rolls we take during our journeys.
So miracles or not, I'm still glad to be here sharing in the games, seeing old friends from my soccer family, watching kids so excited about a win and so stoic about a loss, and remembering why kids play soccer – to have fun.   There's no glory in victory and no shame in defeat.  These are just the natural consequences of competition.  Kids compete because they love the game, they love the challenge, and they hope for success which can't be measured in just wins.  Each time they play, they learn something new about the game, about their character, and about the bonds of team.  In the end, all but one squad in each age group and gender will move on.  The rest will return to their states suntanned, tired, and hopefully satisfied.  Those who don't move on won't be able to claim any miracles, but they will be able to claim satisfaction for playing hard and to claim the hope that sometime soon they might have a miracle of their own.


Destination Dayton

Susan Boyd

Wednesday USA defeated Algeria in a stoppage time goal, that seemed to establish the perfect segue into our trip to the US Youth Soccer Region II Championships. If those scrappy Yankee upstarts can pull off a nail-biter victory, then maybe our soccer team assembled with spit and dental floss can have the same miracle success. To put it in perspective that one goal moved the US from out of the World Cup to bracket champions. Like ESPN's ads claim: One Goal is Everything. So we had optimism as we scraped together the last of the paperwork, found rides for everyone to the event, and figured out what time we had to really get up – Robbie voted for something in the PM range.
But because life is never what you expect, at 3:30 yesterday afternoon I got an urgent email. The manager's son injured himself at work and could not play, so she wouldn't be going on the trip. Could I please register the team? Of course, I replied, cheerfully. Robbie was less cheerful. His dream of driving into Dayton with the lights twinkling in the midnight sky would have to be subverted to the reality of cruising into Dayton at mid-afternoon with a bunch of other humidity distressed managers lugging a load of paperwork into a hotel.   I carefully calculated the time it would take to travel to Dayton, padded it by 90 minutes and announced that we could leave at 8 AM for a 4 PM registration time.
As we were sitting in the parking lot of a fireworks store awaiting the arrival of a player we were transporting to the tournament, we began discussing the U.S. game. Robbie said it was a good thing that the game was at 2:30 PM Eastern time because his game would be over in time to get back to the hotel and watch the US play. I said his game was at noon, so he would just be finishing playing at 1:30 PM. "But the game starts at 2:30 PM." "Yes," I replied, "Eastern time. But Central time…" Then it hit me. Dayton may be in the Midwest, but it is not in the Central time zone. I had forgotten we would lose an hour driving to our destination.
I pride myself on remembering details such as traveling between time zones, but this time I had focused on collecting paperwork, getting my packing done, making sure I had all my soccer essentials, and trying to let Robbie sleep as late as possible that I had completely forgotten the time difference. Now my well-planned, well-padded time table became a race against the clock. Lunch would have to be eaten in the car and there would be no malingering during our bathroom stop! I made it with 20 minutes to spare. Then the fun began.
Everything was well organized. Each state had a registration time that was carefully managed and controlled. Called into the registration tent at our allotted hour, we managers marched purposefully to our appointed registration table. I felt confident that there would be no glitches despite my 11th hour substitution. I clutched my trusty binder filled with carefully alphabetized medical releases and birth certificates. I patted the envelope with the signed registration sheets and the completed rosters. I proudly handed over my rubber banded pile of player passes. Piece of cake. "Do you have the coaches' passes?" The image of Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" flashed through my brain. I felt the confidence leaving my body like a deflating balloon. "But I have everything else…Look at how professionally I collated these medical releases!"" What's life without crisis or two?   Crisis averted when I found out the coach could get his credentials at the fields in the morning. The rest of this should be a piece of cake. "Did you pre-order your parking passes?" With supreme smugness I replied, "Naturally." "Okay, then get in that line to pick them up." She pointed over my shoulder and I turned around to witness a column that rivaled the line-up to audition for American Idol. 
I trudged to the end of a line that seemed to be as stagnant as the air. To add insult to injury, I was frozen in front of the table to purchase passes. It had no clients, because we had all pre-ordered and pre-paid, but it did have an enticing stack of crisp, ready to be used parking passes taunting me like candy in a window. Forty-five minutes later I was finally able to announce my state, my team name, gender, and age and was handed in an envelope the "stuff that dreams are made of "– my own Maltese Falcon. I wanted to run cackling with delight through the hotel, but I was far too wilted to muster anything more than a limp thank you and hobble exhausted to the table to collect programs and team goody bags. At that point I felt strongly that I should keep all the goody bags just as fair trade for all the water I lost standing in line. But I'll hand them out at breakfast because there are only so many samples of Degree deodorant someone can use but I have a feeling these are going to be quite useful this week and beyond.
Now I'm sitting in my room with air conditioning, but no internet. I hope I can find some in the business center. Otherwise this will just be an account vaporizing in cyberspace. I can't wait for the rest of the team to arrive…those who could leave later in the day and not have to rush to experience the delights of standing in line. The next time I stand in a line that long, in that much humidity, with only a few seconds of pay off, I'd better be at Disney World waiting to ride Splash Mountain. Still it's all about the kids. I can't wait for tomorrow for the games to begin. I love watching youth soccer.   And I especially love watching my own kids play. Tomorrow should be fun, win, lose, or draw. But I'm hoping for a victory, although I'm probably not the only one with those dreams.

