Eighth-grader Nate Osborne plays forward for his
U-14 soccer team, the Strikers. Nate lives for the game of soccer, and his team
is very competitive. Every game, every practice, and every P.E. running
challenge provides Nate with a chance to practice his skills and become a
better player. The Stikers’ game against their rival team, the Monarchs, is
fast approaching, and Nate’s team wants to be ready.
When their first game against the Monarchs finally arrives,
there is a moment during the game where Nate must choose between continuing to
play—and possibly even scoring a goal— or pausing after a player from the
Monarchs is injured. In an act of good sportsmanship, Nate sends the ball
sailing out of bounds, much to the chagrin of his other teammates, particularly
his friend Sergio. After the game, Nate struggles with his decision, but with
the help of his Aunt Lizzie, an accomplished soccer player herself, Nate learns
that playing fairly and to the best of one’s ability is what makes a true
What is special about this book is that the
referenced examples of excellent sportsmanship actually happened. Aunt Lizzie
emails a video to Nate showing how a professional soccer team allowed their
opponent to score in order to make the game fair; this occurred in 2006 in the
match between AFC Ajax and SC Cambuur.
Fred Bowen, the author of this story, used other real-life examples as
inspiration for the theme of the book. For example, during the 2014 World Cup qualifying
rounds, the United States kept Mexico’s dreams of making it to the World Cup
alive when the U.S. played their hardest against Panama, despite already
qualifying for the World Cup themselves. The next day, Mexican newspapers ran headlines that thanked America for not giving up.
Teamwork and sportsmanship are two lessons that kids
can take with them through the rest of their lives, and this book teaches that,
above all else, it is best to win fairly rather than to take advantage of an
unfortunate situation. Bowen gives excellent color to this lesson and truly
exemplifies what it means to be an athlete.
Check out the rest of the Fred Bowen Sports Stories here.