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Soccer Mom Thoughts on Fitness, Family, Friendship and Fun

September 1, 2007 10:00 PM

Susan Boyd is the quintessential 'soccer mom' with over 13 years of service to her sons who have a deep love of the game. The author of several books is a Manchester United fan that likes to keep up her hometown Milwaukee Brewers as well. She listens to Dave Matthews Band and U2 to name a few and doesn't like to miss an episode of LOST or The Office. Susan wrote a daily blog during the 2007 US Youth Soccer Region II Championships, you can see more of her handy work here. She'll be providing her perspectives on the four messages of Youth Soccer Month each week. Oh, and she's been to the Oscars twice. Read Susan's bio from the regional championships /regionII/SusanBoyd Bio.asp" target="_blank">here.

Best tip learned from another 'soccer parent': Keep towels in the car and gallon size baggies in the soccer bag for those wet muddy games. Use 33 gallon garbage bags as mudguards on the floor of the car. 

Best tip I can give: Invest in a Dry-Guy boot dryer. Most hunting catalogs have them and they are very cheap in the spring when winter hunting is over. They will dry out two pairs of cleats or a pair of cleats and GK gloves in about 3 hours…usually just enough time between matches at a tournament. 

Friendship- A close bond

By Susan Boyd, special contributor to

Author Dame Rose Macaulay wrote, ""We know one another's faults, virtues, catastrophes, mortifications, triumphs, rivalries, desires . . . We have been banded together under pack codes and tribal laws.""  Sounds like a bunch of soccer players and parents to me!

Here in Wisconsin the vast majority of high school and club soccer games are played in the rain.  All too often ""the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful"" as E.E Cummings tells it.  As my sons and their teammates emerge from the muck and stride towards my automobile I get flashes of Lord of the Flies and wonder if they will form their own tribe while lost on a soccer field island foraging for orange peels and half finished water bottles on the sidelines.  Then I snap to and worry about my leather seats and floor mats. 

I love being a fly on the wall (yes another fly reference) during those carpool trips when the boys are jostling around the back of the car, analyzing the game, arguing about relative super hero abilities, and then bursting into laughter because (how can I put this delicately) someone ""tooted.""  This is the stuff of friendship.  It can happen to chess team players, and choral groups, and girl scouts.  Friendship is that bond we all form over the nothingness of life that matters so much.  Add in the opportunity to win a game or conquer the elements and you have even more common ground.

Many avenues exist to good friendships, but soccer does provide a strong foundation for the formation of lasting relationships.  Robbie regularly spends time together with two soccer buddies that he didn't play with for two or three years.  They carpool together to school and now all three are on their varsity high school team.  But even in the interim when the three played for three different clubs they maintained their friendship and their support of one another.  Decisions about leaving a club team included whether or not they wanted to leave each other. 

When players have a passion for their sport, they share a strong bond.  Bryce once announced about a teammate, ""I am so into Chris and he is so into me.""  Bryce was right.  Even though Chris eventually chose sports other than soccer and moved about 45 minutes away, he and Bryce remain friends.  Bryce brought a friend home to do a school project and was shocked that I didn't recognize the boy from their six year old team.  I reminded him that they had both grown about 2 feet taller and had facial hair. 

Youth Soccer Month is nearly over, but it is a great springboard to renewing a love of soccer, enjoying the exercise, and sharing some family experiences.  It's also a great time to make new friends and explore new challenges.  My grandchildren are just beginning to participate in organized sports.  When I watch them out on the field running around, often with little idea of how the sport is actually played, I am delighted with their joy and their intensity.  Being able to tell them they did a great thing on the field or give them hug after a practice brings me tremendous satisfaction.  I also find it hard to believe that my own children were ever that small and ever that bouncy.  At dinner my oldest grandson was discussing his team and detailing to his parents who were his friends on the team.  He mentioned a dozen names, paused, and then said, ""I can't remember the names of the rest.""  That's exactly the way it should be.  You should have so many friends that you can't even remember their names…you just know you like them and they like you.  It's a great feeling to be part of a circle of friends.  As Winnie the Pooh says:  Friends are like smakerals of fun.  You can never have too many.""



FAMILY – (Multiple) Ties that Bind

By Susan Boyd, special contributor to

Perhaps the moon was in the seventh house or Jupiter was aligned with Mars, but the last weekend of August, we experienced a bizarre occurrence in the Boyd household. There was absolutely no soccer scheduled – no games, no practices, no team photos, no picnics, no travel, no soccer at all. As the realization washed over us that we could actually do things that the other families on our court do every weekend, we scrambled to discover what those things might be and organize to get them done. We could go bike riding, fly kites, read the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Harry Potter books, mow the lawn (yeah, right), Bar-B-Q, sleep in, paint the hallway (maybe not), take a nap, watch the Brewers, visit friends, or throw Frisbees. The possibilities for family time were endless.

