4: Slapshot to Popularity

4: Slapshot to Popularity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Slapshot to Popularity

True popularity is not the popularity which is followed after, but the popularity which follows after.

~Lord Mansfield

I grew up in a town that was so small, I had almost the same people in my class each year, and all of them knew me as a weird, overweight, unpopular kid. Even when the county redistricted schools, my reputation remained the same.

On the first day of seventh grade, we were all in the gym. Our parents had preordered our physical education uniforms during the summer, and we were picking them up. That was all that was on the agenda. Our gym teachers got creative and set up some hockey equipment for us. There was a ball, two sticks, and a goal on the gym floor. They asked the crowd if any students had ever played ice hockey on a team. I had played floor hockey as a church activity for many years. I loved the sport, but I had no real experience. I kept my hand down.

A boy raised his hand and instantly he became the goalie after he received his P.E. uniform. The teachers explained that they would call names in threes. We were to go down the stairs, try to make a goal, and then get our uniforms. Seventh grader after seventh grader came down as their names were called and tried their best to make a goal, but the goalie blocked each shot with ease. He even complained about a few people high sticking and going inside the boundaries. It was obvious he played frequently.

Finally my name was called. I took my time going down the bleacher steps. I could see myself falling in front of everyone. I took the hockey stick and rolled the ball around. Back and forth, side to side. It felt just like I was in the church fellowship hall. The goalie was yelling at me to finally take the shot. I looked up at him and frowned. I was going to take my time with this shot. Slowly I began to push the ball towards him, moving my stick to control the ball in almost a straight line. My heart began to beat faster. I knew to aim for the corner of the goal, but what if I missed? Up came my stick nearly parallel to the ground. I didn’t need to commit a foul to score a goal. I knew the rules too.

“C’mon!” he shouted as I struck the ball with all the energy in my wrists. I knew I had missed, like everyone else. I went to get my uniform. Then I noticed the room was silent. I turned around to look at the goalie. He was on his side, the ball just out of his reach, safely tucked into the back of the net. The ball had gotten past him. I had scored a goal. The crowd of seventh graders didn’t get up and cheer until I had my uniform in hand. I sat back down and all eyes were on me.

“I couldn’t even see the ball!” said a voice over the murmuring.

“Where did you learn to do that?” said another voice. My face turned red.

“Church,” I replied.

After that, if we were playing hockey in gym class, I was never picked last. Even in high school my athletic achievement was known to the upperclassmen. Sadly my talents did not transfer over to field hockey. But it was the one thing I had in middle school, and no one could take it away from me.

~Sarah L.M. Klauda

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