MAY 21:

  • Happy birthday Beverley Naidoo (Journey to Jo’burg), Erica Silverman (Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa) and Bonnie Bryant (Saddle Club series).
  • It’s the birth date of Virginia Haviland (1911-1988), The Fairy Tale Treasury.
  • On this day in 1881, the American Red Cross is established by Clara Barton. Read Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross by Christin Ditchfield.
  • It’s the beginning of National Safe Boating Week. Read Hook, Line, & Seeker: A Beginner’s Guide to Fishing, Boating, and Watching Water Wildlife by Jim Arnosky, Little Bear’s Little Boat by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, and Toy Boat by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Loren Long.

On May 21, 1904, The Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris. Today the Federation administers the World Cup. Football— renamed soccer in the States—is a favorite sport around the world because it’s an exciting game, played as a team, and uses inexpensive equipment. But for years soccer remained a relatively unknown sport for American children. All that changed dramatically in the last fifteen years.

Ten years ago only a handful of books existed for soccer enthusiasts. Today we have scores to choose from. Two of these books have been written by my favorite sports writers for young people, John Coy and Rich Wallace. In Eyes on the Goal, a well-crafted book for ten- to fourteen-year-olds, John Coy showcases four friends (Jackson, Gig, Isaac, and Diego) who have just finished fifth grade and attend a summer soccer camp at St. Boniface School. In the second book of Coy’s 4 for 4 series, these friends believe that they will be playing together, but they have completely different skill sets and are quickly divided into different teams. Jackson, the narrator of the story, ends up on the lowest level team and keeps using his hands when he gets the ball. But when he is shifted to the goalie position, his coordination skills pay off.

Coy provides a lot of exciting descriptions of the sport being played. He writes for those who enjoy reading about sports and knows how to deliver action and drama for them. But the book also features four very real young boys who struggle with family problems—such as a father headed to Afghanistan or a mother with a new boyfriend. They worry about girls and how they appear to others. Jackson becomes a better player over the course of the narrative;  kids who enjoy playing soccer but may not have a championship season in them can relate to him.

Rich Wallace in Double Fake, one of the Winning Season books, uses an urban background and the YMCA summer soccer league as a setting for his saga. Two best friends, Calvin and Zero, one white and one black, join forces on the Little Italy team and have their eyes set on the prize. Some of the motivation changes during the summer, for the prize gets extended to two twin sisters who play a mean game of soccer. Since I am a tabula rasa when it comes to soccer, I really appreciated Wallace’s explanation of the basics of the game. But he also provides an enormous amount of action, excitement, and play-by-play analysis.

Either of these two books might make any youngster want to go out and give the sport a try. Soccer fans will find themselves turning the pages eagerly to see what happens next—on and off the soccer field.

Here’s a passage from Eyes on the Goal:

Angela’s on the field with seven other girls in a fast-paced game of four-on-four. I stand halfway up the hill behind a tree and watch her chase a ball in the corner. She controls it and boots a pass to a teammate in the middle.

She rushes toward the goal, and the teammate sends the pass back. Angela swings her right leg forward and the ball explodes off her foot and snaps into the back of the net.

Teammates swarm around her, and Angela beams as they jog back upfield. She doesn’t wave her arms above her head and jump around like scoring a goal is a huge deal. She acts like someone who’s used to putting the ball in the net.

Originally posted May 21, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Soccer, Sports
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Eyes on the Goal


  1. Sarah says:

    John Coy visited our this this fall and spent a week sharing his writing techniques with our grade 3- 5 students. He was a big hit with everyone, but the boys especially enjoyed an author visit with someone who loves sports! His next book in the series is about American Football; he showed us different versions of the cover and the final choice. It looks like another winner.

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