We had just returned from a ten day trip to California to participate in the Red Bull League for Robbie and to get Bryce settled into the University of San Francisco. While in California we visited several colleges, went to the beach, saw our grandkids/nephews and nieces, went out to dinner, shopped the outlet malls, drove through Napa Valley and across the Golden Gate, played a trivia game, visited friends, drove along the craggy Big Sur, and trekked through San Simeon. We also managed a few chores along the way. We did our laundry in a Monterey Laundromat and set up a bank account for Bryce.

While on this trip Robbie and a teammate bunked together. Because his team travels so often, parents aren't always able to travel along, so occasionally Robbie invades another family or we take on an extra son or two. Bryce regularly used to trade off with his teammate Taylor. Some weekends we might have one son and other weekends we might have four sons. Each soccer weekend fills up with activities such as movies, go-carting, sightseeing, taking naps, and the most favorite activity of all – stuffing a hotel room with ten boys shouting at a video game.

Soccer has given our family the chance to see dozens of U.S. cities. We probably wouldn't plan trips to most of our soccer locations, yet at each we've discovered great things to do as a family. In Indianapolis we visited the NCAA Hall of Champions and the Children's Museum. In Dallas we went down to Dealey Plaza and the Book Depository Museum. In Tampa we discovered the sponge fishing village of Tarpon Springs where we ate Greek food and watched the boats go in and out of the harbor. On the other hand, when the boys want to venture off with their soccer friends' families, that's okay too. Family life has a safe fluidity in the soccer community. Our experience is that most soccer families consider all the teammates extended kin.

So here's where I call upon the clichéd to make a point. (And I'm just weak enough of a writer to do it too.) In point of fact it is the quality of family time not the quantity that defines your family (first cliché in case you missed it). And families aren't just the nuclear kind (second cliché). Clichéd or not, these statements are all true. What we did that soccer free weekend wasn't so different from what we do as a family on the soccer weekends. It's just easier to avoid mowing the lawn when you're 300 miles away from home.

In danger of stretching these clichés too far, soccer improved the quality of our family time by adding some life lessons. Going to soccer events as a family we have learned to support one another in good times and in bad. When the boys just want to sit in the back seat and steam over a loss, we learn to respect that silence. ""I don't want to talk about it,"" is much easier to deal with when the speaker can go to his room and slam the door and nearly impossible to support when everyone is cramped in an automobile driving 380 miles home from Des Moines. So we have learned, even if we haven't totally perfected it, the art of silence. On the other end of the spectrum, the cheerleader aspect of being a soccer parent opens the door to remembering that kids need approval off the field too. While we quickly can say, ""I'm proud of you,"" for a great play, we have learned to carry our enthusiasm over to school work, cleaning rooms, and helping out.

Granted any sport can provide the same ""family"" attributes that soccer offers, but I still think soccer is unique because of the amount of travel teams do and the year-round aspect of the sport. All this familiarity and togetherness could breed contempt, but we have experienced the opposite. The team family tends to work as a cohesive unit with ties that are only broken if someone leaves the team or the team reaches its natural conclusion. When Bryce played his last club team game in May, we parents stood around looking like lost lambs. It suddenly hit us that the family we had formed as a team over the course of up to ten years was going to end that day. While many of us would continue our friendships outside of the soccer games, that enclave of sideline supporters would never again be an interrelated unit sharing the ups and downs of the game, looking out for each other's children, and finding agreement on the important issues of fouls and offside calls. Here's my third and final cliché – it does take a village to raise a child. But I'd like to paraphrase it and say it takes a gaggle of soccer parents to raise a team. The soccer team family works well as a unit and each soccer family within the team family enjoys nuclear and extended family activities.

So what did we do that free weekend? Well it was raining, so we had a good excuse. We watched soccer. After all, wouldn't you watch your extended family if they were on national TV?



FUN - Priceless

By Susan Boyd, special contributor to

My very first experience with soccer came on a dismal dripping October morning in Frankfort, Germany. I attended a Gymnasium there (which means high school and not gym) and we had sport once a month on a Wednesday. Ironically we traveled about thirty minutes by street car to a real gym in order to do our sport. This month was soccer – outdoors in the mud. Not exactly the set-up one would expect for fun.

I had no knowledge of the game and even less skill. It was a trial by mud and thunder. This was in the days when I could actually run, kick, and get up off the ground. I didn't own cleats, but all the boys had them in their bags, so the girls spent more time slipping and sliding than the chaps. I am left footed, so that made me an automatic celebrity. I played left midfield, which meant most of the midfield was left on me. After the game the entire muddy lot of us boarded our various streetcars and headed for home. None of the riders gave us a second look, although they did give us a wide berth. That's when I began to notice how often on the street cars there were kids in their soccer kits cradling a well-used ball and talking about this player or that play. I still smile as I write this remembering how much fun I had.

I was hooked. I began to follow the teams – everyone in my class agreed that Bayern Munchen was the best – they won the German Cup that year and the European Cup – though we did respect the home team Eintracht Frankfurt. I skipped school, with permission, to attend a game (or three). I began to appreciate the athleticism of the players and the artistry of the sport. Soccer gave me, a garbled German-speaking American, the common ground upon which I built friendships and a reason to read the paper and watch TV. Soccer was fun, and not just to play. It was fun to talk about, fun to watch, fun to share, fun to criticize, fun to savor.

