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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". 

 

Helping Out

Susan Boyd

Hurricane Sandy has left so many communities devastated without power, food or water. It’s difficult to talk about soccer knowing how many millions don’t have soccer as any kind of priority. My own brother lives in lower Manhattan and sends reports when he can. He and his wife have a nearly 3-year-old daughter and a dog living on the fifth floor without electricity and water. Luckily, 30 blocks north of them lives my sister-in-law’s brother, who has power, so they finally made the move there. Nevertheless, even those who have little damage still have battles to get gas, food, potable water and garbage pick-up. Seacoast communities are no longer underwater but are now dealing with being under sand with all the debris from the sea strewn about streets, yards and rooftops. Basic necessities are unavailable, so families are suffering. Those of us safe and secure need to reach out to help.
 
The American Red Cross, which provides tremendous and immediate on-site disaster relief, needs donations. You can donate online at https://www.redcross.org/donate. While immediate donations are needed, consider making a monthly commitment. Even $10 a month will go a long ways to restocking the funds dispersed for Sandy and prepare us for the next crisis. In addition, the Red Cross needs your blood donations. The hurricane disrupted blood drives that the Red Cross depends upon to keep blood banks fully stocked. Disasters always draw down the supplies due to injuries, and some areas without power and without back-up generators have totally lost their blood supplies. Go to http://www.redcrossblood.org/ to see how you can help. Consider volunteering or holding a fundraiser in your workplace or neighborhood. You can combine this with soccer easily. Ask friends, neighbors and coworkers to sign up for a contribution for each foot of your son’s or daughter’s dribbling distance or for the number of ball juggles they can do. Get the entire team involved to make even more money. 
 
The Salvation Army has swiftly moved into the distressed areas with furniture, clothing and food. However, they need both financial and goods donations. Donating money can be done on their website: https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/disaster. If you want to donate clothing and furniture, both desperately needed by the families hit by Sandy, then call 800-728-7825 to find out how to get your gently used products to the right spot. I can guarantee there are families who lost all their soccer gear in this disaster, so consider finding those extra soccer cleats, shin guards and balls to donate. When you call Salvation Army, let them know that you want to donate these items directly to those who need them along the East Coast. Those of you with United and/or Delta miles can also donate those to Sandy relief. Go to the website for instructions: [LINK]. These miles will be used to bring volunteers directly to the areas in need and to help families move for temporary living with relatives outside of the hurricane zone while their homes get refurbished.
 
While people need the frontlines of help, there are thousands of animals, both wild and domestic, displaced by the hurricane. The Humane Society of America and the American Humane Association have sent teams to help with finding lost, abandoned and injured pets; to tend to them; and to hopefully reconnect them with their owners. In addition, many families who need to move to shelters can’t take their pets with them. These animal agencies are offering temporary boarding and care for those pets. They are also helping to trap and relocate wild animals that are roaming in neighborhoods looking for food and shelter after their habitats were destroyed. Donations can be made on their websites, http://www.humanesociety.org/ and http://www.americanhumane.org/, which support their mobile kennels and vet services. 
 
Soccer families are well-known for being prepared for anything. I’ve often written about keeping the soccer box in the truck of my car filled with supplies that can be needed at the fields. Sandy clearly demonstrated that this same level of preparation is needed in your home so that you can get through minor to major catastrophes. The federal government actually has ads that speak to this preparation, but unfortunately many of us don’t pay enough heed and aren’t ready should we suddenly lose power or find roads closed to heavy rains or snows. Those who were prepared are faring better than those who weren’t. Stock up on canned goods, which can survive up to five years; the less liquid in the can, the longer the shelf life. Unopened non-carbonated beverages such as water, sports drinks and juices have essentially an unlimited shelf life. While dry items such as beans, rice, flour and noodles can last for a long time, they all require water to be palatable. So they are good to have around for short-term emergencies, but for the longer term where you want to conserve water, they aren’t as optimal. If you think a possible emergency is coming, don’t forget to fill the bathtub for extra water. When water is cut off, you can use the bathtub water to "flush" your toilet by occasionally throwing a gallon down the john. That bathtub water can also be used for cooking if you boil it first. That means keeping a supply of Sterno available, buying some extra tanks of propane for your grill and making sure your grill is accessible, or buying a camping stove to use. Consider buying a small generator to keep your refrigerator, one small TV and power for cell phones running. Remember, you’ll need fuel for that generator. Experts recommend keeping nothing more than a five gallon container on hand long-term. But once you are forewarned of a possible calamity, fill up extra containers. Keep them outside and a distance from the house. Make sure you have enough flashlights, batteries, candles, matches and firewood. Store all flashlights without batteries, putting them in only as needed to avoid battery corrosion. Get a hand crank radio so at the very minimum you can keep up with the news. Many of these radios can charge your cell phone, as well.
 
