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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.


“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.


A 'stupid day' for a soccer mom

Susan Boyd

Yesterday was one of my ""stupid"" days. I try to limit myself to one stupid day a month, but I think I used up my quota of 12 days by President's Day. I am now borrowing stupid days from 2009. Hopefully I will refrain from any more stupid days until after US Youth Soccer Region II Championship are over since I am the navigator, the keeper of forms, the custodian of packing, and the warden of two boys.

What did I do to qualify? I was trying to squeeze in an order of picture buttons for my husband's parents' 60th Wedding Anniversary in the middle of completing the work for US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program Region II Camp for boys and girls 1996 through 1990. I calculated and I have already used up 1,300 staples in creating the required camp packets, and I still have three age groups to go. So in the midst of this stapling hysteria, I was trying to order these buttons. The website claims to be very easy, and to a certain point it was easy, but after I filled out the order form, uploaded my artwork, and hit submit, I got a pop-up stating, ""Please call customer care to complete your order."" I called and got put on hold. Since I hadn't paid yet, I assumed they would want payment so I had my wallet out – you can probably see where this is going – and laid it on my desk under my computer monitor.

Then I got summoned for an office meeting, so I hung up on the lady from the button customer care, who probably called me worse things than ""stupid"" and went to the meeting. While in the meeting my son shows up to be driven to Chicago for his soccer practice, so I grab my purse turn off my office lights and head out. Forty five miles later, at a McDonald's, after ordering, I make my discovery. I have a purse but no wallet.

Robbie volunteered to pay from his money, adding, ""It's a good thing I was here to save your butt mom!"" making me feel even more stupid.

I have never been without a wallet before and it is an extremely helpless feeling. I couldn't buy anything, I couldn't even get gas (thank goodness Monday was not a stupid day and I had filled up), and I had no way to identify myself as a licensed driver, which meant I had to drive close to the speed limit, something I had never done in any of my hundreds of trips to Chicago Magic practice. I imagine this is how an out of body experience must feel. I was totally adrift in a world of commerce and law and had no connection to it at all.

So in order to avoid another stupid day, I am going to employ sticky notes to make sure I collect everything I need. I have one on my computer screen right now which says, ""Got Wallet?"" which is next to the one that says ""Got Cell Phone?"" from another day I don't want to discuss. I will now put sticky notes up on my back door to avoid forgetting the camera, the laptop, the box of movies my son asked me to collect for him, the suitcases, the mechanic's appointment tomorrow, and several other items that you won't want to read about and my son would kill me if I published. Somehow we will attempt to get to Des Moines with at a bare minimum soccer uniform cleats, and credit card. If I at least have those items, we can proceed with play. In my bound folder from Vago there are instructions for getting to a casino. I would like to go, but I am afraid I'll be too stupid!


Closing In

Susan Boyd

It's getting close. I know that because I have made my ""say a little prayer"" appointment with the mechanic for Thursday. We are all hoping that he can adjust the brakes, replenish the oil, and give the tires a good rotation so we can make it to Des Moines okay. Actually my son is hoping that the car will disintegrate on contact and I will be forced to do an impulse purchase of a gas guzzling SUV preferably in jet black or fire engine red.

It's getting close because the practices have been stepped up. This week we had four scheduled, but Mother Nature did not cooperate last night, and practice was canceled. My problem is that practices not only have been stepped up, but also have begun even later, so that they aren't done until 9 PM. With a two plus hour ride home, I won't be in bed much before midnight and I have to be at work by 7:30 AM. I hope the coaches all read this blog!!

It's getting close because our manager handed me a bound folder with index tabs filled with details about U.S. Youth Soccer Regionals. Our manager is amazing. His name is Vago Galounis (yeah I outed you), and he handles every detail without a single misstep. I used to be a manager, so I know how hard it is to administrate a team. There's that delicate thin line you walk between the parents and the coach. It's hard not to fall off the tightrope but Vago manages to do an excellent job. This folder is amazing (I guess I need to also thank his secretary). It has maps – even a map to get to Des Moines from Wisconsin – schedules, how to find Starbucks, all the essentials. It will be my bible for six unforgettable days.

