Authors: Fred Bowen
GO FOR THE
For everyone who works so hard to get books to
kids—especially my friends at Turning the Page,
First Book, and KPMG’s Family for Literacy
osh Bradshaw burst through the front door and scrambled upstairs. Aidan McFarland, Josh’s best friend, was not far behind.
“Hey, keep it down,” Josh’s father called as the door slammed behind the boys. “I’m trying to work.”
“It’s just Aidan and me, Dad,” Josh called back. “We’re going to my room.”
The two friends tossed their backpacks onto the bedroom floor, which was covered in dirty clothes and old school papers. “Man, carrying around all these books should get us in shape for soccer,” Aidan said. He
glanced at Josh and added, “Do you think it’s on the website yet?”
“Coach Hodges said she would post the list of players who made the team on Monday,” Josh said.
The boys smiled and sang out together: “And it’s Monday!”
“Where’s your laptop?” Aidan asked, looking around the room.
“I think it’s on my bed somewhere.” Josh pushed away the sheets. “Here it is.” He flipped open his computer and took a deep breath.
“Why are you so nervous?” Aidan said, scooting onto the bed next to Josh. “We’ll make it.”
“I don’t know,” Josh said as he started tapping the keys. “There were a lot of good players at the tryouts. Coach can’t keep everybody.”
“Yeah, but you’re the best scorer,” Aidan insisted. “You must have scored a million goals for the Flames last year.”
“Playing with a rec-league team like the Flames is different,” Josh said. “The United’s
a travel team. They’re like All-Stars.”
“I know. That’s why playing with the United will be so cool,” Aidan said. “Everybody’s good.”
The United website popped up and the boys leaned closer. “Click on
” Aidan said.
“There it is!” Josh shouted as he read from the screen. “United Names U-14 Team.” His heart jumped. He wasn’t at all confident he had made it.
“Come on! Click it!” screamed Aidan.
“Okay, okay,” Josh said. A list of names appeared.
|Evan Perry||Kadir Sims|
|Victor Baldassi||Aidan McFarland|
|Robert Brodie||Langston Adams|
|Dylan Cole||Demetrius Brown|
|Patrick West||Thomas Smythe|
|Joshua Bradshaw||Ty Robinson|
|Mario Barretto||Robin Hall|
|Noah Stern||Fletcher Downing|
|Paul Chambers||Walter Winwood|
The room was quiet as the boys scanned the list. Then, at the same instant they shouted, “Yes! We made it!”
They jumped off the bed and bounced around the bedroom, bumping chests and throwing clothes into the air. “We are the United! We are the United! We are the United!” they chanted at the top of their lungs.
Mr. Bradshaw stuck his head into the room. “Keep it down, will you,” he said sharply. “I told you I was—”
“We made it, Dad!” The words burst out of Josh. “The United! We made the team.”
Mr. Bradshaw’s head snapped back in surprise. “They’ve posted the roster already?”
Aidan turned the laptop around. “Take a look.”
Josh’s father leaned over the screen. A satisfied smile creased his face. “All right!” he said. “Congratulations!” He traded high fives with Josh and Aidan, then looked back at the screen. “Do you know any of these other guys?”
Josh and Aidan studied the roster.
“That guy Mario played in our league last year. He was good,” Josh said. “We got Patrick West too. He’s an awesome goalie.”
“And we played against that kid, Kadir Sims, in rec league,” Aidan said. “He was kind of a whiner. Always looking at the ref to call a penalty.”
“Remember, we were playing
him,” Josh said. “Now we’re going to be playing
Josh kept studying the roster. “Evan Perry. He was that kid with the fancy red shoes who played midfield during the scrimmages,” Josh recalled. “He acted like he’s the next Pelé or something.”
“Someone said he played for the United last season,” Aidan said. “He’s good.”
“Victor Baldassi played for the United last season too,” Josh added. “I’ve heard about him. He’s a terrific scorer.” Josh smiled. “I can’t believe we’re going to be playing with these guys.”
“Remember you two are as good as any of them,” Mr. Bradshaw said. “Coach picked you because you could help the team.”
Josh was quiet for a moment. He could feel a certain pride swelling up inside him.
I’ve always wanted to play on a really great team—a team like the United,
And now I’ve got my chance.
“When are practices?” his father asked.
“Tuesdays and Thursdays. I guess we start tomorrow.”
“What about games?”
“Click on the schedules,” Aidan said.
A list of dates and team names replaced the roster on the screen.
|September 1||Labor Day Tournament||TBA|
|October 6||Red Devils|
|October 20||Columbus Day Tournament||TBA|
|November 10||Veterans Day Tournament||TBA|
|December 1||League Tournament||TBA|
|December 2||League Tournament||TBA|
League Games—All League Games will be played at the Soccerplex
“The ones with the stars are the league games,” Josh explained. “Coach Hodges said we’re going to play in a bunch of tournaments too.”
“Where’s the coach from?” Mr. Bradshaw asked.
Josh clicked a picture of Coach Hodges and read her biography. “She played four years at University of Notre Dame—”
“They’re good,” Aidan interrupted.
“She’s been coaching the United for three years,” Josh continued. “She’s the real deal.”
“Yeah, she seemed like she knew her stuff at the tryouts,” Aidan said.
Josh clicked a small picture of last year’s United team and it filled the screen.
“I love their uniforms!” Aidan shouted.
uniforms,” Josh corrected. “Hey look, there’s Evan.”
“Is he wearing red shoes?” Mr. Bradshaw asked.
