Saturday, December 26, 2015

Wrong-Way Alex: Soccer Surprise by Emma Carlson Berne

Moving is hard.

Alex had lots of friends back in Florida, and she was the star forward for her soccer team. Now she's halfway across the country in Texas. She has one possible friend, Lin, but the other girls on the Strikers team have known each other forever, and her new coach puts her on defense where she has no chance to score. Still Alex tries hard. Then in her first game, something happens.

Without thinking, Alex fell back into the role of a forward. She intercepted the ball. In A quick, one-two dribble. Alex ran for the goal.

The net was wide open. Alex booted the ball into the goal.

SMACK! Nothing was as satisfying as that sound of her foot against the ball.

The ref's whistle blared. "Offsides, penalty! Goal for the Hornets!

"I guess you forgot which team you were playing for," Brooke said to Alex.

She had really screwed up. Alex had scored a goal--for the other team. It happens to everybody, she knows, but Alex is new in Jacksonville, Texas, new to playing defense, new to not being the star forward on her old team, and she is almost speechless. She stammers out a few words about being new to her position after the game, but her teammates stare out the ground and turn away silently.

The fact that her teammates, even Lin, won't even look at her, makes her feel even worse. And the cold-shoulder treatment continues at practice the next day, and at the next game no one passes the ball to her, not even her only new friend. Lin. On the bench, Alex almost loses it. Stifling her tears, she gets up and runs from the field and halfway across town before she stops.

Finally, her sobs slowed. In the reflection of a store window she sees Coach Mike approach. He sits down beside her.

"Alex, I bet it wasn't easy, moving here in the middle of the year and leaving your friends. It may be selfish of me, but I was glad you joined the Strikers. You're a great midfielder. Tall, strong, and quick. I need you at defense."

"But Coach, I don't know if I can play if everyone hates me! And isn't it too late to apologize to the team?" Alex confesses.

"It's never too late. Mistakes happen. But it would make everyone feel better if you just said those two magic words."

It's hard for Alex to face the hostility of her team, but Coach is right. Saying "I'm sorry," breaks the ice, in Emma Carlson Berne's Soccer Surprise (Jake Maddox Girl Sports Stories) (Capstone Press). The author takes one sports event, a common but serious mistake that affects the whole team, and skillfully explores the social situation and the feeling experienced by all involved. Everyone screws up sometime, and being a team member requires a particular set of skills outside playing ability itself--not hogging the ball, admitting failures, and forgiving mistakes by others. This book, part of the Jake Maddox Sports Stories series, ably explains the emotions experienced by a new player and by the rest of the team when a significant mistake is made. Kids who love soccer--or basketball or baseball or other such sports--will find this beginning chapter book easy reading and will probably find themselves sometime on both sides of that situation, making this book good vicarious experience for sports lovers.

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