As a soccer community, I encourage us all to come together to help those who need to get back on their feet. Three years ago, my home flooded, so I know first-hand the psychological, emotional and financial toll disasters take on people. The help our family received was invaluable to our recovery. I hope you readers will make even a minimal donation to one of the relief agencies I listed or another of your choice. I also hope you will seriously prepare for your own possible emergency. It doesn’t need to be a huge devastation like Sandy. In many cases, the problems can be localized but still impact your family on a serious level. So don’t wait, promising yourself you’ll get to it. Turn that "soccer preparation kit" into a "home preparation kit." You won’t be sorry. Even if you don’t need it, someone in your community may. Soccer brings the world together, so demonstrate our good neighbor policy by reaching out to help.

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Now for a Word from Our Sponsors...

Susan Boyd

How many soccer players fit in a Smart Car? Not nearly enough! That’s why you never see any of these tiny models in the parking lot. Look around and you’d think you were standing in the minivan section of CarMax. It’s not that sedans and compacts aren’t viable automobiles; it’s just that most soccer families need a seven-passenger vehicle to handle carpools, soccer equipment and the sideline paraphernalia of parents. While we may want to be as green as possible, our loyalty has to be to the green of the pitch for those years we act as soccer parents. We need those minivans, SUVs and crossover vehicles to facilitate our family activities. I’d like to challenge dealerships to offer a "youth sports" discount to purchasers or at the very least sponsor some youth sports teams.
 
This got me thinking about all the products that enjoy a symbiotic relationship with soccer families. Companies benefit from not only the on-going popularity of youth sports, but also from the explosive growth of sports like soccer. Giving back to the very families who support their products and services seems almost expected. I suggest we families could have a huge financial impact by controlling where we spend our money. Here are some logical products and services which soccer families would use that give back to the community with sponsorships.
 
Starting with US Youth Soccer, its sponsors include Baymont Inn and Suites, Degree deodorant, Fox Soccer Channel, Kohl’s Department Stores, KwikGoal, Liberty Mutual Insurance, National Guard, YoCrunch yogurt, SKLZ and Sports Authority. These sponsors offer products and services that soccer families use and need. I am particularly drawn to Degree because with two sons who sweat, having that protection pre- and post-game is invaluable in a closed car on a three-hour trip home from a tournament! I got to try YoCrunch recently, and it is a great way to start the day or add some energy in the middle of the day. There’s a container of yogurt with various flavor options topped by a container of different toppings such as cereal, granola or even cookies. Pop them in the cooler for a snack on the road or after the game. These companies have stepped up to provide money to support youth soccer on a national level. Families should support these sponsors as much as possible.
 
I looked at various clubs around the country to see who they had for sponsors. I was amazed at some of the great contributors these clubs got. Oshkosh (WI) Youth Soccer, for example, has more than 100 sponsors (kudos to the club for getting out there and soliciting those sponsors). The list includes two car dealerships, wisely supporting those who will be seeking new vans, and restaurants where families often gather after a practice for dinner and some conversation. Durango (CO) Youth Soccer Club has sponsors from a landscaping company (someone has to cut the field grass), restaurants and a college (eventually those youth players will move on to higher education). Middletown (RI) Youth Soccer club’s sponsors include a dentist, contractors and a screen printing company (for those tournament t-shirts). Big Sun Youth Soccer in Ocala, Fla. has sponsors from sports equipment stores and Ocala Recreation and Parks.
 
So how do you get sponsorships for your club? First think about local businesses that enjoy a benefit from a connection with your club. They would include sporting goods stores, sports facilities (especially indoor facilities), the maker of your uniforms and restaurants nearby your practice fields. Also consider businesses that might benefit from your membership because of services they could offer, such as insurance, car repair, dentistry, legal services and accounting. Finally, any companies with which your club directly does business should be added to the list, such as the firm that insures your club’s property, the landscaper who maintains your fields, plumbers who maintain and repair your bathrooms and clubhouse, and any vendor who stocks your snack bar or vending machines. Once you know who you want to specifically target, brainstorm further to find other businesses "outside the box" that could have or benefit from a connection with your club.
 
You will need to call the businesses to find out who makes decisions concerning sponsorships so you can target a sponsorship letter. In the letter, explain the levels of sponsorship available and what the business will get at each level. For example, you might display banners around the fields, give naming rights to permanent goals for the life of the goal, provide a mention and link on your website, print ads in a tournament program and, of course, print ads on uniforms. Create a tier of prices. Design your letter to clearly identify the prices, what businesses get for those prices and the length of the sponsorship. At the end of the letter, let the business know that someone will be personally following up on the opportunity. Once you send out the letters, wait a week and then contact the businesses by phone to set up a time to meet. Be prepared for rejection, but also be prepared to argue the benefits of a sponsorship. It would be a great idea to send someone from your club who has a personal connection to the business. For example, I got my mechanic to agree to an ad for our tournament program because our family took three cars regularly to his shop for more than 12 years. He could hardly say no to such a good tripled chunk of his business.
 
