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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.


Digging deep

Susan Boyd

What was it I said yesterday?   ""What a game!""  I think I spoke too soon.  Today's game against the Kentucky State Cup champions United 1996 FC International came close to one of the most amazing and hard fought games I've ever seen my son and his team play. 

United had some amazing players and the ability to step up the speed of play testing all of our offensive and defensive capacities.  Magic entered the game with energy and a strong will to emerge victorious.  Likewise, United pursued the same agenda.   Magic scored first (I'm a mom, so I'll brag that my son scored off a very well place header from Bobby Novak).   United worked hard to offset our attack, but Magic thwarted them and when we didn't quite succeed in stepping in front of their shots, United had the soccer curse of hitting the post.  Magic had a few shots of their own that sailed over the net, or landed in the keeper's grip, but they kept their momentum going.  Magic also subbed early in some cases, and often, but there was little change in momentum with new players on the pitch.  In fact the team mounted some excellent offense.  One of our early subs, Geoff Bowman, was responsible for our second goal.  We ended the first half up 2-0.  Then things got really interesting. 

Both teams came on to the field to begin the 2nd half with renewed energy and the hearts of warriors.  Despite some very heavy air and temperatures hovering around 77 degrees, the players on both sides ramped up their intensity.  Unfortunately for Magic, United's intensity overshot ours for the opening moments.  They scored a quick amazing goal off a set piece, and then were awarded a PK, which they nearly didn't make thanks to our quick moving GK.  But alas it skidded out of the fingers and into the goal.  Because of our tie with Nebraska Arsenal yesterday, Magic could not afford another tie.  It was time to step up and give even more.  The team dug deep, and found it in their hearts, their legs, their lungs, and their minds to pour it on.

With a long rip following a great run, Magic went up 3-2 and then on our own PK Kevin Bick slammed the back of the net with the clincher.  With the whistle Magic had won 4-2, but the score didn't tell the story of how hard and well United fought.  They made Magic strive harder because they raised the bar for soccer play.  United maintained a fast pace, and didn't give up one second.

What I loved about this game was that every Magic player contributed on the field to the win.  This was a win for the team and this was a win for each boy.  I love when that happens.  I know that a coach can tell the players that their support on the bench is as important as playing on the field, but I don't think anyone really believes that.  Today, each player was needed, each player met the challenge, and each player fulfilled an important role in the win.  I'm not sure I can take a game more intense than was played today, but I'm sure that if Magic expects to move on to US Youth Soccer National Championship they will find themselves reaching deep to muster the intensity needed to win.  How often can I say ""What a game""?  As often as I need to!!


True grit

Susan Boyd

What a game!  I mean that in general about soccer and in particular about the Magic U16 boys' game today.  They played against the Nebraska Arsenal, a great team with tall, strong players.  The tenor of the game became clearly established in the first half where the teams battled to a 0-0 tie.  Magic had far more shots, but Nebraska used their breakaways well.  

In the second half, Magic managed to score a goal that was off the GK's miss (at least that's how we saw it).  But the referee (and I am sure Arsenal) saw it differently, and the goal was nullified as the ball was deemed in the GK's grasp.  Two minutes later Arsenal scored on Magic with 20 minutes left in the game.

Now the true grit of these soccer players would be tested.  Arsenal wanted to prevent a goal at any cost and Magic needed to score a goal at any cost.  What an amazing battle between these two teams.  Each player dug deeper, tried harder, and refused to give up.  With two minutes left, Magic scored.  I don't think a team was happier to secure a tie than Magic.  Although they worked hard to find one more goal in the short time remaining, the boys were definitely relieved to earn a point and to take two additional points from their opponent.

Games like this are what I love about soccer.  Magic had far more shots on goal than Arsenal, but it was the classic frustration of not finishing.  Arsenal was gunning (forgive the pun) for Magic and when they scored you would have thought they won the World Cup.  The emotional roller coaster of the back and forth play agonized me, but for the players on both teams, they remained calm and focused.

I credit soccer with teaching my sons the tenacity to fight for what they want, and the civility to do so fairly.  I credit soccer with providing my sons with some of life's toughest battles so that they learn to be humble in victory and unbowed in defeat.  I credit soccer for giving them reasons to be proud without arrogance, because they know that the next moment, the next game, the next season may not be as successful.  I credit soccer with opening doors for them, while reminding them that any door can close if the gift isn't respected.  I credit soccer for giving them friends who are teammates and teammates who are friends.  I credit soccer for offering our entire family a bonding experience.

All I can say is ""What a game!""


You can’t control the weather

Susan Boyd

We arrived in Des Moines around 1:00 PM.   We had to make a quick trip to a Target store to buy some khaki shorts for Robbie for the opening ceremony.  The one pair of shorts turned into an $89 bill since he couldn't decide between two pairs and so we got both, he also needed to get a PS2 game and some deodorant and I found some sweat pants.  We claim, and it is usually true, that we cannot leave a Target store for under $100.  We came close.

Then we went out for some lunch and that's when things turned ominous.  The TVs at the restaurant were all tuned to a local channel with a map of the Des Moines area, with red, orange, and yellow swirls, and occasional advisories to get to the lower level of your home and cover your head with a pillow.  The severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings were everywhere.  Of course, the face we barely knew that Des Moines was in Iowa only complicated our ability to interpret warning data listed by counties.  Unfortunately our waitress must have also recently arrived from Wisconsin because she had no idea what county we were in and where any of the listed counties were located.