It's getting close because my son is feeling the pressure. That means there is more walking on eggshells in the house. On the other hand, he also exhibits great interest in the planning, the schedules, the uniforms, and lots of other details which shows me is as excited as he is nervous. I never did organized sports unless you count one year in college volleyball where I spent most of the season on the bench with a broken finger. I grew up pre-Title IX where our choices were limited to tennis, gymnastics, track, and volleyball. But I did do forensics. So I do understand that battle raging in his stomach and his mind, the self-doubts, the hopes, and the excitement. It's a lot of psychological baggage to be handling at 16 years of age, and some of the kids at Regionals are only 13! So as much as I hate being a punching bag, sometimes I just have to let him rage.

It's getting close because my job suddenly has 8,000 deadlines which fall during the six days of Regionals. I can go three weeks with deadlines that are manageable and then boom, right when I am trying to untangle myself from email, spreadsheets, phone calls, collations, photocopying, reports, you know the drill, it all just starts piling on. At Regionals I will be the crazy woman with a laptop cord wrapped around her neck, trying to see her LCD screen in the sunlight and get just one more email out before the whistle! I suspect, however, there will be lots of other crazy women and men in the same situation.

It's getting close because once again I have another week's vacation that is spent in some hotel I don't select, in some town that isn't a holiday destination, spending more money than if I were lounging in a gondola in Venice, and washing out uniforms in the hotel sink instead of selecting souvenirs from a vendor on the Ponte Vecchio (can you guess that I really want to be in Italy?). But in the end, I wouldn't trade the soft mattresses, the heat, the long days, the smelly soccer bag, and the junk food for any week in Italy because this is what my son wants to do, this is what we can remember for the rest of our lives as special moments, this is the thrill, the defeat, the victory, the agony, the joy, and the frustration of playing sports…which is to say, it is life and we get to share it all as a family.


Practice and winning regardless of a number

Susan Boyd

There's an old joke: A tourist in New York City stops a man on the street and asks, ""How do I get to Carnegie Hall?"" The man replies, ""Practice, practice, practice."" If practice were really all it took to succeed, I'd be a concert pianist right now instead of a soccer mom. In life, and in the journey to Regionals, it takes much more than practice.

Nevertheless I have watched clubs go to insane lengths to practice their players into winning US Youth Soccer State Cup or Midwest Regional League, the two main gateways to a Regional slot in Region II. It's not unusual to hear of three or four hour practices four or five days a week. Since I have a son who plays in Illinois and a son who plays in Wisconsin, I get to witness a lot of insanity. Still, practice is the one variable that can be controlled. Everything else is less manageable. So it's no wonder that clubs, coaches, and teams step it up.

My own son discovered this hard fact this past weekend. His team wasn't insane about practice, but they did their fair share. However, through a Series of Unfortunate Events (apologies to Lemony Snicket) practice was not going to be the answer to a state cup win. Soccer (life) is filled with those unpleasant surprises – shots that define physics, a defender slipping to the ground at a key moment, rain delays that change the momentum of a game, wind, heat exhaustion, and, my personal worst, injuries. Suddenly a game becomes a battle for survival, and sometimes the team doesn't survive.

Luckily for Robbie's team, they had earned a slot at Regionals by winning Midwest Regional League. So losing State Cup wasn't quite as painful as it could have been. The really good news is that all the players handled the loss with dignity and maturity. I like to think that all this money I spend, all this time I lose driving, all the rainy games, all the sunstroke days ultimately result in good life lessons. Not every team can win State Cup, but every team can learn to face adversity with humility and patience. Players can learn to respect one another's talents and deficiencies. Coaches can learn to forgive bad play and find the pearls when they reveal themselves. Parents can learn to praise their kids no matter what the outcome and to not expect winning.

I love team sports, and soccer in particular, because they require dependence upon others. No player can claim predominance – every win, every loss involves every team member. We all point fingers, and I'm no exception, in an attempt to lay blame or to award honor. Yet, no team would win State Cup or any match if they only fielded their top scorer!

So how do you get to Regionals? Practice, attitude, opportunity, talent, athleticism, coaching and teamwork. But we can't forget about providence. Sometimes a win comes from that tiny moment when the ball bounces left off the post instead of right. Every bounce can have a huge consequence. If it results in a loss, then the team will return to the pitch and practice, practice, practice. If it results in a win, the team will advance to Regionals…and practice, practice, practice.