THE SOCCER PLAYERS COME TO THE TOY STORE
Mario -- head of the Half Moon United Soccer Club and Phoebe’s former coach -- strolled into the toy store courtyard looking for a favor.
“I need your help,” he told her. “Our game spreads among the young people but we cannot keep up. Will you coach my Under-14 girls’ team?”
“I’m so glad to see you!” exclaimed Phoebe. “But I’ve got a job, more than full time, and don’t have a car.”
“When is your day off?”
“I’m afraid to tell you. Monday.”
“At least meet the team,” begged Mario. “We need a meeting place to get the players and parents organized for the new year. Remember the adults who were already too busy who helped you? Now it’s your turn.”
“It’s true, Mario. God knows you were there for me when I needed you most. Go ahead, invite your team to the store.”
Late Monday afternoon, Phoebe set up about twenty-five chairs in the main room of the toy store, and then went outside to wait in the courtyard. Soon a group walked up the sidewalk and looked through the gate. A tall, thin, very dark-skinned man in an elegant summer suit asked, “Team meeting for the Blue Demons?”
Phoebe welcomed them, and met Terrence Williams and his daughter Shannon, and Jorge and Maria Luna and their daughter Marisol. Family groups arrived one after another. Luis, older brother to Jasmine, began passing a soccer ball with the players. Finally Mario arrived and the parents assembled inside the store. The teenagers began exploring. Suddenly Luis yelled from the back door, “Hey, check out this backyard! We can play here!” In a moment the players and most of their siblings exited the back and disappeared.
“I’d better follow them,” said Phoebe to Mario. “You join the parents.”
She stood on the back steps and watched Luis organize the group. It wasn’t a large space, just barely big enough to practice in. Two goals were improvised by moving rocks. Luis began to referee a small-sided game, with a team waiting on the side to play the winner. In minutes the teams were playing as if they’d grown up there. Phoebe sat and watched for half an hour before she made her decision.
As a game ended she called, “Wait everyone. Please! Come over here for a minute. I’m not sure if you know, but Mario has asked me to be your coach this year.”
“Yeah, he told us,” said Jasmine.
“I said no, but after seeing you I’ve changed my mind. That is, if you’ll practice here two evenings a week, and if Luis will help me.”
“I like it here,” said Luis. “But I can’t come all the time.”
“Let’s go for it,” said Shannon. “This is going to be fun.”
In a moment they all agreed.