Sunscreen . . .Check!

Susan Boyd

           Traveling for soccer requires a mobilization of resources that stay pretty much the same whether you're going ten miles for a league game or hundreds of miles for a tournament. I divide these resources into the bare essentials and my essentials. Traveling by car makes the transport of all these essentials easier than going by air, so I have some hints for the later. But first – the list.

            I keep a ""soccer box"" in my car stocked with the following items: paper towels, toilet paper, wet ones, bug spray, sunscreen, quart size plastic bags, plastic shopping bags, 33 gallon plastic garbage bags, hats, visors, gloves, travel-size umbrellas, rain ponchos, extra socks, safety pins, duct tape, travel sewing kit, band-aids, anti-bacterial cream, and scissors. A few of these smaller items I grab out of the box and stick in a bag to take with me directly to the field since they might be more useful there than in my trunk. The plastic bags are invaluable for keeping your car clean and not smelling like wet grass and sweat. I cover the floor of my car with the large garbage bags like cheap floor carpets. I can fold up any mess, shake it out on the ground, and then reuse the bags. Believe me having a roll of toilet paper at these large tournaments has been a blessing. I hate, hate, hate portable toilets, but you can't avoid them when you're playing in a corn field fifty miles from a sewage line.  There's only one thing worse than a portable toilet and that's a portable toilet without toilet paper. The wet ones may be your only sanitizing possibility after visiting these traveling thrones.

            Besides the ""box"" I have several other items in my car. These include full-size umbrellas, portable chairs, a shoe drier, binoculars, maps (despite GPS these can be useful), light and dark t-shirts (you never know who will forget a uniform), and lots and lots of water. These are all easy to have along with you if traveling by car, but once you have to fly, the rules change. Now since airlines charge for the oxygen you breathe and expect you to bring your own flotation device, it's not the same game for soccer travelers. Here's where bare and my essentials come into play.

            Bare essentials are uniforms, cleats, shin guards, keeper gloves and necessary forms. Players and spectators on a very sunny day or at dusk when the mosquitoes arise will argue that sunscreen and bug spray are bare essentials. However, when I travel I say that if I have my tickets, my ID, a credit card and some cash, I'm good to go. I can find everything else once I land. I'm resourceful if nothing else. I can easily make my own soccer box for my rental car. Toilet paper's a snap…I just take the extra roll from the hotel and return it if I don't use it. I also ask housekeeping for a roll of paper towels. TSA's restriction on liquids means that I leave the bug spray and sunscreen at home. Instead I depend on a big box store to supply me with my essentials. 

            I make a run often before unpacking. I collect the bug spray, sunscreen, anti-bacterial cream, tape and scissors, since they may qualify as a weapon when flying. As many of you know, I love a good portable chair. I have a favorite that I like to use, but I can't take it on air trips any longer. So I just nab a cheap one from the store. The cheap ones usually advertise some local team, so that's why on recent trips I have been a supporter of the Dallas Cowboys, the L.A. Angels, and the Orlando Magic. After the last game I make a gift of the chair to someone at the park.

            (Pardon the interruption…the U.S. just scored against Algeria in the 92nd minute insuring us to move into the round of 16)

            Many of the other items I can tuck into the corners of my luggage such as rain ponchos, plastic bags, sewing kit, visors, safety pins, extra socks, and travel umbrellas. In fact I used to keep a separate ""airplane soccer box"" but I never put it back together after the flooding in my house. Still, it's not a bad idea to have a few sandwich bags filled with these items set aside in a drawer that you can quickly gather and toss into the bags as you pack them. You can even throw the rain ponchos in the soccer bag, since they can provide some much appreciated cover while on the bench. I used to keep in the soccer bags one of those ""solar"" blankets made out of mylar that you can get at a sporting goods store. But they both disappeared after games and I never replaced them. But they can be great wind and rain guards for team members on the bench during a stormy game.

            The final tip I'll offer is to go to these coupon web sites and look up some of the restaurants you might visit on your way to the tournaments and while you're at your destination. Some coupons even have 2 for 1 offers which can make trips much more affordable. Check out what restaurants, entertainment options, malls, etc. can be found at your destination. Most mapping websites such as Google Maps have the ability to indicate these options on their maps. That way you'll know ahead of time where you can nab that early morning mocha or bowl a few lines. You'll also know what coupons to be on the lookout for.

            For this trip we're driving, so I have the advantage of being able to take everything along that I want including my favorite chair. I'll toss in my list of nearby attractions, fold my coupons into my wallet, turn on my satellite radio to listen in on World Cup games, and take off for Dayton. I'll let you know how the drive went.