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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". 

 

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.

 

Double Edge Sword

Sam Snow

Our organization in youth soccer is a double edged sword for us. On one side our organizational abilities have helped us grow the game of soccer in the USA dramatically over the last 35 years. Because of the efforts of innumerable people, most of them volunteers, we have soccer in communities where the sport never existed 40 years ago. We have millions of youngsters playing the game and we have millions of alumni from the youth soccer ranks who have now reached adulthood. Hundreds of thousands of adults participate in youth soccer as referees, coaches and administrators. Businesses support soccer like never before. Soccer on television is at an all-time high viewership. Because of our organizational abilities both private and public soccer complexes have sprouted up across the nation. The quality of many of those facilities is truly outstanding. Jobs in soccer have grown from a cottage industry to a true business and on a large scale. In many ways due to American organizational skills we have in only one generation become a soccer nation.
 
Look at the number of colleges now with intercollegiate teams – the number of professional teams is healthy – American players are being exported to other nations to play in the pro ranks. Our national teams regularly qualify for international events and we are always competitive. In every measure of the game our skill at organizing the game has nurtured the growth of the game.
 
Yet on the other side of the sword our organizational skills get in the way of player development. In the desire to be organized many adults cannot step aside now that the game is moving on its own. Too many adults interfere too much in the player's game. At the youngest ages we adults need to be less involved in telling the children how to play the game. Our role now is simply to be the taxi drivers, game-time setters, grass mowers and otherwise let them play without our adult expectations weighing upon their small shoulders. So can we adults instill a school physical education approach and mentality into our youth soccer world? We now have a professional team franchise mentality permeating all that our kids experience in the sport. Those adult results orientated perspective in fact hinders the development of our players. We could and should have even more players than we do qualified to play college soccer and beyond.
 
Now don't tell me that we cannot change this attitude because it is ingrained in our American culture. People say the same thing 30 years ago that soccer would never make it here since it was not part of our mainstream sports culture and clearly that has changed. We can and must change the mentality of the adults involved with youth soccer. Yes it may take 30 years, but so be it!
 

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.

 

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.