Authors: Jerry McGinley
A GOAL FOR JOAQUIN
Young Adult Adventure
by Jerry McGinley
Â©2012 by Jerry McGinley
Published 2012 by The Fiction Works
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission, except for brief quotations to books and critical reviews. This story is a work of fiction. Characters and events are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
This book was originally published in hardcover under the title
Joaquin Strikes Back
. That version was published by Tudor Books Inc. of Greensboro, North Carolina. The author appreciates the cooperation of publisher Eugene Pfaff, Jr. in releasing the rights of publication. Copyright 1997 by Jerry McGinley.
bookmarks:What the Critics Had to Say
“One of the Top 100 Most Inspiring Teachers
in the United States.”â
“I recommend this [story] for all ages.”
â Robyn Foster,
Wisconsin State Journal
“Incorporates solid messages about succeeding
in sports and life in general.”
School Library Journal
Recommended reading list of
the World Soccer Network
Recommended list for books about Latinos
(Barahona Center at California State
University San Marcos)
For Megan, Shannon, and Gail
With less than a minute left in the game, Joaquin Lopez sat on the bench staring at the ground. He had been sitting there the entire game. Each time his team had a throw-in, he looked at his coach, hoping to hear the call for a substitution. Several times the coach asked the referee to stop play to allow for a substitute to enter the game, but Joaquin never heard his name called. He was the only member of the Lakeshore team not to see action in a game this season. He could not understand why he was being left out. Sure he was new on the team, but Joaquin knew that he was a good enough player to really help his team. However, for some reason, Coach Sommers completely ignored him.
When he heard the yells and screams coming from the opposing fans on the far side of the field, Joaquin reluctantly raised his head to see what was going on. When he did, he saw one of the players from Blakefield racing down the field, expertly dribbling the ball with his feet, zig-zagging through the Lakeshore defense as though their shoes were glued to the grass. When he was thirty yards from the goal, the little striker faked to the left, then flicked the ball from his left foot to his right, and broke deftly toward the middle of the field. The sluggish Lakeshore fullback stumbled awkwardly in the wrong direction, and the Blakefield player flashed toward the goal. None of the other Lakeshore players was close enough to cut-off the offensive charge. Joaquin shivered as he watched the opposing player go one-on-one with the Lakeshore goalkeeper. The crafty little ballhandler made a quick fake to the right and then sent the ball sailing toward the left goal post. The goalkeeper was caught leaning in the wrong direction and never came within five feet of the ball.
The fans on the far side of the field let out a loud roar as the ball flew into the net. The scoreboard showed five goals for Blakefield and none for Lakeshore. Joaquin rubbed his arms to smooth out the goose-bumps. He felt angry and hurt and confused. He wanted to play so badly. There was no doubt in his mind that he could make plays for his team just like the one he had watched his opponent make. If only he could have a chance.
He remembered what his mother said when he came home discouraged after a practice. “Be patient, Joaquin, you just moved here. The coach doesn't know you yet. When he sees how well you play, he'll give you a chance. Just wait and see. Everything will work out.”
Joaquin wished he had his mother's faith. Perhaps she was right. He should not become discouraged so quickly. He knew this, yet it was so hard. He had always been a starter on his old teams. He had been playing since he was five, and he was always considered one of the top players in whatever league he was competing in. In fact, when he was eleven years old, his coaches had moved him up to an older division because they felt there wasn't enough competition among players his own age. It was painful to think about these memories now.
Mercifully, his quiet thoughts were interrupted by three shrill blasts from the referee's whistle. Time had run out. The game was over. Joaquin stood up and walked out to meet his teammates. They dragged themselves toward the sideline covered with sweat and mud and despair. Most heads were dragging. No one spoke or even looked at the other team members as they gathered around the bench to pick up sweat suits and water bottles. As they walked toward the awaiting school bus, there was nearly total silence. Joaquin walked alone, lost in his thoughts.
Suddenly he heard Coach Sommers call in a harsh voice, “J
gather up the practice balls and the other equipment and carry it to the bus. The rest of you guys sit down. I want to say a few things about the way you played out there today. Hurry up and get your tails over here!”
Joaquin didn't know what hurt more, the intentional mispronunciation of his name or the fact that he was clearly being left out of the team meeting. He lowered his head and walked over to pick up the mesh bag which held all the practice balls. No one acknowledged him. It was unclear whether the other players disliked him, or if they were simply afraid to cross their coach by showing sympathy to the new player.
