Authors: Ruth Houston
Mutual Hatred – Love Game
Shelley Sinclair is on a mission to save the football team from another season of humiliation. She's a cheerleader who loves to play football. After many unsuccessful attempts to start a girl's team at her high school, she is given the chance to help coach the boys' football team. She's optimistic about it, but not everyone on the team is happy about it, especially the witty and arrogant captain of the team who seems to think they don't need a girl to tell them what to do.
Introduction – Decisions, Decisions
I have twenty-four hours to make possibly one of the most difficult decisions ever.
I love being a cheerleader, don't get me wrong. It's an excuse to never miss an athletic event. But I think football is pretty much the best sport around. Too bad they don't let girls play. Everyone at school knows I love football. Sophomore year I tried to start a girl's powder-puff team. As my luck would have it, it was a no-go because no one else wanted to play. So when my school's athletic director asked me to help coach our football team, I was ecstatic. If I can't play I might as well teach those idiots how to play football, right?
And then I remembered I was supposed to be cheer captain next year. Even though football is only a fall season sport, I can't do both because they'll both be really time consuming. So I have to choose which one I'd rather do.
So maybe it seems like a trivial choice to you. But for me, it's as important as choosing what college I'm going to. It could affect the rest of my life. Do cheer, the activity I love more than anything, or help coach the football team that hasn't won more than two games in the past seven years?
It's not that we're a bad team. It's more like...other schools' teams are better than ours. So they always beat us at the game.
The game. There's the rush of adrenaline I get whenever I cheer at a football game - even if we're obviously going to lose. Standing on the sidelines, I'm so close that I'm practically in the action. Sure, you can smell the sweat. You can hear the whispers, the cheers of the spectators. But there is nothing quite like being in the action. And to be able to be an assistant
...god, that's like a dream come true.
It all comes down to this: cheer or football?
I think the real question is:
Who needs me more
Chapter 1 – And So it Begins
I chose football.
It was extremely hard for me to tell my cheer coach, Diane, that I wasn't going to be doing cheer next year. It was even harder to tell the squad, because I've been cheering with most of those girls for three years. I know them so well and it's kind of heartbreaking to not be able to spend as much time with them. We're like sisters; cheer camp has bonded us all in more ways than one.
But I made my choice. And I'm going to have to live with it. That's why I'm determined to make our football team the best anyone's ever seen. We're going to end that losing streak. Those other schools aren't going to know what hit them.
I don't think I'm God's gift to football. But as someone who has watched from the sidelines, I've noticed a lot of things. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know what works and what isn't working. And most importantly, I know how they can improve. Even better - I'm going to help them improve.
Yeah, I'm a cheerleader. I'm perky and bouncy and all that girlyness. But I can be tough too. Cheer does that to you. I've got 'guns' bigger than any normal girl's from stunting.
I, Shelley Sinclair, am about to do what so many people think is impossible. I'm going to take on my school's football team. I'm not expecting any miracles, but I have a good feeling about this year.
I just have to tell Mr. Wise that I'm doing it. I know I can do it. When I told my parents about it, my dad was all for it. He thinks it's great that his little girl wants to 'play with the big boys' as he puts it. My mom was another story. She thinks the only place for me on the football field is cheering with the girls. I was trying to explain to her that I'm tired of cheering on the sidelines; I want in on the action. She wants me to be the girliest girl you'll ever meet. But it's my life, and I'm going after what I want.
So today's the first day of practice for varsity football. And Coach Wise, or Mike, as he's told me to call him, insisted that I come to observe.
It's going to be tough - I can already tell. But there is nothing I wouldn't do for the love of the game.
Shelley Sinclair stepped out of her car and adjusted her sunglasses. She dusted her jeans off, adjusted the cap on her head, and stuffed her cell phone in her back pocket. As she approached the field, she could see 30 or so guys messing around with each other before practice started. Coach Wise spotted her and waved her over.
"How are you today Shelley?" he asked as they shook hands.
"I'm good, how are you Coach?" she said politely.
"Just dandy. Ready to find out what these sissies are made of?"
"I'm sure they're all perfectly capable," Shelly said brightly, "They just need some more, ah, encouragement."
"Now, before we begin, I want to give you a few ground rules," Coach Wise said, trying to sound important and business-like as possible, "You can do anything you want with the boys; they're just as much your team as they are mine. If any of them give you attitude or disrespect you, feel free to punish them with laps and the like. You come to practice every day on time and you stay until it's over. No fraternizing with any of the players though; everything is strictly professional. Any questions?"
"Understood. Sir, no questions sir!" Shelley saluted him with a wide smile on her face.
The old man chuckled. "You're a funny one. I like you."
Shelly did her best to look modest, "What can I say? I try."
"I do have to warn you of one thing. But I'm sure you won't let it stop you from coaching."
"And what's that?" she asked quizzically.
"Well we both know this team may need you, but some of the members of the team don't think so. They may give you a hard time for that," he warned.
Shelley dismissed it saying, "I'm sure it's nothing I can't handle."
