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Co-Ed Soccer Pioneer

Benchwarmers, by John Feinstein

· MG Books

I have to admit, I picked this up expecting a girls' soccer team story. There's a girl on the cover. If you look closely, the other figure's a boy. But I didn't, and I thought, because not all girls have long hair and pony tails, that the second player was a girl, too.

So I was delighted to read it was about a girl blazing the way onto a boys' soccer team to make it co-ed.

It's kinda sad that we still have to fight these battles, but we do -- and it's good to read about them in literature, as well as in the news (this link is an article about a football coach, but I'm sure she's encountered much of the same push-back).

Jeff, 11, is excited to hear his school, Merion Middle, is offering 6th grade sports teams for the first time. He resolves to try out for the boys' soccer team. The school doesn't offer a girls' team. 6th grade girls are directed to try out for a "field hockey" team instead. Except, Andi doesn't want to play "field hockey." She's good, she knows it, and she trysout for the boys' soccer team.

Coach Johnston reacts predictably -- he doesn't let her, is told by the principal he has to let her try out, and he promptly cuts her.

The story gets to the news media (Jeff's dad works for a TV station) and Coach Johnston is told by the principal to put Andi on the team.

Of course, a few key players -- including the team "star" -- act like jerks toward her, Coach Johnston doesn't play her, until they start losing. Then...well, teamwork eventually overcomes everything, doesn't it?

 

It was a good read.

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