After gathering the equipment, Joaquin strolled slowly toward the bus. He was a short boy for a sophomore in high school, and with his shoulders stooped and his head down, he looked even smaller. He considered running over to the bus with the equipment and then returning to the field to join in the meeting, but he was afraid he might be told to leave, and he was too proud to be further humiliated by his coach. He trudged along wondering if things would ever get better. Was there really any reason to stay on a team where the coach and the other players obviously didn't want him? But what else could he do? He loved soccer. He had played year-round when he lived in California. How could he ever give up something that meant so much to him?
When he reached the bus, the driver opened the door and asked something about how the game had gone. Joaquin paid little attention to the question and muttered a response so quietly that the driver would never have understood it even if it had made any sense. He walked to the back of the bus, set the practice balls and other equipment on the back seat, then sat down beside it. With the equipment stacked beside him on the seat, he wouldn't feel so self-conscious when nobody sat next to him. This way there was a reason.
He sat on the empty bus and mulled over his situation. Why did his family have to move to Wisconsin? Things were so much better when they lived in San Diego. He knew that his father had gotten an excellent job as a computer consultant at a large insurance company located just outside of Madison, but he questioned whether his dad's new job and higher salary were worth the agony. He remembered how it all started in early August.
His dad had come home from work an hour earlier than usual. He was carrying travel books and brochures. Though normally quiet and rather subdued about expressing his feelings, his father was beaming with excitement that day. His grin was as wide as his face, and his dark eyes were afire with happiness. “I hope no one has plans this evening,” he proclaimed, “because I want to take everyone out to Alberto's for dinner. Tonight we are celebrating. Tonight we will make plans for a new adventure in our lives.”
Joaquin's mother looked at him with a mixture of joy and curiosity. “Miguel, did you win the lottery or rob a bank?”
He moved toward her and threw his arms around her shoulders. “I did neither, but what I did do will mean more money for the family. And it will mean a better job for me. I have been offered a new job with an insurance company. I will be working with computers, doing just what I enjoy, and I'll have a big office and make twice as much money as I make now. That means a better house for us and college for the kids.” He could not contain his happiness. “I've been trying for this job for several weeks, but I didn't say anything because I didn't want anyone to feel disappointed if it fell through. But I got a call this afternoon. I've been offered the position.”
“That's great! I'm very proud of you. All those night classes that you took, they've really paid off.” The wide smile on her face clearly showed that Joaquin's mother shared her husband's excitement.
Joaquin remembered how his excitement for his father's good news had waned when he was told that the new job was in a city two thousand miles away. That meant he would have to leave the town where he had lived his whole life. It would mean leaving his friends, his teammates, and his cousins, Lupe and Filipe, who were more like brothers than cousins. But Joaquin didn't want to spoil his father's excitement by bringing up these concerns. He knew how hard his dad had worked to get his degree from the technical college. He had resolved from the day he learned about the move to make the most of the changes. He tried not to complain about how painful the transition had been. He tried, but it wasn't easy keeping his feelings hidden.
After about ten minutes, the players began to file onto the bus. No one said a word. No one looked at Joaquin. The players slowly dropped into seats and stared at the floor of the bus. It was at least another five minutes before Coach Sommers appeared and took the front seat right behind the driver. He spoke to no one and didn't even acknowledge the members of his team. The bus lurched forward, and the defeated team rode silently back to Lakeshore High School.
Once in the school parking lot, the players quietly left the bus and headed in various directions. Joaquin picked up the bag of soccer balls and other equipment sitting on his seat and headed toward the front of the bus.
“Make sure that stuff gets put away where it belongs,” Coach Sommers ordered. “And you better make sure every ball is accounted for. If anything is missing, you're replacing it. You understand,
? I'll have your taco allowance for the rest of the semester is any balls are lost.”
Joaquin was humiliated. He couldn't respond or even look at his coach. He brushed the thick black hair from his eyebrows. “Why does he hate me so much?” Joaquin wondered to himself as he walked toward the locker room. “Why can't he just give me a chance?” He was fighting to hold back tears as he trudged through the dark hallway leading to the athletic storage cage. If only his old coach could move here and take over the team. Then things would be okay. But that wasn't going to happen, and Joaquin knew it. He would either have to put up with Coach Sommers and his cruel comments, or he would have to give up playing high school soccer. Neither option was appealing.
After finishing his chores in the locker room, Joaquin left through the side door, making sure it was locked behind him. He'd been warned several times about locking up before leaving. He didn't want more trouble from his coach than he already had. When he got to the parking lot, the rest of the players were gone. He would walk home alone again, but that was good because he didn't want to talk to any of his teammates.