Robbie is one of the bravest young men I know.  But he hates tornadoes.  It is one reason he doesn't want to remain in the Midwest (add snow, below zero temperatures, humidity, and mosquitoes to the list).  He had a chance to appear in one of my brother's movies, but because filming was in April in Omaha, he passed – ""Tornado alley in April…are you crazy?""  So he made it his mission to figure out how close we were to imminent disaster.  We were safe for the moment, but upon return to the hotel, it was obvious that this weather wasn't going away.

Ultimately the opening ceremonies to be held in an outdoor stadium about 10 miles from one of the tornado sightings were canceled.  I had mixed emotions about that.  I have attended four opening ceremonies for the US Youth Soccer Region II Championships.  The athletes march in by state and team.  With scores of teams from fourteen state associations the march becomes long and, dare I say it, boring.  On the other hand, this is an honor that few soccer players have the opportunity to enjoy, so I am sad that these players will miss out on their moment in the limelight.  Robbie and his teammates are still in their US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional League Champions shirts and khaki shorts wandering room to room in the hotel.  It's like getting all dressed up for the ball and then being told you have stay back and scrub the kitchen floor.  Nevertheless I was not really looking forward to sitting out in the open awaiting yet another cloud burst.   And I know Robbie was glad that he didn't have to be tornado bait this afternoon.

Now the games will get underway tomorrow morning without the usual fanfare.  I suspect that most players feel the joy of being here and will bring their own party to the matches.  Rain is predicted for the morning with a high of 82, so it will probably be humid.   Robbie's team plays at 10 AM, so hopefully we'll squeeze in between the rain and the humidity.  Tonight we go out for a team dinner which is always fun.  It relieves the tension and helps the team bond.  The other advantage of not having the ceremonies is that I was able to get my blog written in daylight rather than at midnight.   

As I watched the TV, the weather cams reveal a grey-out of rain and the meteorologist intones, ""What a horrible rush hour we're going to have.""  I didn't realize Des Moines had a rush hour (we have rush hour 5 minutes in Milwaukee).  But I also thought, thank goodness all those vehicles with soccer kids and their parents weren't rushing to the ceremonies.  We saved Des Moines from a total traffic meltdown. 


“Susan, I can’t remember…have we ever done anything with your brakes?”

Susan Boyd

We finally hit the road today at 6 PM. First stop was Lewis University in Romeoville to pick up Robbie from practice at 8:30 PM and then to a hotel so we could get a jump on the trip to Des Moines.

Those of you who have been reading my blogs are well aware that I have a car that may not make it to Des Moines and a brain that may not remember everything I need to get to Des Moines. So today I took my car in to have the brakes checked, the tires rotated, and the oil changed. The latter is my ""soccer trip"" ritual that probably gives me a false sense of security, but given the state of my automobile I welcome whatever security I can muster, false or real. This visit the mechanic said, ""Susan, I can't remember…have we ever done anything with your brakes?"" I have gone to this same mechanic since three cars ago. He has handled every screech, rattle, and blown air conditioning unit that I have ever had with this car. I liken his question to my doctor asking, ""Susan, I can't remember ….have I ever delivered your child?"" So my confidence sank along with that false sense of security as I answered, ""No, we have never done anything with the brakes.""

Mind you my car has 170,000 miles and the service book recommends replacing the brakes at 100,000 miles. So the fact that my pedal hit the floor when I compressed it may have been a sign that I was due for new brakes. But every time my mechanic test drove the car, he'd return and declare the brakes, ""Just fine."" I am obviously not the source of income for his summer cottage. In any case, I now have new brakes and my sense of security is restored.

So we are on the road again. Robbie is sitting next to me playing ""God of War"" which is basically a game with dark, foreboding music, graphics, and plot. Occasionally he bursts out with ""In your face!"" So I assume he is winning. This type of entertainment relaxes him. I remember ""Pong"" and it gave me an ulcer. I know I couldn't handle the stress of any game that requires me to swing a sword while simultaneously leaping across fiery abysses.

I mention the game only because it will be on continuously in the car and in the hotel room whenever he doesn't have a game or a practice or a team dinner. There will usually be at least eight other teammates in the hotel room with him shouting at the screen or at him or in general. The game will be discussed when they aren't able to play it, and will be anticipated as they return to the hotel. Team bonding no longer occurs around a campfire singing songs, like ""Spin and Marty"" bonded for those of you who remember the OLD Mickey Mouse Club.

Tomorrow we will arrive in Des Moines in time to settle into our home away from home, to get some lunch and to arrive at opening ceremonies by the allotted time. The anticipation of the event was heightened tonight as the team sat with their coaches and got the important pep talk and strategy session. Nervous energy needs to be turned into competitive energy, individual effort needs to be stepped up within the framework of a unified team, team work has to be well oiled and focused. I'm amazed that these young men and their other male and female counterparts have the maturity and the ability to sustain the athletic and mental game for the next week. Win or lose, I am in awe that they not only have come this far, but are willing to put it all on the line to go further.

When I am on the road I worry about oil leaks and flat tires. When these players are on the road they have to worry about performance, fitness, endurance, tenacity, and focus. Maybe that's why Robbie loves his game…he can see himself in the warrior and lose himself in those cyber victories before facing the real thing.