I can easily claim soccer as the basis of dozens of my best memories. Though far too old and creaky to play, I can leave that to the younger enthusiasts while I sit back and enjoy the ballet of tactical movements, the theater of fouls, the opera of protests, and the comedy of errors.

When my oldest son, Bryce, was first learning soccer, he would snatch the ball and bulldoze down the field. Then with a mighty swish he would kick the ball towards the goal and land on his derriere. This process would be repeated each time he would shoot. Parents on the sidelines enjoyed the fierce determination of the kick and the subsequent purposeful drop to his rear. After a few games, I couldn't resist. ""Bryce, do you think you have to fall down every time you kick the ball?"" He looked at me dumbfounded. ""No."" ""Then why do you do it?"" ""Because it's fun!""

I remember that whenever I find myself getting frustrated at a game. Or when I have the urge to ""coach"" from the sidelines. Or when our team is losing. Or when we have to sweep the snow off the sidelines in order to have a game. Or when we are sitting in the car waiting out a lightning storm for the third time in just 10 minutes of play. Or when we blow a tire on the way to a tournament. Or during any of the dozens of not so great moments. No matter what, soccer is supposed to be fun for the kids, for the teenagers and for the parents. Soccer IS fun. We need to find the fun and relish that above everything else.

Three years ago we went to see my old favorite Bayern Munchen play my new favorite Manchester United at Soldier Field. I had procrastinated getting tickets, so I was shocked when we got second row on the center line – apparently procrastination has its advantages when they release last minute VIP seats on the day you decide to get tickets. Bryce and Robbie were beside themselves with anticipation. Our family reveled in our good fortune to be just feet away from soccer players of the caliber of these men. However, as the line-up was announced thousands of fans began to boo. Around us we heard everyone complaining, ""They aren't even playing the good players."" The entire game the crowd continued to complain and boo occasionally. I suppose if you cataloged the cost, tickets $150, t-shirt $25, scarf $35, soda $5, you might be persuaded to consider the day a bust. But as the ad says, the priceless moment was coming.

Regulation time ended up tied. They went straight to a shootout with Oliver Kahn in goal for Bayern. My goalkeeper son was enthralled. This was going to be the best twenty minutes of soccer he had ever experienced. He was 200 feet away from a goalkeeper icon performing the top feat of goalkeeping. I could hear him hold his breath as the kicker approached the spot. I watched him leap out of his seat as Kahn made a save. Priceless. I actually don't remember who won. It didn't matter. We were having fun.



FITNESS - Fit is not just a noun

By Susan Boyd, special contributor to

It's September and besides the last days at the pool, the first day of school, and the on going attempt to squeeze in just a few more of those outdoor projects, it is also Youth Soccer Month. Each week is a theme and this week, it is ""Fitness.""

If you know me, you know that I am probably the worst example of fitness anyone could find. If you looked up fitness in the dictionary, you would find my picture in a red circle with a big diagonal slash through it and the word, WARNING flashing underneath. I am of ""a certain age,"" do my dining at restaurants that always ask ""Do you want fries with that?"", have a sedentary job, and take ibuprofen three times a day for back and knee pain. Whoever would be the poster girl for fitness lives in a parallel universe to mine. That being said, I still think I can offer some insights based on my recent fitness experiences. Read and then go do otherwise.

It is not that I don't want to be fit. But for me, the emphasis is definitely on the word ""fit"" as in ""how do I fit exercise into my life?"" Several years ago I came up with what I thought was a brilliant solution. I have a busy life, but I always attend my kids' games. So to squeeze some fitness in I began walking around the soccer fields before games started. I figured out that six trips around a standard adult soccer field equaled more than a mile in walking. I set up my chair on the sidelines, and while my sons ran their cross-field warm-ups and did their pre-game small-sided scrimmages, I could get a mile or two in of walking. It lasted just three games. Both my boys protested vehemently. ""What do you think you're doing? Everyone is looking at you."" When I tried to plead for my health, they would have none of it. Clearly I had to find another solution.

I do walk our two dogs every day. You might be saying, ""Well, Susan, there you go. Walking dogs is great exercise."" You might say that . . . until you met my dogs. Their names are Caramel (because she is orange) and Cobi Jones. Caramel suffers from just about any type of anxiety that exists. She once ate the seven foot cushions on our couch in a fit of separation anxiety. Cobi suffers from acute happiness. He honestly believes that every car, truck, motorcycle, bike and/or scooter has come out to play with him and makes it his goal to greet them head on no matter the speed or circumstances. Walking the two of them is like corralling a tornado. I can't get through the ordeal fast enough. Oh, try doing it in January with an inch of ice on the roads.

My real wish is to have a treadmill that I absolutely pledge to use every morning for at least 20 minutes. The problem with this solution is that I have been wishing for seven years. One day I may actually go to a store and buy one.

So for now I rely on the brief and chaotic dog walks, parking my car away from the fields and walking to them, sneaking in a few circuits of soccer fields a distance from my boys' eye view, and working on making that commitment to buy a treadmill. I know what I need to do…the trick is to actually ""fit"" it in.




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