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By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
Halfway's Todd Robinette had a mental checklist that he completed before leaving his house Saturday morning for the YMCA soccer opener at the Baker Sports Complex.
Collapsible camp chairs, check.
Digital camera click.
"A digital camera is a must anymore," he says, taking a break from the back-and-forth waves of action that is youth soccer. "It gives you the ability to erase what you don't want to keep."
"In soccer you end up with a lot of pictures of the backs of kids' heads," says Francis Tyler, who's enjoying the game between Baker City and Halfway 7- and 8-year-olds seated next to Robinette. "You can delete it with a click and pretend it never happened."
The men are there to support their kids, Dalton and Wyatt, two of the mainstays on the Halfway team that spends more than half its season playing road games in Baker City.
People who spend that much time on the road are wise to invest a few minutes planning what they'll bring. Halfway's Melody Baxter, whose six children are spread all the way between YMCA leagues and high school soccer, has lugged a cooler full of tuna sandwiches, dried apples and pears, plus sacks of potato chips and a jug of water for a day that began in Baker City at 10 a.m. Saturday and didn't end until the final whistle blew about 3:30 p.m.
"Then it's off to the grocery store," she says with a perennial smile that only opening day can bring about.
Baxter doesn't mind the long hours and 100-plus miles. Halfway parents are used to packing plenty of gear for their hour-long trip to Baker City; Baker City parents in turn make at least one trip each season to watch their children play in Halfway.
What some of the parents of the 260 YMCA children ages 5 through 14 are still figuring out is a problem that has perplexed parents for years: what to bring when it's your turn to provide the post-game snacks and drinks that many players readily admit is the most important part of their soccer experience.
The answers are as varied as the families themselves.
Kathleen Chaves, who coaches her son's Under-6 team, advises her parents to "bring drinks, but hide the cups at least until halftime or else you spend the whole time walking back and forth to the bathroom."
Post-game snacks should be tasty, she believes, but not too sugary.
"We're all parents," she says. "We've to to live with them after the game."
As important as the snacks are the attitudes that the players exhibit on the many playing fields at the Sports Complex, Chaves believes.
"We ask our parents to support their children and the other children as well," she said.
At that entry level, it often doesn't matter which goal the ball slips into just that the child has scored, Chaves said.
The YMCA's checklist
Gary Stalder, who directs the Baker County Family YMCA, said he believes parents should pack two additional items when they leave home: plenty of hugs and praises.
Stalder's son, John, who plays high school soccer, is not too old to receive either of those, he says.
"We've got to follow him every minute on the field," he says. "When he does something good, he looks over to make sure we've noticed."
Stalder says he doesn't go over any preferred snack menu during his annual coaches meeting. What teams end up serving runs the range from granola bars to chocolate cupcakes. That's OK, Stalder says.
"I have a brother-in-law who's a nutritionist," he said, "and he told me those granola bars aren't so good for you, either."
Saturday's action featured 14 games, team and individual photographs and the annual Elks Soccer Shoot, where players are invited to test their individual skills and win prizes.
Simultaneously but separately, grown-ups held a co-ed softball tournament at the Sports Complex.
"I didn't hear one negative comment," Stalder said. "Overall it all went pretty well."
On top of all the Sports Complex action on Saturday, 67 children in grades 4 through 6 were playing YMCA tackle football in Baker Bulldog Memorial Stadium.
The YMCA football players will put on their second exhibition during halftime of Friday's Scappoose-Baker matchup no doubt with flashes going off and parents grinning and cheering from the grandstand.
And, with any luck, providing something good to eat afterward.