Sophomore Liam "Bergie" Bergstrom is elated being moved up to the basketball varsity. So what if the coach picked him just because he is tall and the starting senior got injured. Liam is determined to succeed and give 110%!
Unfortunately, Liam soon discovers Coach Kloss is preoccupied with more than just coaching. Concerned, he talks to his mom, " 'Well, he's [Coach Kloss] kind of into religion.' [mom] 'What do you mean?' [Liam] 'You know...prayers and stuff.' [mom] 'What kind of prayers?...Christian prayers? Does he mention Jesus?'...." Believing what the coach is doing is wrong and being assertive and idealistic, she encourages her son to confront the coach. The father isn't so sure action is required.
Although Liam is a Christian, he knows not all students or players are. He's uncomfortable with the coach using his authoritative position to promote his personal Christian beliefs. Except for an African American player who quit earlier (interesting subplot), the rest of the team is intimidated in going along and is willing to do whatever the coach wants in order to remain on the team. Liam also doesn't want to jeopardize his place on the team but, at the same time, he is feeling more and more uncomfortable participating and coerced into leading prayers before, during, and after games. He needs to talk someone other than his parents. He calls an ACLU-like organization. After citing Doe v. Duncanville (real case) and explaining the separation of church and state concept, Liam allows the group to notify both the school and Coach Kloss that the federal constitution is being violated.
Liam quickly finds standing up for what is constitutional and what he believes has repercussions and consequences. He quits the team. He is ostracized and vilified by his friends and former teammates. The school authorities are not amused.
In spite of all this, at the nadir of his predicament, a supportive teacher and the GIRLS basketball coach throws him a lifeline. " '' "...I need a couple of guys to practice with the team...' " Liam declines saying, " 'Sorry, I'm not playing with girls....' " Later, influenced by events, he agrees to help the girls out. To his surprise, he learns there is a contrasting method of coaching and winning. More importantly, his experience around girls alters his attitude and preconceptions of young women. Contrary to the boys, the girls are sympathetic, sensitive, and tolerant of his position and quandary. He becomes more comfortable being around them. Consequently, he has emotionally and socially grown. Doing what is right, suffering the slings and arrows, and working with girls have made him a better person.
Evidently, the author's more recent sports fiction such as Top Of The Order and Eyes On The Goal are aimed at a younger audience (grades 4-7). Lucky for them!Hopefully, he won't forget his waiting high school readers. 276 pages. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian