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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". 


Dog Days

Susan Boyd

When this blog is posted we’ll be half-way through July. Last time I looked, that was summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet with all the rain, low temperatures, dark days and strong winds, it seems more like mid-autumn. I’m sure in a month’s time, I’ll be wishing for less heat and humidity, but for now I can’t help but hope that real summer decides to burst onto the scene. In the firm belief that we’ll soon be experiencing consistent heat and sun, I have a few suggestions to help families survive the summer tournaments and practices. Perhaps you’ll even be able to use these deep into autumn! I don’t mind the seasons shifting; I just want them to fully appear.             

Finding foods that provide adequate nutrition without overfilling a young athlete’s tummy can be difficult. Our kids need good energy that doesn’t weigh them down, especially on hot days. Happy Family Organic Superfoods ( has a complete line of products that begin with babies and go through to adults. The kids and adult offerings range from a quick energy snack of dried fruit and veggie chips to vitamin infused drinks and yogurt. The manufacturer addresses issues such as allergies and nutritional needs to create products that are easy to pack in a cooler and pull out when needed. These can be bought on line at their website or at stores such as Whole Foods, Publix, Target, Walgreens and Meijer. They also have a nutritional shake, which is perfect to have an hour before a game or practice. If you’re the snack parent for the team, their individual snack packs are perfect for avoiding allergy concerns. I’ve been a big fan of Capri Sun pouches because I can freeze them, pop them in the cooler, and have an ice cold quencher for after the game for the kids. Most juice boxes are so full that if they freeze they explode. So I love the fact that the pouches not only freeze but add to the “cooling” effect of my bag.  Even if I don’t have an insulated carrier, the pouches stay cold for several hours if not exposed to direct sun.              

If you’re looking for a good insulated bag in which to store your eats and drinks, there are several options that I have found to be excellent. The main thing I hate is when ice melts and the bag leaks. Puddles on the floor of my car, damp blankets, and dripping bags I have to carry back to the car aren’t my idea of convenience. Maranda Enterprises ( has two choices to avoid the drip, drip, drip of leaking carriers. They have coolers that are lined with “cubes” of plastic pouches filled with distilled water. The bags unzip and fold into a flat pack that can be placed in your freezer. Once frozen, the bags can be zipped up and filled with your goodies. The interior has a reflective lining that helps retain the cold for about eight hours depending on how much they are exposed to sun. They come in multiple sizes and have a carrying strap. If you don’t want to take up freezer space with the folded cooler, they also offer the sheets of “ice cubes” on their own to freeze. These are a great option if you already have a cooling bag you love, but don’t want melted ice soaking the products left in the bag. Even more conveniently, the sheets come in full and half sheets so you can select what works best for your needs. And if that’s not perfect enough, you can cut the sheets to fit. A win-win the entire way. The other nice thing about the sheets is that they are flexible so can be wrapped around any item or surface you choose. Outdoor Active Gear ( has a backpack cooler that holds 20 cans and has a heat-seal liner that guarantees no leaks. The backpack style leaves your hands free to cart those chairs and clothes bags around. Using the freezer sheets in this cooler would insure no leaks as well. All of these products can also be ordered directly from the manufacturers or on Amazon.

Once you get to the fields, you know that you are at the mercy of the blazing sun. Shade trees don’t exist anywhere near the field. We can resort to our rain umbrellas, but then we have to hold them, and they aren’t made for blocking out the UV rays that are so dangerous. Maranda Enterprises has a free standing umbrella that blocks out more than 90% of UV. Given the rise in skin cancers in recent years, this protection is significant. The unit comes in two pieces — the stand and the umbrella — which fit in a carry bag the same size as any sports chair you have. The tripod stand is very steady, even in moderate winds, but comes with stakes to hold it down if the wind is strong. Unfortunately, sometimes the summer droughts leave the soil too dry to push a stake through, but I found that sliding the legs of the tripod under my chair steadies it. The umbrella can rise up to eight feet tall casting a wide shadow that protects up to three chairs, but on windy days I recommend keeping it lower despite its excellent wind design. It can also be tilted to further help in sun blockage. Two cup holders are provided to hook onto the stand as well as two additional “J” hooks to hold towels, jerseys, and light bags. Further versatility comes with a corkscrew on the end of the umbrella post so it can be driven into the sand at the beach.  At the end of July a special limited edition in pink of the Wondershade will be offered with proceeds to help fund the fight against breast cancer. Otherwise, it comes in red and blue. You can order directly from the manufacturer’s website or from Amazon.             

The chair you choose for sideline viewing can really affect how much you enjoy the event. Many chairs don’t offer the back support we need and can cut off circulation under the legs. If the canvas doesn’t breathe adequately, you may end up sitting in a sweaty wet seat. Coleman ( has the Comfortsmart Suspension chair, which is mesh on an aluminum frame designed like a regular chair rather than a sling. The mesh allows for cool air to blow on your back. It has a carrying case and a cup holder. Brylanehome Camp Chair with Canopy ( fits the regular sports chair category, but has a full canopy over it for shade. It is not coated, so only provides shade not UV protection. It has side “windows” which can be opened or closed at your discretion for a wider view or for breezes. Ming’s Mark ( has a marine chair that has great back support and a padded head rest. It doesn’t have a cup holder but has solid armrests for comfort. It folds up like a lawn chair and weighs 9 pounds. All of these chairs can be bought directly from the manufacturers or from Amazon.              

If you want to stay really cool especially when having to remain on tournament grounds for several hours there are some great devices and products for you. Water bottle fans really do provide great cooling using battery power. ShiningTek has a handheld cooler that can be powered by USB or AAA batteries. Its slick design makes it easy to use. Cool on the Go has a model that is hands free, but costs twice as much. However, it will clip on a stroller which is nice for our little ones who have to accompany us out in the heat to watch big brother or sister compete. O2 Cool Necklace Fan has a band that goes around your neck and sets the fan unit on your chest to blow up into your face. It can be a bit intrusive, but is hands free, which is a plus. Cool Off Citrus Ice Towelettes are a quick fix that can lower skin temperature 12 degrees for 60 minutes when rubbed on and come in packs of 12. For longer lasting heat relief, several brands of cooling cloths are available, all out of the same material, so you should go for lowest cost. Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad, Chill-Its Cooling Pad, and Coregear Chiller Evaporative Towel all offer the same benefits with a PVA cloth that retains water.  You simply snap it occasionally to refresh the cool and place it around your neck, stomach, or wrist to get the cooling effect. All of the products mentioned are best purchased at Amazon rather than their websites because many of these sites are in Chinese, so they are a bit difficult to navigate.              

Should true summer ever arrive, you’ll be glad you invested in some of these products. Costs for the chairs are around $40 to $60, the cooler bags run in the $20 to $40 range, and the umbrella is $40 to $50 depending on the web site. The ice cube packs are $7 to $15 depending on the size. The fans are in the $17-35 range and the cloths can be as inexpensive as $5. So the options for having a great summer at the field are numerous and affordable. The food items vary in price but most individual organic products cost around $3-5 and drink packs of 10 cost about the same. I highly recommend the organic foods, Capri Sun, and the umbrella as a wonderful triumvirate to conquer heat and hunger, but anything you can do to reduce the discomforts and step up the enjoyment will make the season not only tolerable but memorable.

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Red Card for Concussion Management

Sam Snow

As we watch a marvelous 2014 FIFA World Cup the games have been spectacular and more than once the underdog has won. During the matches great goals have been scored and fantastic saves made. But a few times clashes have occurred and, at least once, a serious head injury that any television viewer could see was a concussion. I highly recommend that you read this blog from Dr. Dev Mishra:

Now read these many resources on the topic available to you on the US Youth Soccer website.


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Lopsided Match

Sam Snow

The score was 5-0 in favor of my team. So it’s time for a change in game strategy.

Many coaches struggle with how to keep a run-a-way match in check. Some coaches will play all of the “second string” players, some will put kids in positions they don’t frequently play, some will impose restrictions on how the team scores — such as only from crosses, etc. Here’s another idea for coaches in approaching this situation that occurs too often in youth soccer.

Tell your team: "You must work to get the kid on our team who has never scored in a match a goal now. If that kid scores then we go to the teammate who’s only scored once and get that player a goal. And so on with the player who has scored only two goals in a career — on and on. But what if time elapses and the team has not succeeded in helping that teammate who has never scored a goal to put one in the back of the net?

Then that’s the first team assignment in the next match. When that match is and against whom we are playing is immaterial. The match could be against a fierce rival, for the state cup final or against the last place team. The outcome of that match is less important than the lesson to be learned by the players — we accomplish a team assignment together. No matter how hard it may be or how long it may take, our team pulls together to achieve that challenge.

That mentality — and to meet that challenge — will take confidence and conviction. Most especially, the will to “stick to your guns” must come from the coach. There will be pressure in that next match from some parents, perhaps some players and maybe even from club officials to not require the team to accomplish the challenge given in a previous match. No, many folks will want the new game strategy to be only about that particular opponent.

There’s an old saying that sports build character. This challenge might build character in the players and staff — it most certainly will reveal it!

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Arrested Development

Susan Boyd

The World Cup celebrates some of the loftiest ideals in sport. Countries that have long traditions of distrust meet each other on the field and play with dignity and poise, shaking hands and exchanging jerseys when the battle is over. It helps that many opposing players in the World Cup are teammates on professional teams before and after the event, so strong connections are already established. We expect to see the highest level of decorum, and referees have been directed to issue cards for dissent. When Cristiano Ronaldo was called offside during the U.S. – Portugal game, he shrugged his shoulders and with a wry pinch gesture indicated that it couldn’t have been by much. Even though Portugal needed a win with its back up against the wall, Ronaldo kept his cool. We’ve seen a few meltdowns, but for the most part the matches have only seen cards for rough play, which has always been a part of the game.  Even Clint Dempsey, who was kicked in the face during the U.S. – Ghana match, agreed that it happened because of the zeal of a player to control the ball in the frenzy of a game with tremendous importance. The wounded have populated the pitch like an episode of the Walking Dead. Yet players and fans accept these injuries as part of the game. Well, almost every injury.            