"Don't underestimate them, Shelley," Coach Wise said as he shook his head, "These boys may not know what winning feels like, but they sure know how to play football and they are highly skilled in the art of driving people crazy. Do you want to know how many times I've almost cracked? It was awhile before they realized I wasn't going anywhere."
"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself. But if anything happens you'll hear about it," she assured.
"Good. Let's go meet the team, shall we?" he asked as he guided her in the direction of the team.
The moment the boys noticed her they all stopped whatever it was they were doing. Shelley suddenly felt apprehensive.
What have I gotten myself into?
she thought. She knew most of them because they were in her grade and had seen them last year while cheering, but it wasn't like she hung out with the guys all the time.
," Wise said sternly. "Let's all group over by the bleachers. We're going to have a short meeting before we officially begin conditioning."
Shelley tried not to notice the stares and whispers. But her eyes lit up when a tall, brown haired, and undeniably handsome boy separated himself from the group and enveloped her into a bear hug.
"Kyle you can put me down now," Shelley said, her voice muffled.
"Good to see you too," Kyle said after finally releasing her, "I didn't know you were going to be here today! I thought cheer practice didn't start until next week."
He wiggled his eyebrows hopefully. "You can all practice on the field with us if you want."
She slapped his shoulder playfully. "I'm glad you're actually happy to see me. I know most of your teammates won't..."
"What are you talking about?" asked Kyle.
"I'm not going to cheer practice next week. In fact, I'm not going to cheer practice anymore because I was asked to be assistant coach."
Kyle was incredulous. "Assistant coach to the cheer squad? But then you'll still be at practice."
"Assistant coach to the varsity football team," she clarified.
Kyle's mouth nearly dropped open. "For real?"
Shelley nodded. "For real," she echoed.
He shook his head again. "Seriously?"
"Seriously. I know it seems weird - a girl being the coach and all, but - "
"That's great!" Kyle cut in. "Oh, we're gonna have so much fun!"
"Really? You don't mind that I'm a girl?"
"Why would I mind? You're hot," he told her.
"Shut up, we're friends. You have to love me. But I don't know about everyone else..." Shelley trailed off.
"Oh don't worry about them; they're harmless. Most of them are friendly. Show them what you got and you'll win them over in no time!"
"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Shelley said uncertainly as she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, "I think they figured out what I'm doing here. They don't look very happy to see me."
"Well were you expecting a welcome wagon?" he asked.
"No," she admitted, "But I didn't think it would be like this. Brandon Miller is shooting me dirty looks already."
Kyle grinned. "That's because Brandon's an ass. He probably doesn't like the idea of being bossed around by a girl - not that you're bossing us around, but..."
"I get it. And I'll try not to make you look bad," Shelley said smugly as she dodged a playful punch from Kyle.
"Stanford, up in the bleachers! Shelley, you're down here with me," said Coach Wise.
Kyle made a funny face as he went to sit with the team. Shelley took her place next to the head coach in front of the boys. Most of them still had that sour look on their face, especially Brandon Miller, sitting in the very front row, who seemed to be king of them all. She knew who he was, of course - three years of cheerleading and she could name everyone on the football team. But they'd never crossed paths, never sat by each other in a class. The most she knew about him was that he was a notorious heartbreaker, and that was a fact. And if she looked hard enough, she could discern why so many girls fell all over his feet. Though Kyle was cute, Brandon was something else. Sandy blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Definitely a well-toned chest, but that was a given. There was something defining about the structure of his face, but Shelley couldn't quite figure it out. She realized she was staring when he sneered at her. Shelley ignored him and turned her attention back to Mr. Wise.
"I suppose most of you are wondering why she," he said as he pointed to Shelley, "is here. I'll tell you why if you still haven't figured it out. Shelley Sinclair is here to make you worthless bunch of losers a pack of winners!" Wise bellowed.
"We don't need some cheerleader telling us to do," Brandon said loudly, turning around to face the rest of his team. "She'll probably just teach us some cheer and expect us to use that to win the game."
"Actually I know how to play football," Shelley said angrily. "And just because I'm a cheerleader doesn't mean I don't know anything except how to be bubbly."
"Could have fooled me," he muttered under his breath.
"I heard that!" Mr. Wise said sharply, "You are to respect her. Shelley has as much power over you as I do, even if she's a classmate. She is one of your coaches now and she's going to help me turn you disgraceful lot into champions."
Someone in the sea of males spoke up. "You couldn't do it alone before; what makes you think she's going to make a difference?"
"Because it's clear you boys need some other coaching; I haven't been enough. Shelley has a brilliant mind; she's already explained to me a couple strategies she's worked out. I'm impressed with her talent and I think she'd be a great addition to the team. In fact, you should be grateful. She's taking time out of her busy schedule to do this. She even sacrificed something that she loved doing. So if I hear any of you giving her trouble, I'll give you some trouble of my own," threatened Coach Wise.
"Thank you, Coach," Shelley said cheerfully.
"Today Shelley will be overseeing practice and making notes. Normally I'd tell you to go about as you usually do, but not today. From now on, I want you to practice like you've got a game tomorrow - that's how you should always practice! None of the half-assed junk just because it's summer. Go that?"