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Long Shot

144 pages
When Nick and Kia arrive for try-outs for the basketball team they played on the previous year, they are surprised to learn that their coach is retiring. The surprises continue when the new coach is introduced. Coach Barkley, a former college star known for his fierce desire to win, missed out on a pro career due to a serious injury. Though the coach has been away from the game for many years, his competitive instincts are as strong as ever and his aggressive coaching techniques are a new experience for these kids. Practices are long and hard and not nearly as much fun as they used to be. Suddenly making the rep team no longer seems the sure thing that Nick and Kia expected when they came to try-outs. The new coach expects near perfection from the youngsters and does not deal well with anything less. This is hard on Nick and Kia, but especially difficult for the coach's son, L.B., who is also trying out for the team. When the coach matches them up against a team of older players and then refuses to accept their loss, the kids begin to wonder if they even want to make this team. Nick, Kia and L.B. finally have to decide whether to play for a tyrant or to take a stand on principle and face the consequences.
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$6.95CAN $4.99USA
an orc a young reader
Long Shot
Teachers’ guide available at www.orcabook.com or call 1-800-210-5277
Copyright © 2001 Eric Walters
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproducedor transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic ormechanical, including photocopying, recording or by anyinformation storage and retrieval system now known or to beinvented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication DataWalters, Eric, 1957– Long shot
“An Orca young reader” ISBN 1-55143-216-1
I. Title. PS8595.A598L66 2001 jC813’.54 C2001-910948-2 PZ7.W17129Lo 2001
Library of Congress Control Number:2001092681
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support of its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design by Christine Toller Cover and interior illustrations by John Mantha
IN CANADAOrca Book Publishers 1030 North Park Street Victoria, BC Canada V8T 1C6
IN THE UNITED STATESOrca Book Publishers PO Box 468 Custer, WA USA 98240-0468
04 03 02 01 • 5 4 3 2
For Mike Smith, Zack Alilovic, Silvio Andrighetti, Fred Demers, and Everton Allan — five gentlemen who know you have to be a good person to be a good coach.
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“I wish you’d quit squirming around in your seat, Nick,” Kia said. “You’re making me car sick.” “Then maybe you should stick your head out the window and get some fresh air,” I answered. “Besides, I’m not squirming … I’m just trying to get comfortable.” “Youaresquirming and you’re making me uncom-fortable. I don’t know why you’re so nervous.” “I’m not nervous … well, not too nervous,” I admitted. “Don’t try to change him,” my mother piped in from the front seat. “Basketball makes him that way.” “It isn’t basketball!” I snapped. “It’s basketball try-outs. I hate try-outs!” “It’s no big deal,” Kia said. “We go to the gym a few times and make the team. So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is, what if we don’t make the team?” “We’ll make it,” she said reassuringly. “You have to be positive.” “I’m trying to be positive. It’s just hard. Have you ever thought about how big this city is?” “It’s big … so what?” “There are over half a million people who live here.” “I think it’s closer to six hundred thousand … so? “So let’s just assume that most of those people are under a hundred years old.” “That’s a pretty safe assumption,” Kia agreed. “And if you divide the whole population into one hundred age groups from babies to really old people. That would mean that you have half a million people … or six hundred thousand people divided into one hundred groups. Do you know what that means?” “That you’re spendingwaytoo much time think-ing about long division?” Kia asked. My mother chuckled. “No, that there are at least sixthousandkids in this city who are the same age as us.” “Much more than that,” my mother piped in. “No,” I said, shaking my head. “Six hundred thou-sand divided by one hundred is six thousand.” “I’m not disagreeing with your math, but think
about it. There are a lot more people in certain age groups.” “There are?” I asked. “Look around. Aren’t there a lot more nine-year-olds around than ninety-nine-year-olds?” she asked. “Your mother’s right,” Kia agreed. “So that must mean there are evenmorethan six thousand kids in this city who are the same age as us.” “Great … that makes me feel even better.” “I still don’t get it,” Kia said. “There are lots of kids our age. Big deal.” “It is a big deal!” I protested. “Are you telling me that, out of more than six thousand kids in this city, there aren’t twelve kids who are better than us?” “There weren’t when we made the team last year,” Kia said. “Or the year before that when you were both on the travel team,” my mother added. “So that must mean we were among the twelve best players our age in the whole city for two years running,” Kia said. “And nothing’s changed.” “I guess you’re right.” “Of course I’m right … aren’t I always?” Kia asked. “I don’t know about that, but I know you always thinkyou’re right.” “That’s almost as good,” she said. “And a lot bet-ter than not believing you’re right when you are.” I had to admit she had me there. Kia was one
overflowing container of pure positivity. She com-pletely believed in herself, always thinking she was right and that everything would always turn out for the best … even when it didn’t. Sometimes I thought that was one of her best qualities. Other times it just drove me crazy. “Here we are,” Mom said as she turned into the parking lot of the college where the try-outs were scheduled. The parking lot was overflowing with cars. Half the cars would be for kids trying out for the younger team. Their try-out would be ending just as ours started. The other half of the crush of vehicles had brought kids who were trying to make the same team as us. As we cruised the parking lot looking for a space, I saw a few familiar vehicles. On the back of several I spotted a ‘Mississauga Magic’ sticker attached to the bumper, just like our van. Those vehicles belonged to kids who had been on one of the rep teams last year — kids who would be on our team again this year I hoped. “There’s Coach’s motor home!” Kia called out. Coach Riley had a big, brown motor home that was almost as long as a bus. His rear bumper didn’t just have a Magic bumper sticker on it. It was covered with stickers from places all across North America. He and his wife spent all summer travel-ling everywhere their motor home could travel. He
used to joke that if it could float he’d have seen Europe by now. “Where do you think Coach went this summer?” Kia asked. “Could be anywhere, but I’m sure he’ll tell us all about it.” “Do you think he brought us back some sou-venirs like last year?” Kia asked. “Probably,” I said. “He is such a nice man,” Mom said as we wheeled into an empty space. “The nicest,” I agreed. “And a good coach,” she added. “The best,” Kia said. “But I guess coaching is like everything else … the more you do it the bet-ter you get.” “He certainly has had a lot of experience,” my mother said. Coach was retired now, but before that he was a high school gym teacher who coached all the teams at his school. His wife was still a teacher at that school. “And besides everything else, he likes you two,” Mom said. “What’s not to like?” Kia questioned as we climbed out of the car. “At least what’s not to like about me?” I shook my head. “Coach likes everybody on the team.”