Josh and Aidan laughed and then returned to surfing through the site, taking
in everything—the schedules, the pictures, the uniforms—in almost reverent silence.
Finally, Josh turned and smiled at Aidan and his dad. “Playing for the United is going to be
cool!” he declared.
Coach Hodges blew her whistle long and loud. In midstride, the United players stopped their drills. “All right, water break,” Coach announced.
“Finally,” Josh said. The sweat was pouring down his face as he turned the tiny spigot at the bottom of the big orange jug and filled his water bottle. “This thing is so slow,” he said, wiping his forehead with the back of his arm. Before the bottle was even half full, he yanked it back and took big grateful gulps.
“Move over,” Aidan said, pushing his own bottle under the spigot.
Instead of drinking his water, Aidan dumped it over his head and let the cold
water splash onto his sweaty hair and down his back. He wiped his mouth with his wet T-shirt. “Tough practice,” he said in a low voice. “Especially for the first one.”
“It’s not too bad,” Josh said. “It’s just the heat. It’s August. It’s not going to be hot much longer.”
Aidan looked over at Evan, who was in the water line. “Hey, Evan, are practices always going to be like this?”
“What do you mean?”
Josh picked up on Aidan’s question. “You know, just drills. Not many breaks. It seems like Coach never lets up.”
Evan shot a phony smile at the other United players in line and then said a little too loudly, “What’s the matter? Can’t you take it, rookie? This isn’t rec league, you know.” His teammates chuckled.
“We can take it,” Josh answered, feeling annoyed. “We were just asking.”
“If you can’t take it,” Evan continued, “Coach’ll find somebody else. She got rid of two guys last year. Cut ‘em after a couple practices.”
“Really?” Aidan blurted out.
“Sure,” Evan said, splashing some water on his face. “Coach is always looking to get better. Lots of guys want to play on the United.”
“Okay, break’s over. Let’s hustle.” Coach Hodges looked at her watch. “We have time for a quick scrimmage. Nine on nine. C’mon, let’s go.” She grabbed a handful of yellow mesh shirts and called out names for the two teams.
“Looks like we’re on different teams,” Aidan said as Josh pulled the yellow shirt over his head.
“Yeah, I get to play with Mr. Red Shoes,” Josh said, eyeing Evan’s fancy footwear.
“Lucky you,” Aidan teased. “Watch out. He might make you kiss his shoes.”
“Well, at least he can play,” Josh said. “Did you see him in the drills? The guy’s got some serious skills.”
“So does everybody on this team. Victor. Kadir. Mario. Patrick. They all can play.”
“That’s why it’s going to be so much better
than playing for the Flames,” Josh said.
“Okay, let’s get started!” Coach shouted. “I want to see some hustle.”
Josh studied the two teams on the practice pitch. Neither team was stacked with the best players.
Looks like Coach Hodges hasn’t picked the starting team yet,
I better play well if I want to be a starter—or play at all.
The scrimmage started fast. Evan chipped a ball into the offensive zone and Josh raced after it. A defender battled Josh with a grab at his shirt and an elbow to his ribs. Josh glanced at Coach Hodges, expecting a call.
“Play on!” she barked. “Come on, Josh, get some space!” Coach kept after him. “I thought you were fast. Use your speed.”
Josh noticed the United scrimmage was faster, tougher, and much more competitive than the Flames rec-league games.
I gotta start dishing it out instead of just taking it,
“Five more minutes,” Coach called out to the team. “Let’s see more ball movement, more passing.”
Evan made a steal and dribbled upfield. Seeing an opening, Josh darted up the wing, stretching out his hand, trying to get Evan’s attention. But Evan ignored him and kept charging forward.
Aidan stopped Evan with a perfect tackle and his team took possession.
Josh couldn’t believe it. Maybe it was the heat, but he was getting tired of Evan hogging the ball. He turned and hustled back on defense. A few minutes later, the scrimmage ended. No goals. No more scoring chances.
“Good work, guys!” Coach Hodges shouted. “Not bad for a first practice. Especially in this weather.”
“Any news about the tournaments?” Victor asked.
“Not yet. Don’t worry. I’ll e-mail everyone about the first tournament. See you Thursday.”
The players headed straight for the water jug and one last cold drink. Aidan and Josh held back and let the others go first.
“We didn’t look so great,” Aidan said as he picked at his sweaty T-shirt to keep it from
sticking to his skin.
“It’s gonna take time,” Josh said, using his own T-shirt to wipe his face. “It’s just our first practice and it was super hot. We’re not with the Flames anymore where we knew everybody. We gotta get used to these guys. Our timing was off.”
“There was a lot of pushing and grabbing out there,” Aidan said.
Josh laughed. “Maybe that’s why our timing was off.”
The players trudged through the steamy air and toward their parents, who waited in their air-conditioned cars.
“Hey, Evan,” Josh called ahead to the United midfielder. “I thought you were going to pass me the ball on that play. I was open on the wing. Didn’t you see me?”
Evan turned. He looked surprised. “Yeah, I saw you,” he said. “But you didn’t do much with the first ball I chipped to you. So why would I …”
Evan didn’t finish his sentence. He got distracted when he spotted his dad waving and calling for him to hurry up.
Josh stopped short and shot a glance at Aidan.
“Ouch,” Aidan said.
“What’s with that guy?” Josh asked, his eyes blazing. “He acts like he owns the team.”
Aidan threw his arm around his friend’s shoulder and said, “I guess he’s just saying, ‘Welcome to the United.’“