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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". 

 

Nietzsche Never Bought a Car

Susan Boyd

German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said "That which does not kill me makes me stronger," which I find a highly unrealistic view of life.  According to the philosopher with every major event in my life I am either doomed to die or arise Phoenix-like with greater strength.  This particular philosophic adage may hold true for say Sylvester Stallone who developed strength enough from the originals to remake both Rocky and Rambo.  He claims he owes this renaissance to human growth hormone which I think should create the corollary to Nietzsche's axiom, "Drugs which do not kill me make me stupid."  My experience is somewhat different.  I am writing this blog, so obviously nothing has stopped me dead in my tracks, but I certainly have been run over by life a few times and as I creak out of bed each morning I don't feel stronger.
 
My prime example is buying a car, which we are presently trying to do.  I have bought probably 30 cars in my lifetime and I am never prepared for the experience.  Robbie found a car on Ebay that he thought would be perfect to replace his 10 year old, 135,000 mile Toyota Rav 4.  Those of you who may have read earlier blogs of mine know that I have a six year old Sienna with 183,000 miles on it.  The "check engine" light has been on for three years.  But it gets us to soccer practice, games, and even trips, so I have decided to try and nurse it along.  Plus Robbie is now old enough to do the weekend trips to Chicago, so a safer, more reliable car makes sense – or least that's what he tells me!

This particular car sat on a dealership lot in a north suburb of Chicago, so we decided to go visit them rather than attempt to bid.  We also found the same car listed on Auto Traders, Car Soup, Used Cars, etc.  So we figured the dealership was motivated to sell.  The price was clearly listed and since they were attempting to sell it on Ebay, we figured that they had a reserve which had to be lower than the advertised price.  There had been no bids on it on Ebay, so we also thought they would appreciate a bird in the hand.  I did my research.  The car was listed at $24,997.  I got the Kelly Blue Book for the car and found four others like it on the internet with retail prices of $23,000 to $23,500.  I figured we could offer $1000 lower than that and reach a good deal.  I was going to trade in the Rav 4 with a trade-in value in fair condition of $2600 and pay cash for the balance.

Here's where the "not stronger" part comes in.  I don't know why I thought this dealership would be any different from the two dozen or more I have dealt with over the years, but it was worse and I wasn't up to the battle despite being a car buying veteran.  The first thing the salesman did was add $890 to the price of the used car for "shipping."  Apparently, according to the dealership, it wasn't fair to pass on the full cost of shipping a used car they had bought in Florida onto one buyer when another buyer might be purchasing a car that hadn't been shipped.  So their reasoning was to average the cost and charge all used car buyers this fee.  Since my car was local I was now being asked to subsidize someone who had the unfortunate taste to select a car that the dealership had crossed state lines to acquire.

This fee added onto the published retail price made the total cost $3000 over Kelly Blue Book.  From that point forward things just disintegrated.  No matter what my offer, the total price of the car in dealer math ended up being the same, $26,000.  I made an offer, they lowered the value of the trade-in and viola! $26,000.  I refused the extended warranty (worth $2000), they took that off the offer and amazingly my total out of pocket remained the same, $26,000.  No matter the permutation, I would be paying $26,000 for the car.

It was voodoo economics, which now required an additional economist.  Joining the salesman was some backroom guy who "only had my best interests at heart." Amazingly, even though the cost of the automobile never fluctuated, this new guy begged me to come up with "just a few hundred more" and we could reach a deal.  A few hundred more would have made the price of the car $3000 and a "few hundred more" over the price of KBB.  He thrust a sheet of paper at me with some typing on it that indicated he had paid $26,000 for the car.  Since he had foolishly paid $3000 more than the retail price of the car according to a half dozen other reliable sources, I guess I was expected to bail him out of that situation.  Either I had to question the business acumen of the dealership or I had to hand it to them for chutzpah.

As my dejected son watched this circus, I summoned the strength to walk out with the words of the backroom guy still echoing behind me, "Susan we're only $600 a part – what's $600?"  That may have been my Nietzsche moment.  "Only $600?  Perfect. . .you take $600 off the total price of the car and we can still negotiate."  He looked at me like I spinach in my teeth.  We drove home in the old car.

Am I stronger for that experience?  We'll find out in about four hours when I toddle down to another dealership to start the process all over.  At least the price of the car we are looking at is listed just under Kelly Blue Book.  So I am hopeful that things will go well.  Right!  Just listen to me . . . I haven't learned a thing!  

 

No...not that football

Susan Boyd

I can state with confidence that should you visit our house and the TV is on, it will be FOX Soccer Channel, unless it's Judge Judy time (my guilty pleasure) or unless the Packers are playing. You may think this a brave statement to make when writing a blog for a soccer website, but the truth be told I think most soccer fanatics in America will admit to also being hooked on a football team. Here in Wisconsin it would be gross sacrilege not to cheer on the Green and Gold and not to hold the Bears and Vikings in contempt. 
           
Personally I have never been a huge football fan even though I dated a running back for the Detroit Lions for about three weeks back in the 60s. I did a very good job of pretending to understand what he was talking about by smiling, nodding, and looking him straight in the eyes. But I really haven't come much farther in my understanding of the nuances of the game. I know you need to drive down the field, get the ball in the end zone, and occasionally kick the ball for various reasons. I really don't know what a running back is, although according to the Lion I dated – a RB carries the ball during the drive down the field. I don't know if linebackers run or block or if they are offense or defense.  I do know that a quarterback is offense because Brett Favre is the patron saint of offensive players. 
           
Despite this paucity of knowledge and the fact that I really don't much enjoy American football, somehow every Sunday (or the odd Saturday, Thursday, and Monday) I find myself watching the Packers. This year it was fun to watch them; other years not so much. Sunday a week ago, the Packers played Seattle Seahawks (I grew up in Seattle and I love the Seahawk uniforms) at Lambeau Field in a raging snow storm. That was the most fun I ever had watching football. The Packer players were actually enjoying themselves. I expected them to all suddenly lie down and make snow angels during a time out. For a while the grounds crew tried to keep the field lines clear by shoveling and using some contraption that looked like a snow blower with a mustache, but eventually they gave up the battle, and ball placement was anyone's guess. My son Robbie played a soccer game in Fort Wayne, Indiana under the same conditions, only there we didn't have the benefit of a grounds crew. We parents swept off the sidelines and the goal box once. After that we let the elements win.
           
What a difference a week makes. This past Sunday the Packers again played at home against the NY Giants in -1 degree with a wind chill of -23 degrees. The announcers kept reminding everyone that this wasn't the coldest game ever. That honor went to a game in Cincinnati where the wind chill was -56 degrees. Having sat through a soccer game in Cincinnati in the snow I trust the announcers' data. This time the Packers did not look like they were having fun. The Giants didn't look like they were having fun either. Both teams did their best to lose the game and eventually the Packers won at losing. I knew four people who went to the game who got to sit through the bitter cold to watch the Packers lose and pay $500 each for the privilege. I seriously doubt I would have felt much differently at the end of the game whether the Packers won or lost because I doubt I could have felt anything! I actually expected uniforms to shatter into pieces when a player was tackled.
           
So now for seven months we can avoid American football and once again concentrate on the real football in our house. The MLS draft this weekend yielded three friends of my sons, so there was lots of dancing and whooping without Packer cheer. Now if you stop by you'll be able to win a bet with anyone you choose on what the Boyd's are watching, unless of course it is Judge Judy time, then you'll lose.
           
I have to add a footnote to this blog. . .my sister-in-law, Tamara Jenkins, who is married to my screenwriter brother, Jim Taylor, who won an Oscar for Sideways, just got an Oscar nomination for her original screenplay The Savages, which she also directed. If any of you are Academy members please vote for her. If you're not a member then at least go see the movie. It's great – poignant, funny, true to life, and the theaters are warm.
 

US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop

Sam Snow

In a short while the 2008 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop will take place in Pittsburgh.  Most folks who attend likely don't realize the work that goes into pulling off such an event.  Planning begins several years ahead with the selection of the city and venue for the event.  Many factors go into the selection process including the spaces for demo sessions and classes.

The nitty gritty for each Workshop begins a year out and of course picks up pace as we get closer to the opening day.  The State Association in the state where a Workshop is held is a key player in the team that makes each Workshop a success.  The State Association promotes the event with its members, gets volunteers to assist with a multitude of tasks and through its clubs gets the players for each of the demonstration sessions.  The quality of each Workshop is credited to the host State Association and the US Youth Soccer employees. The national office staff put in hundreds of hours to drive an event that is a service to our referees, coaches and administrators.

At the Workshop there's something for everyone including the players at the Kick Zone.  The sessions are first rate and aimed at the needs of youth soccer.  Check out the sessions and clinicians here. I'll be back with more on the Workshop next week.  I look forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh!
 

