Sundays With Ingrid: Soccer
Coach Ringer, the last of the original founders of the Mid-State League—going back to when bears roamed free in Echo Falls—was a short round guy with a droopy mustache and a drippy nose on cold windy days, like this one. He always wore a black-and-gold hooded sweatshirt that said TOWNE HARDWARE on the back, SCREWS FOR YOUSE SINCE 1937, the dumbest slogan Ingrid had ever seen. Assistant Coach Trimble was tall and lean, wore running tights and a UConn soccer jacket, looked like she could do something amazing, like outrun a deer or kick the ball right through you.
Coach Ringer liked to gather the team around him in a tight circle for a pregame pep talk, of which there were two kinds, a long rambling one if they’d been losing and a short confusing one if they were on a roll, like they were now, winners of three in a row.
“Hey,” said Coach Ringer. “Listen up.”
They all stopped talking, or at least talking loudly.
“Today,” said Coach Ringer, “I want you to remember one”—he searched for the right word; when Coach Ringer searched for the right word, his jaw came jutting out like he was going take a swing at somebody—“thing,” he went on, finding the word. “Remember one thing and one thing only, and this is it, so listen up. That means everybody. The thing to remember is this. Listen up. We’re gonna make them play the way we want them to play.” That was it? Oh, no—was he going to say it twice? For a moment, Ingrid thought maybe not. But then, raising his voice this time and spacing out the words: “We’re gonna make them play the way we want them to play. Got it?”
The girls all nodded, ponytails sticking out sideways in the wind. Ingrid said, “I vote they play with their shoelaces tied together.”
A pause, followed by muffled laughter. Coach Ringer turned red. “Twenty-two,” he said, calling her by her number, “on the bench.”
Ingrid sat on the bench, steaming. She felt Dad’s eyes on her from the stands across the field.
Coach Ringer concluded his pep talk the way he always did. “Anything you wanna add, Coach Trimble?” In the kind of tone that invited a no.
Coach Trimble had been assisting with the As for two years now, and many parents couldn’t wait for Coach Ringer to retire to Florida. She said what she always said: “Play hard and play to win.”
It sounded like one of those meaningless sports clichés. But at that moment, sitting angrily on the bench at soccer field number one up the road from the hospital, the wind blowing and the temperature falling, winter just around the corner, Ingrid realized she’d never actually heard it except from Coach Trimble, so it couldn’t be a cliché. She glanced up, met Coach Trimble’s gaze. Coach Trimble didn’t have friendly eyes. Not that they were unfriendly, either, just impossible to see behind, at least for Ingrid. And all of a sudden, Ingrid got what Coach Trimble was trying to tell her: playing hard wasn’t the same as playing to win. Playing to win was something else entirely, a whole new way of seeing the game. A revelation: Ingrid’s mind started buzzing.
Tags: Echo Falls Series
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