Double or Nothing

Double or Nothing by Belle Payton Read Free Book Online

Book: Double or Nothing by Belle Payton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Belle Payton
one tried to trip her, which was good. Butshe observed Xander and Andy running ahead, side by side, talking nonstop to each other. About her, she was pretty sure.
    Then came warm-ups and dynamic stretching. Ava took her place in the back line with the sixth graders. There was no point in making a big deal about the injustice of where to stretch out. She’d need to prove herself to the coaches, not worry about team politics.
    Warm-ups went fine, although Ava was keenly aware of the strange energy of the team. There wasn’t the typical joking around, chatting, laughing you might ordinarily expect. She was sure it was because of her presence. Why was this such a big deal? It was just football. She remembered something Coach had once said to her several years back, after she’d missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw that could have tied the basketball game. “Ave,” he’d said, “sports matter a lot in life, but they also don’t matter at all.” She hadn’t understood what he meant at the time, but now she was beginning to.
    After warm-ups, Coach K and the assistants told them to break down into groups according to positions. “Linemen with Coach MacDonald!” he bellowed. “Running backs with CoachD’Annolfo! Quarterbacks and receivers with me!”
    Ava gulped. Where should she go if she was just a kicker? Everyone else seemed to know where to go. Even Xander, whom she’d assumed was also “just” a kicker, had joined the group of linemen. Well, that made sense. He was big, and he looked like he liked to knock people down. Soon she was the only one who hadn’t moved toward one of the coaches.
    â€œSackett!” Coach K growled. “You’ll be with us.”
    Without a word, Ava trotted over to the quarterbacks and receivers. Corey gave her a little twitch of a smile. She recognized Owen Rooney, a kid from her math class, and was troubled to see that Andy Baker had also joined the group. At least Owen seemed nicer than Andy—Ava suspected that her friend Kylie had a crush on him.
    They spent the next hour practicing footwork, pass routes, and downfield blocking. It was a lot to absorb, but Ava knew she was pretty good at remembering stuff as long as she could physically practice it. That was why she remembered sports plays more easily than science facts.
    At last, toward the final half hour of practice, Coach K announced that anyone interested in kicking should report to Coach MacDonald over at the other end of the field. Ava trotted toward him, and soon there was a small group of kickers. Besides her and Xander, there were three other kids. Ava guessed they were all either sixth or seventh graders.
    â€œWe’re going to practice kicking from a tee today,” said Coach MacDonald, eyeing the five kids in front of him. “That’s how a kickoff kicker does it. I realize some of you may turn out to be punters or field goal kickers, but for now, I’m looking for accuracy and consistency, and I don’t want to introduce a snap at this point.”
    All five of them nodded. Ava’s heart was pounding. This was just what Coach had said too. That it’s fine if you can kick a ball forty yards once, but coaches are looking for players who can kick twenty-five yards consistently.
    Coach MacDonald demonstrated the kicking technique. He showed them how to run in on the ball from an angle—from the left side for right-footed kickers, and from the right side for left-footed kickers. Then he asked them to line up according to which foot they kicked with.
    Ava remained in the center, uncertain what to do.
    â€œWhat’s the matter, Sackett?” barked Coach MacDonald.
    Ava hesitated. “I—I kick from both sides,” she said. She saw Xander roll his eyes.
    â€œChoose a side,” Coach said gruffly.
    Ava got behind a sixth grader, the only other kid who was kicking with his left foot.
    Coach MacDonald

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