The Ball Hogs (Kickers Series #1)

The Ball Hogs (Kickers Series #1)

The Ball Hogs (Kickers Series #1)

The Ball Hogs (Kickers Series #1)

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Overview

Introducing a soccer series for new readers
Kickers #1

Nine-year-old Ben is brand-new to soccer, but he's a good athlete and knows he'll do well on the Bobcats, his team in the local Kickers soccer league. If he can only work around his obnoxious teammate Mark, the ball hog, Ben is sure he'll score his first goal. But Coach Patty, and Ben's own teammates, show him a little something about teamwork. And suddenly it dawns on him: he's a ball hog, too. Can he change his ways before the Bobcats lose their shot at the Kickers play-offs?

Award-winning sports novelist Rich Wallace introduces the Kickers soccer series, filled with lively black-and-white art and fast-paced, on-the-field action.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375896323
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 06/08/2010
Series: Kickers , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: eBook
Pages: 128
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

Rich Wallace is the acclaimed author of many books for young readers, including Wrestling Sturbridge, an ALA-YALSA Best of the Best Book for Young Adults; Shots on Goal, a Booklist Top 10 Sports Book for Youth; Perpetual Check; and the Winning Season series. He coached soccer for several years, beginning when his older son joined a team in kindergarten.

Rich Wallace lives in New Hampshire with his wife, author Sandra Neil Wallace. You can visit him on the Web at www.richwallacebooks.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE  
Like a Real Player    
"That kid is fast!" Ben said as a tall, thin boy ran across the soccer field.   "He sure is," said Erin. "I hope he's on our team."   "He must be," said Ben. "Why else would he be here?"   But Ben hoped that the kid was not on their team. He had seen him at recess during school. Ben knew the kid's name was Mark, and he was a pain, and bossy. Once he'd called Ben "brush head" after his mom had cut his hair.   But Ben liked his hair the new way. When it was longer, it would always get in his eyes.   Ben put his foot on top of his soccer ball and rolled it around. "Let's practice," he said. He gave the ball a kick and it rolled toward Erin.   Erin kicked at the ball, but it didn't go to Ben. It spun over to the side.   Ben ran toward the ball, but the tall kid got to it first. He stopped it with his foot and grinned at Ben. But Ben didn't like the way he was smiling. He looked tough. He was big for nine.   "Are you one of the Bobcats?" Mark asked.   "Yes," Ben said. "So is she." Ben nodded toward Erin, who was walking over.   "I hope you're good at dribbling," Mark said. "You're both kind of short. Especially her." Mark pointed at Erin. She was a few inches shorter than Mark, but she was a good athlete.   Ben stepped between Mark and Erin. "This is our first time playing on a soccer team," he said. "We don't know if we're good at it or not."   "Well, I'm good," Mark said. "I'll be the star of this team."   Ben looked at Erin and smiled. He felt nervous and didn't know what else to do. Practice hadn't even started yet, and Mark was already acting like a big shot.   A woman in a green T-shirt blew a whistle. "Over here, Bobcats," she said. "I'm your coach."   Eight kids ran toward the woman, who was carrying a net bag filled with soccer balls. "Have any of you ever played soccer?" she asked.   Several of the kids raised their hands.   "On a real team?" she asked.   Most of the kids put their hands down.   "That's okay," she said. "I've never coached a real team, either."   Mark's hand shot up again. "I was on a baseball team last summer," he said. "I was the best player."   "That's good," the woman said. "My name is Patty. I played soccer in high school, but that was a long time ago. We'll all have fun learning about the game together."   The Kickers League would include kids from all over town. Ben knew most of the players on his team from Kennedy Elementary School, but some of them went to Washington Elementary, on the other side of town.   Coach Patty opened the bag and handed out balls. Ben kept his own ball, which had been a present for his ninth birthday.   "Let's have a race," Coach said. "See that white line on the far end of the field? When I blow my whistle, we'll all run to that line. The winner is the one who gets there first, but you have to have your ball with you. And the only way you can move theball is with your feet."   They set their soccer balls on the ground.   "I'll win by a mile," said Mark.   Patty blew the whistle. Ben kicked his ball and ran after it, trying to keep it in a straight line. It wasn't easy. He kicked it a little more softly, then ran to it and kicked it again.   Mark was way ahead of the others. He had kicked his ball far up the field and was running after it at full speed.   Ben kept moving, kicking his ball a little at a time and then catching up to it. He knew he could run a lot faster, but it was tricky to keep the ball close to him.   Ben's last kick left the ball just over the line. He pulled it back with one foot and stood on the line as the others came running up.   "Looks like you're the winner," Coach Patty said to Ben.   "He is not!" said Mark. "I was much faster than he was."   "But your ball went so far past the line that you had to chase after it," Patty said. "The point was to keep the ball with you."   Mark made a sour face and stared at Ben. "If it had been a real race, I would have won easily."   "Well, we're not here for a track meet," Coach said. "We're here to play soccer."   "I know that," Mark said. "You'll see. I'll be way better than that kid." He pointed at Ben.   Ben looked away. He wished more than ever that Mark was not on this team.   Ben wiped his forehead with his hand. He was starting to sweat from that running, and his heart was beating faster. That was a good feeling; it made him feel like an athlete. He took a deep breath and smelled the freshly cut grass.   There was a lot to like about soccer already. Everything except Mark.   For the rest of the afternoon, Coach had them work mostly on controlling the ball and passing. After practice, Ben and Erin started to walk home. They lived on the same block, just a few houses away from each other.   "Wait up!" yelled Mark.   Ben turned with a scowl. "What do you want?" he asked.   "I told you I'd be the best," Mark said.   "You weren't the best. There were a lot of good players here."   "Well, I was better than you," Mark said.   A car horn beeped, and Mark turned to look. "That's my mom," he said. "I'll see you twerps next time." And he ran off.   "He acts tough, doesn't he?" Erin said.   Ben just nodded. A guy like that could spoil all the fun this season.   Erin stopped walking and undid her shin guards. "These are a little uncomfortable," she said.   "I'm leaving mine on," Ben said. If anyone saw him walking home, he wanted them to know he was a soccer player. Of course, he was carrying his ball, too, but lots of kids had soccer balls. The shin guards made him look like a real player.   "You'll get used to them," Ben said.   "I hope so," said Erin. "I barely noticed them during practice, but they did start poking my skin after a while."   "Soccer players are tough," Ben said with a smile. "Can't let a little thing like a stinging shin stop us."   "Oh, sure, you're real tough," Erin said, teasing. "Remember the other day when a spider was spinning a web from your bicycle to the fence? You had to get your brother to chase it off."   "It was a big spider," Ben said. He was a little embarrassed, but he laughed at himself anyway. "Maybe it was poisonous."   "It wasn't poisonous."   "Well, it was big," Ben said. "I thought Larry might want to study it. That's why I had him come out."   "Sure you did, Mr. Tough Guy."   "Larry wants to be a scientist."   "I'm sure he could find his own spiders to study if he wanted."   They were nearly home. Ben stopped walking and tossed his soccer ball into the air. As it came down, he tried to catch it on his thigh and bounce it again, but it fell off to the side. Ben had seen some high school kids practicing that type of juggling.Some of them could keep the ball in the air for several minutes at a time. That was a skill he was eager to learn, but it certainly wasn't easy.   They'd reached Erin's house. "I'll see you tomorrow at school," she said. "Don't let the spiders bite."   "Bye."   Spiders didn't really bother Ben very much. He was tough. At least he thought he was. Being around Mark today had made him feel sort of weak and puny. But he wouldn't let that get to him. He'd show Mark who was the better player.        