During the Uruguay – Italy match, Luis Suarez, for no apparent reason and away from the ball, bit the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. No card was issued, and a livid Chiellini pulled down his jersey neckline to reveal clear bite marks on his left shoulder. The event was bizarre to say the least, made even more inexplicable because this is the third biting incident involving Suarez, who has served a seven game ban in 2010 and a 10 game ban in 2013. His vampire antics last week have cost him dearly with a ban from his next nine international matches and a four-month suspension on top of that. My youngest daughter bit her nursery school classmates and nearly got expelled. Luckily, we were able to squash the behavior in the nick of time. When two of my grandsons were just 17 months and 14 months old sharing some happy moments on the living room floor, the tranquility was broken when the older suddenly leaned over and bit his cousin on the back totally unprovoked. I think the collective gasp of “no” scared him straight because it never happened again. We expect our kids to have these incidents as either the instigator or the victim, but we also expect the episodes to end before they learn to read. We don’t imagine we’ll see a major player in the soccer world still learning to control his jaws at age 27.             

Social media exploded with parodies, nasty comments, name-calling, and arm-chair analysis. News organizations weren’t sure what tone to take reporting the story. Laughable? Serious? Incredulous? ESPN commentators could barely talk about the game, which Uruguay eventually won, because the behavior of one player overshadowed his team’s success. Ruud Van Nistelroy, the former Dutch national player, stammered his words and shook his head in disbelief while describing his disappointment. Clearly he couldn’t fit his mind around the assault. His anger at Suarez was barely contained in describing how this stain affected a world-wide audience of youth players. He argued that Suarez needed to adhere to a higher standard as a role model in the sport. He wondered how we tell our young people to practice decorum and good sportsmanship when they see boorish and dangerous behavior at matches. Kids do pay attention to and model our actions.             

I’ve been at youth games and have seen some disturbing conduct: Players punched in the stomach, tripped during the handshakes, and verbally and racially abused, along with temper tantrums, insubordination to the referees, taunting and attacking parents on the sidelines, and refusing to play. No wonder Ruud was worried. As well he should be because all of these incidents were perpetrated by adults, not youth players. I’ll never forget talking to fellow parents following a U-10 game and having a set of keys whizz past my face and smack into the parent next to me. Our team had won the game, and the opposing coach thought we had cheated, so in a tantrum, impulsively and regrettably attacked us with the only weapon he had. At a tournament, Robbie’s coach, so frustrated with the refereeing, called his team off the field and forfeited the match. This was in Florida, and we had traveled at great expense from Wisconsin to the tourney. Besides the embarrassment of being connected to the team who quit, there were the economic ramifications. I know how powerful the drug of winning can be, morphing a reasonable person into a pouting, shouting monster. But adults are supposed to be emotionally developed enough to avoid such immaturity. Just as my daughter and grandson acquired the self-restraint to stop biting, grown-ups (implying we’ve reached the pinnacle of maturity) should be able to control impetuous bad behaviors.            

The administering of past bans on playing and the threat of a worse ban didn’t seem to be sufficient to thwart Suarez’ actions. That’s the most difficult thing to understand. His bite wasn’t done as retaliation, defense or control. It was a visceral, nearly primitive outburst. He targeted and went after the guy. Why he would risk his career and reputation to lash out in this way has to be what truly befuddled Van Nistelroy. I feel the same befuddlement when I witness adults in youth sports behaving badly. For example, a mother marched onto the field in the middle of a U-6 game to poke the 12-year-old referee in the chest while verbally badgering him. His crime? Not calling a foul that affected her child. She wouldn’t relent in her attack, which went on for 15 or 20 minutes. In the end, the police were called and she was charged with assault. Those of us who witnessed the debacle could only shake our heads as she was led away handcuffed. Apparently her sense of fairness had been abused to the point of clouding rational thought. I can’t figure out how any of it was worth it. Her daughter was left sobbing uncontrollably as she watched the police arrest her mother on a lovely spring day that should have been joyful. The lesson is that we need to rise above our own petty insults during any match and control our reactions. It really shouldn’t be that difficult — we tell our kids to count to 10, and we should take our own advice.               

I love watching the World Cup because usually I can see exciting soccer played aggressively, yet decently. I groan during mistakes, cheer for exemplary play, and bite my nails as the clock ticks down. Despite a 1-0 loss to Germany, the U.S. managed to make it to the round of 16, thanks to Portugal’s defeat of Ghana. It was the least Portugal could do after scoring a last minute goal against us to tie the game. Instead of clear advancement, we were in the dizzying world of statistical analysis with dozens of scenarios depending on confusing variables controlling our fate. In the end, it all worked out. Uruguay also advanced, but without the assistance of Suarez it fell in the Round of 16. By his immature actions he let his national teammates down in their most important soccer contest. Rather than remembering a hard fought march to the Round of 16, Uruguay will be remembered as the team with the biting guy. None of us demand nobility from soccer adults, but we do expect normal controlled behavior. Whenever we feel the urge to lash out at a match, we should step back, take a deep breath, look at all the young eyes that are watching us and tell ourselves we’re better than that.

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