A Parent's Agony

Susan Boyd

A few weekends ago our youngest son participated in a workshop where he was put in the weakest group. The experience brought back to me all those waves of anxiety I have felt over the years with my kids in sports as they attended workshops, Olympic Development training, tryouts for teams, and team practices. As hard as I tried to keep my emotions in check, I couldn't help reading something into every placement. I also know from watching the body language of those around me that I wasn't the only one either uncomfortable or delighted with what I saw. Our natural impulse as parents is to make life as pain-free and as positive as possible for our kids. Yet sports has a nasty habit of thwarting that impulse because of its competitive and selective nature. Success at sports demands its pound of flesh no matter how good a player may be. If a player is marginal in any way, then success requires extra and even creative effort. As parents there is little if anything we can do to mitigate this path other than to be supportive during the journey, sympathetic during setbacks, and offering restrained praise during success. 

As a former program administrator with the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program I have experienced my share of player and parent disappointment. Whenever I sent out the letters to those who didn't make the state pool, I knew the emails and phone calls I would get in return. Having been there, done that, I, like Bill Clinton would say, definitely felt their pain. Unlike a bad grade in a subject, not making a team is out and out rejection and that's a bitter pill to swallow. We parents don't see our children as rejects, and our aim is to see them succeed. But trying out has only two outcomes: making the team or not making the team. Putting ourselves in that vulnerable position can result in deep heartache. Even worse, most players experience this at a relatively young age. While we can hope that it toughens them up for inevitable rejections later in life, it's no fun to see them in pain.

Our youngest daughter had the dream of earning a varsity letter in a high school sport. While proud of her dream, her father and I also knew it had little chance of succeeding since she never trained in any sport and up until her junior year hadn't participated in any high school sport. But she was adamant. She was going to be a swimmer. As the varsity tryouts approached, I did my best to prepare her for the inevitable rejection while still appearing to be supportive of her dream. I doubt I did a very good job since the two were nearly mutually exclusive. We talked about which events she would tryout for and what times she would have to achieve to be among the top four or five. She decided on the butterfly and the breast stroke. As far as I knew, she could do both, but I had never seen her do them. The two days of tryouts were torture for me. I didn't want her to feel foolish or a failure, but I knew that she couldn't be among the top swimmers since she never had trained. I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies for her and placed a box of tissues on the kitchen table.

She arrived home with her hair still wet and her suit still on under her clothes. So I assumed she had dressed quickly to escape from the experience. "So. . .how did it go?" I prepared for the floodgates to open. "Great! I made the team." "You did" – I tried not to put a question mark at the end by having my voice rise up in incredulity and instead put an exclamation point there as if I knew she would succeed. But I think I actually said, ""You did?" without being able to help myself. "Yeah. . .I did." "What event?" "Well. . ." and here's where I learned a big lesson about wanting something bad enough to make it happen. It seems she was definitely not butterfly or breaststroke material, but in the end the coach had no one to swim the 1,000, so if Shane was willing to do that event she could be on the team. She got her wish, the coach and team got the necessary points at each meet from someone swimming the 1,000, and I got to sit in a chlorine spa every week cheering on my daughter for 20 laps.

Not every tryout has such a unique and happy ending, but the main reason this one did was because the force behind it was Shane herself. I try to remember that whenever I see our boys struggling. Ultimately my role is simply that of support. The decision to try or not to try belongs to the boys. The ability to succeed lies in their talents and drive. Whenever I sit on the sidelines and watch them ride the bench I complain to anyone in range, but I don't say a word to the coach. That's the boys' job. When they get placed in the weaker group, then they have to figure out how to resolve that dilemma or live with it. When they don't get on a team, they have to decide will they try again. As parents we can serve as sounding boards for our kids as they try to figure it all out and we can offer advice, but we have to let the battles be theirs alone. To succeed in such a highly competitive arena as sports players have to have the inner drive. Mom and dad can't smooth everything over and they can even make things worse. 

When our oldest son got an offer to play soccer at the University of San Francisco, he wavered on accepting. As a parent I wanted to tear my hair out because naturally all those years of sitting out in the rain and snow, traveling to exotic locales like Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Collinsville, Illinois, and paying thousands of dollars for the privilege made me want to sign the papers myself and force him to go. But I had to also take a step back and realize that my 17 year old was making a decision about living 1,500 miles from home, leaving his girlfriend, going where he knew no one, and facing the rigors of competing for his spot on a Division I soccer team. While at face value, he should have been leaping at the opportunity, I respected that this was a huge decision. In the end, he took the opportunity with the caveat that he could fly home whenever he had a free weekend. I knew that was a pretty good deal because he probably wouldn't have any free weekends, but he didn't need to know that! It had been his dream to play Division I soccer, so he made the decision to make the dream come true. He made the decision. And his success or failure at that decision will lay 100% with him.    

Of course that didn't stop me from agonizing this past season when he didn't play a single minute – but that's my job!