One girl and her soccer team take a stand against the bullies who push them too far in this brave, inspiring novel that celebrates girl power and the true spirit of sports. Perfect for readers who love The Crossover and Fighting Words.
"A tale of terrific girl power and athleticism." —Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Alex loves playing soccer, and she’s good at it, too. Very good. When her skills land her a free ride to play for Select, an elite soccer club, it feels like a huge opportunity. Joining Select could be the key to a college scholarship and a bright future—one that Alex’s family can’t promise her.
But as the team gets better and better, her new coach pushes the players harder and harder, until soccer starts to feel more like punishment than fun. And then there comes a point where enough is enough, and Alex and her teammates must take a stand to find a better way to make their soccer dreams come true.
Powerful and inspiring, Select explores the important difference between positive and negative coaching and celebrates the true spirit of sports.
An Excerpt fromSelect
I’m sitting next to my little sister on the city bus, holding her hand in my right hand and tapping my left hand on the back of the seat in front of us, as if that will help the bus go faster. I lean into the aisle for the millionth time, trying to see if the light ahead of us has changed from red to green yet. We’re getting close to our stop, but we’ve been sitting in traffic that’s been painfully, painfully slow because of an event happening in Civic Center Plaza, and another one in Golden Gate Park. When traffic is bad, going from one side of San Francisco to the other can feel like it takes forever. Especially when you don’t want to be late.
Belle, my seven-year-old sister, whispers, “Are we almost there?” and looks up at me with anxious brown eyes. She’s swinging her feet impatiently; they don’t even come close to reaching the floor of the bus. I squeeze her hand. She wants to get to the soccer field almost as badly as I do, even though I’m the one playing in a game. I’ve told her we’re playing against the other first-place team in our league, a team from Earthquake F.C. Earthquake is one of the biggest soccer clubs in San Francisco. And this team is better than any team we’ve played yet this season. Whoever wins today ends the season in first place.
Our mom is in the seat behind us, looking at her phone. She’s oblivious to how long this bus ride is taking, and the magnitude of the game.
Finally, the light changes. The bus goes another block, then eases to a stop. Our stop. Belle and I jump right up, ready to scramble off the bus as soon as the doors open. My mom is still transfixed by her phone.
“Mom,” I say. “It’s time.” The last thing I need is for her to miss our stop.
“Oh!” she says, startled. “Already?” She slides her phone into her bag and stands up. She’s wearing her version of a “sporty” outfit today, which means jeans and a sleeveless top, and platform sandals instead of high heels. We have pretty different taste in clothes. And footwear. “Great! That was fast.”
My mom doesn’t move quickly. Still, we all get off the bus before the doors close. Now we need to hurry to make it to my soccer field in time for me to have a full warm-up with my team. But my mom isn’t hurrying. She’s not even moving. She’s reaching into her bag, trying to find something.
“Let’s go!” I say, ready to get to my field, and hoping my mom will pick up the pace. She doesn’t.
“Let’s go!” I plead again.
My mom pulls out a little mirror and a lipstick. “Hold on, Alexa,” she says. She’s the only one who calls me Alexa. To everyone else, I’m Alex.
“Mom,” I say. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
My mom almost never comes to my soccer games. She usually has to work on Saturdays, and when she doesn’t have to work, she wants to sleep. I get it. She works two different jobs and is a single mom of two kids. She’s tired.
But she has the day off today, and she wants to come to the last game of my spring season. I think it’s because her horoscope told her it was a good day to watch sports. Really. My mom is into horoscopes. She isn’t into soccer.
I guess it’s nice of her to come, but this is ridiculous. It took her forever to get ready before we left our apartment, and now she wants me to wait while she puts on makeup? Nope.
I grab my little sister’s hand. “Come on, Belle,” I say. “We can run and Mom can meet us at the field. Whenever she’s done.” I roll my eyes.
“Okay!” Belle says. We start jogging, and I look over my shoulder and call, “See you at the field, Mom.”
My mom is squinting into her mirror and tilting her head. She doesn’t look up. “Sure, sure,” she says.
Belle and I don’t look back again.
“Alex,” Belle asks as we get closer to the field, “why did Mom stop to put on lipstick?”
“I have no idea,” I say. “But, Belle? Just so you know, you don’t need lipstick at a soccer game.”
“I know,” Belle says, giggling.
We pick up our pace and make it to the field almost on time.
My coach, Jayda, is already there. So are the rest of my teammates. “Hey, Alex. Hi, Belle!” Jayda calls to us. “We missed you on the team bus this morning.”
We don’t actually have a team bus. Everyone on my team goes to the recreation center in my neighborhood, and before games, our team usually meets at the rec center and takes the bus together to wherever we are playing. But my mom took so long getting ready that we would have made them all late. So I texted Jayda and told her I’d go separately, with my mom and Belle.
I see the other team at the far end of the field, standing in two perfectly straight lines, waiting for a turn to shoot. They are wearing full warm-up gear—identical jackets and soccer pants over their uniforms, and even matching cleats. They also have matching team backpacks, lined up in a row near the sideline.
My teammates, all wearing rec center T-shirts and mismatched shorts, are starting to play keep-away in groups of four. From a distance, maybe it doesn’t look very orderly, but it’s a great way to warm up. I look toward the other team again. My teammates are getting a lot more touches on the ball than they are.
I tell Belle to go “help” Jayda until our mom gets there. Belle loves coming to my games, and she knows Jayda really well. Since my mom usually isn’t at the games, Jayda helps keep an eye on Belle, and Belle sits on the bench with us and keeps track of water bottles and soccer balls, stuff like that. I hear Jayda call to Belle, “You ready to be my assistant coach today?”
I smile at that and jump into a keep-away game.
“I’m glad you made it,” says Kiyomi, one of my best friends on the team. “Did you check out their uniforms?” she asks, flicking her long black ponytail in the direction of the other team. “Most serious ones yet.”
She’s right, and we’ve seen some pretty fancy uniforms already. For this season, my team was promoted to the “upper house” league of San Francisco youth soccer. It’s the highest level of rec soccer in the city—beyond that, you have to move to a “competitive travel” league. Not that our games aren’t competitive. But we don’t have to go outside the city limits to get to any of our games, which makes things easier since my family doesn’t have a car. Neither do the families of most of the kids on my team. Of course, I wouldn’t mind playing in a competitive travel league. I’m just not sure how I’d get there.
Anyway, the uniforms don’t worry me. My team was promoted to this league after last season because we won all of our games. By a lot. There’s a rule in rec soccer that a team isn’t supposed to go up by more than five goals on the other team. Last season we won every single game by five, and we could have won by more if it weren’t for that rule. Usually we had to stop scoring by the beginning of the second half and basically play keep-away for the rest of the game.
So now we are playing in upper house, where some of the teams are part of big soccer clubs, hoping to get promoted to a travel league and qualify for postseason tournaments: State Cup, Regionals, Nationals. You can tell them by their fancy gear, the way they laugh at our T-shirts, and how angry they get when we beat them.
We are definitely playing one of those teams today. I hear one player say to another, “Are they wearing, like . . . T-shirts?” They both crack up.
I know they want to win. They think they have to win. They think they’re going to win.
Which makes me want to win even more.
I hear the ref blow her whistle to signal that the starters should get into position on the field.
“Let’s go!” I say to my teammates, just like I said to my mom earlier. But this time I’m not annoyed.