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SUNDAY BRUNCH

The Goal: Surviving Soccer

September 20, 1998|MARNELL JAMESON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Why didn't anybody tell me?

If only I'd known.

Such were the sighs Laurel Phillips and Barbara Stahl uttered as they shared the glory and misery on the sidelines of their children's travel soccer teams. So they huddled and wrote a book. "S.O.S.--Soccer on the Sidelines" is a humorous and practical handbook for the parents of the 2.5 million youths who play travel soccer in this country.

Though many of the book's tips apply to the 13 million moms whose kids play travel and recreational soccer, Phillips and Stahl discovered a whole new, well, ball game.

Moms deserve fair warning. The humorously illustrated, 50-page book published by Stahl's publishing company, 307 Books, offers sensible insights on serious soccer survival--from tryouts to uniforms to team travel to politics.

Here are a few tips from the trenches from moms who wished they'd known sooner:

* On socks: Think three pairs are enough? Think again. Then buy a dozen and consider stock in a bleach company.

* On shoes: Splurge on leather. The money you save buying synthetic shoes you'll more than spend on foot fungus medication.

* On long games: As kids get older, games get longer. Think about that before you brag to baseball moms that you get to go home after an hour.

* On weather: Don't ever fail to show up because you assume no sane person would play in freezing rain. If you're sitting in a downpour, don't count on the game being called unless, literally, lightning strikes.

* On travel: Book early and stay with the team. Room availability may run short and your child will be furious that he / she isn't with his / her team. For that reason, resist the temptation to stay in a less expensive hotel--your team will rarely stay at the hotel deluxe.

* On hotel stays: Don't don your pajamas too early because roaming bands of soccer players will likely descend on your room. Oh, and ever hear of hotel tag?

* On car preservation: Keep several large plastic trash bags in tow--one to put muddy equipment in, the others for players to sit on.

* On cheering: Don't hold back--on the positive, that is. Most kids feign embarrassment at their parents' enthusiasm, but they'd miss it if you weren't there. Involvement starts out so innocently, recalls Phillips, whose three children have all played

soccer.

"But as kids advance, the time commitment becomes a critical mass in your life and there's no respite. They play year-round." But, she reasons, "If it keeps them away from sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, it's worth it."

And though deep down Phillips, who lives in Ohio and keeps a second home on Lake Michigan, knows the soccer sideline is where she wants to be, she still asks herself, when the game is slow and she's on some field 100 miles from home, hot, dusty and sun-scorched, "Why am I not at the lake?"

Phillips and Stahl are planning another book for hockey moms and another for moms of figure skaters called, possibly, "Moms on the Edge."

("S.O.S." retails for $8.95, and is available through http://www.amazon.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, or call 307 Books at (888) 307-2046.)

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