Mom, dad always there for Boogaard
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
When Hawai'i recruited Susie Boogaard it had no idea it was bringing in the Boogaard family. Neither did the Boogaards.
Through a quirk of aviation fate, hard work early in their family life and a blood bond the Pacific Ocean could not break, John and Susan Boogaard have watched nearly every match their daughter Susie has played in her four-year Rainbow Wahine career.
They live in Bellflower, Calif., yet have seen more matches than some players.
"Her family needs to talk to every family in the country about coming to Hawai'i," says UH coach Dave Shoji, sensing a recruiting gem. "They have made it work. I'm sure they would have liked her to go to UCLA or USC so they could have gone to every match. They have made a lot of sacrifices, but if you talk to them, they'll say it's worth it. They are hard-core fans and have been there for us and everybody."
It hasn't been easy or cheap, but the family has been creative.
John Boogaard closed his thriving real estate brokerage two years ago and now works out of his home, giving out his cell phone to clients. You might see him doing deals at pre-game potlucks, in the stands at Stan Sheriff Center tonight or tomorrow when the 11th-ranked Rainbows face Fresno State and Nevada, or by fax and computer.
Some deals have dissolved over the Pacific. It is a price he was more than willing to pay.
"I look at it as, you can always work, you can't always watch your daughter," John said. "I'd have felt sick if I'd missed it."
Susan has been a volunteer coach at Valley Christian High School, even guiding Susie's senior team when her daughter threatened, semi-seriously, to play football if she didn't. That left her free to take her three girls to lessons and games as they grew up.
"They made sure they were at every activity we've ever done," Susie says of her parents. "From soccer to choir concerts. I'm the youngest, so it got easier."
Until the Rainbow Wahine came calling, drawn by her size and "volleyball IQ." Susie, who didn't even like to stay over at friends' houses as a child, fell hard for Hawai'i with its "great college atmosphere," idyllic location and realistic shot at a national championship.
"I wanted to be able to play a lot, but I wanted to be on a real good team," Boogaard recalled. "I wanted to earn a position."
Her parents backed her decision and didn't give the distance "that much thought, other than, 'She is playing, we've got to go.' " Fate intervened when ATA Airlines offered an annual pass to Hawai'i, a practice ending now that Boogaard is graduating.
John and Susan have each had one since 2002, and make 10 to 15 trips a year here. It is still costly (passes were $1,700 the first year and $2,500 the last), particularly when you tack on room, board and Mainland travel. But for the Boogaards, it is another price they are willing to pay.
"I think we've even grown closer, in different ways," Susie said. "I've always been extremely close to my parents, but they're more friends now than parents because I'm on my own.
"The distance does make a difference, but because they are here all the time it's easier. I can be independent and do what I want to do. If I was at home, I wouldn't have that independence."
The unbroken bond has allowed Boogaard to reach her athletic potential, according to Shoji. She has made a successful transition from the "Kim (Willoughby)/Lily (Kahumoku) Era" to this drastically different bunch that has been so startling the past two seasons. The Rainbow Wahine are 109-11 in the "Susie/Ashley (Watanabe) Era."
Boogaard has been in the center of it all, literally, with her passing the most prized part of her game. She rarely leaves the floor and, in a testament to her work ethic, often looks fresher in the fifth game than the first.
Ironically, Shoji says few outside the team will realize how valuable Boogaard is until she leaves. She is the only player capable of passing in all six rotations and has seemlessly made what can be an awkward move, from left-side hitter to right.
She probably plays more roles than any Rainbow on the floor, but her soft-spoken personality and rapt attention to the detailed parts of the game only noticed if they are botched, usually keep her under the radar. And, Boogaard's best quality might be that she is a steadying influence on a team that can be desperately in need of steadying.
"People don't appreciate the stuff she does for the team," Shoji said. "She's hitting 20 percent and that's not a great number, but she does so much more for our team that people don't appreciate. People who know our team and appreciate other parts of the game understand what she gives us."
Her father is, without question, her biggest fan and most severe critic. "She hears me in the crowd and gets kinda irritated," John said. "That's just the way the deal goes. ... I'm so thrilled she's achieved what she's been able to achieve."
Boogaard describes her mother, without hesitation, as the most inspirational person in her life. When she plays her final home match next month, her parents will bring along 48 of their closest friends and family.
It will be the end of a memorable long-distance era the Boogaards never imagined four years ago. While Susie was zoning in on UH, her sister was struggling with the separation early in her volleyball career at UC Santa Barbara, less than 2 hours from the Boogaard home. She ultimately had a successful career at Biola, but it brought up a crucial question when Susie was packing her bags.
"I said, 'Susie, when you miss us in Hawai'i, what do you want me to say?' " Susan recalled. "She said, 'Don't let me come home, no matter what.'
"She went through some homesickness, but I never saw the tears. I'd drop her off at the airport and it would be very, very difficult leaving my baby, but it got easier and now she's made a nice life out there. To a mom, that's what matters. It was very hard. I didn't want my baby to go so far, but we never told her that. And it's been great, a fairy tale story."
Reach Ann Miller at email@example.com.