CHAPTER TWO  
Spoiling the Game    
The next morning, Ben looked for Erin at school. He found her near the door, talking to a girl with a long dark ponytail. The girl had been at the Bobcats' practice.   "This is Shayna," Erin said.   "Hi, Shayna," Ben said. "How did you like soccer practice?"   "It was fun," Shayna said. "I liked playing goalie."   "Do you like our coach?" Ben asked.   Shayna giggled. "Yeah. She's my mother!"   Ben blushed. "I didn't know that."   "What did you think of that kid Mark?" Shayna asked.   Ben shrugged. "He was a jerk."   "He's in my class," Shayna said. "Nobody likes him."   "He sure likes himself," Ben said. "He thinks he's a big star."   "My mom will keep him in line," Shayna said. "She won't let him take over the team."   "That's good," Ben said. "He could ruin everything."   The school bell rang, so Ben and Erin waved to Shayna and walked toward their classroom.   "She's nice," Erin said.   "She'll be a good teammate," Ben said. "So we'll have at least one good one."   "Think we'll win any games?" Erin asked.   "I hope so. I practiced by myself last night."   Ben had loved soccer practice. When he got home, he had taken his ball into the yard and kicked it around for nearly an hour longer. He weaved around the swing set with it and pretended he was racing past players from another team. He kicked the ball againstthe garage door, and he learned to stop it with the inside of his foot.   After supper, Ben had written down some of the things the coach had said at practice. He pinned the list to his bulletin board. He underlined the most important tip: Have fun!   "Coach Patty said we should dribble every day," Erin said.   "I wish we had practice every day," Ben said.   "I know. We only have three practices before our first game. How will we ever learn everything we need to know?"   Ben shrugged. "I guess we won't. But most of the kids in the league are new, too. They won't be any better than us."   Ben took his seat in the classroom and looked around. Of all the other kids in the class, only Loop could beat him in a race. And only Tyler could jump as far. So he knew that he was a good athlete. Now he just needed to show that on the soccer field.   "Take out your spelling books," said Ben's teacher, Mrs. Soto.   Ben kept thinking about dribbling his soccer ball.   "Ben?" said Mrs. Soto. "Are you with us?"   So he took out his spelling book and tried to forget about soccer.       At recess, Ben usually played a game called four square with some kids from his class. He looked forward to it all morning. After reading and math and social studies, he was always ready to run around.   All four fourth-grade classes had recess at the same time. Other kids played tag or used the swings, and there were usually at least two games of four square going on.   Ben took his spot in the fourth square, where he'd been the previous day when recess ended. The fourth square was for the server--the place where each player wanted to be. Reaching that square and holding on to it was the goal.   "Let's get going!" said Loop from square number three. "I'm ready to move up!"   "Better get used to that square," Ben said with a smile. "This one is mine."   Loop's real name was Luis Pineda. Ben bounced the ball in his square and then hit it toward Tyler. Tyler let it bounce once and then knocked it toward Nigel.   Ben stayed ready, his arms spread slightly and his knees bent, waiting for the ball to return to him. He loved the suspense.   The ball darted around the squares, with each player hitting it skillfully. Ben knew this group was good--they might keep the ball moving for more than a minute before anyone bobbled it or knocked it out of bounds.   But Loop fooled Ben by hitting a very soft volley into his square. Ben was ready for a firmer shot and didn't put much muscle into his return. The ball landed directly on the line, and Ben was out.   Loop jumped across the line into the fourth square, and the others moved up one space. Ben shook his head and stepped out, waiting on the side as another player moved into the first square.   "Tough break," said Ryan, who was next in line.   "Don't worry about me," Ben said. "I'll have the fourth square back before recess ends."   Ben looked around the playground. Kids were running around in the field next to the playground, playing tag or having races. A shout made Ben look back at the four-square game.   "That was in!" Tyler yelled.   "It was out!" Loop shouted back.   "You must be blind." Tyler pointed at Ben. "In or out?" he asked.   Any player on the sideline was expected to act as a judge when there was a dispute. But Ben hadn't been paying attention.   "I didn't see it," he said.   "How about it, Ryan?" Tyler asked.   "I thought it was out," said Ryan.   "Then you're blind, too," Tyler responded.   "It's two against one," Ben said. "Loop and Ryan said it was out."   Tyler glared at Ben, but he stepped out of the square to the sideline. Tyler was one of the bigger fourth graders. He was competitive, but he usually stayed calm. "That was in," he said as the game started again.   "Get over it," Ben replied. He frowned and watched the game more closely. He'd be the next one in.   "Loop's always cheating," Tyler said.   "No, he isn't."   "Easy for you to say," Tyler said. He ran his hand through his curly brown hair and wiped some sweat on his shirt. "Loop cheats when he thinks he can get away with it. He thinks every close call should go his way."   "I haven't seen him cheat."   "Well, he just did. The ball I hit was in." Tyler looked down at the pavement, then scowled at Ben. "I'm starting a new group. You can stay in this one if you want, but I've had it with Loop."   Tyler walked away, but no one else wanted to start a new four-square group. He joined the other one instead. Nigel went with him, so that group now had seven players, and Ben's group had just four.   With six or seven players, there was more pressure to hold on to a square. But with only four, no one was ever really "out." They just kept moving from square to square.

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