Have a sponsorship agreement that the sponsor and club signs, so there will be no confusion on what each party is getting. Most importantly, follow up all contacts, whether they result in a sponsorship or not, with a letter. For sponsors, it should be a thank you for the donation, and for non-sponsors, it should be a thank you for the meeting while expressing hope that they will reconsider during the next push for sponsorships. These letters show that businesses are dealing with professionals, which helps them justify spending money. If you have a club website, have a link to your sponsorship information and a downloadable sponsorship contract. You never know who has a nephew, granddaughter or neighbor in the club who will be surfing the web and come across your plea. Once you have the sponsorships, encourage the club membership to frequent the businesses or purchase the products. 
 
Don’t be shy about asking big companies to be sponsors. It helps to find a connection, but that’s not always necessary. If you don’t ask, you can’t get a reply. You never know if a company is looking to make inroads in your community because it plans to build a store there or expand its product line to fresh markets. If your club sends teams to lots of out-of-state tournaments, use that to get sponsorships from restaurants and hotels that may not be in your area but do exist where the tournaments are. See’s Candy, for example, doesn’t have any stores in Wisconsin, but it considered a sponsorship because during major holidays it opens a temporary kiosk at a large mall just outside Milwaukee. Contact outlet malls, amusement parks and tourist locations that are on travel routes to tournaments. In other words, be creative in how you identify potential sponsors and don’t rule anything out as impossible if you can find a good reason for the sponsor to consider your club. After all, most sponsorships are an inexpensive way to reach hundreds of possible consumers multiplied by word of mouth, and a good marketing director will consider it a bargain to buy that exposure and a great way to be a good neighbor.
 

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Changing the soccer education paradigm

Sam Snow

This presentation is thought provoking: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html. With just a little bit of extrapolation on your part you can make the connections between the youth academic environment and the youth soccer environment. As I viewed the clip these dots connected for me:
 
  • If we cannot predict the future for education or finances then what makes us think we can do so in soccer? Why do we insist on the lunacy of selecting younger and younger children for "elite" soccer? Can we show a little maturity and patience by waiting to give them that player development pathway when they are teenagers?
  • Can we embrace and use to our benefit the soccer cultural diversity we have here? Can we – should we – foster a variety of styles of play which then gives the American player versatility? Can soccer be "globalized" here? Or is it already happening despite us?
  • Is doing what we did in the past in schools the equivalent of us pursuing drills during training and joy stick coaching during matches? If we carry on with coaching in the manner of #3 passes to #5 and #7 makes an off-the-ball run to receive a pass from #5 are we really going to develop players who can think for themselves or simply be robots in pattern play?
  • If we doggedly stay with our past approaches to the youth soccer experience will children continue to drop-out of the sport? The sports structure of America was designed in an age now past. There’s an old saying that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Interestingly Eton College had no adult coaches. Eton students were members of the privileged who were expected to become leaders of their country. Since one of the things that leaders do is organize things, the kids were expected to organize their own games, which they did. In the United States, youth sports evolved with greater mass participation. The goal of the nation’s influence was to turn non-elite youth into "compliant factory workers" (cookie cutter soccer players). It is not surprising that youth sports in the United States started as a highly organized activity with adults in charge and kids expected to do as they were told and perform on command. In many ways, things have not changed all that much.
  • The comment on social structure in the presentation might correlate to our super clubs or volunteer clubs. Are they not a sport infrastructure of a fledgling soccer nation – not the one we are today?
  • In our current mode are the smart people the elite players, coaches, referees and administrators and the non-smart people the recreational masses? Do we have players in the non-smart group who could grow into talent?
  • Boring stuff = drills at training sessions and kick-n-run tactics at matches. All reflective of pouring the game into children like Ritalin. Letting the game grow naturally is messy and takes longer, but I think we improve the average player in this way.  In the words of Rinus Michels if you want to improve the élite player then raise the level of the average player.
  • Is the aesthetic experience the ‘beautiful game’?
  • Is not so much of what goes on in youth soccer the factory line approach? If instead we take a somewhat more "artistic" approach we could produce creative players.

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Food for thought for soccer leaders

Sam Snow

OK, after I watched this video the educator in me took over and it strikes me that our decision makers, of every capacity, would benefit from viewing this clip; be those leaders at the national, state or local level.  I am sure that in one fashion or another we all will be involved in the development of the American game. So here’s the food for thought…
 
I want to share with you the latest Sir Ken Robinson talk:
http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html.
 
I am enjoying this one – it helps that Sir Robinson is such an engaging speaker. I think that we should share this not only with our coaches, but our administrators too. Is not youth soccer in America at a point of needing revolution thus allowing us to evolve?
 
From what is taught in the National Youth License coaching course he touches on the Flow State Model and on the deleterious effect of drills. In paraphrasing one of his comments I see how player development is an organic process. We cannot fully predict the outcome. You can only create the conditions under which players can flourish.
 
So in watching the clip closely I feel that if one can think about the education of players, coaches, referees, administrators and parents in the youth soccer context as Sir Robinson speaks about academic education, then one can see the parallels to the daily environment of youth soccer.
 
The take away message from Sir Robinson’s talk is that we have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it's an organic process. You cannot predict the outcome of human development; all you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish. I believe that this is the approach we should take in our efforts to impact the continuing development of participants in youth soccer.

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