By Michele Cox
The first book in the exciting Sammy Football Trilogy, Sammy and the Shooting Stars is the latest release from former Football Fern and author Dr Michele Cox. Be introduced to the world of football-mad Sammy Banks and her sidekick dog, Splodge, in the extract below.
Sammy jumped over the poppies onto the grass of the playing field. She looked down at her new comet football boots as they touched the grass for the first time. The ponytail on the top of her head drooped forward and tickled her nose. She blew hard at it and shook her head. The snork, which is what she called her ponytail, flipped back.
“One small step for girl kind,” she giggled to her dog, Splodge, “and one step for my new comet boots.”
Sammy wriggled her feet in the boots. The grass felt spongy beneath them. Then she glided in crazy slow motion, like an astronaut, onto the football pitch. Splodge stood and watched her, cocking his head to one side.
Sammy danced into the centre of the pitch, all the time looking down at her boots. When Splodge barked, Sammy quickly looked up. An older girl, Renee, was putting her football boots on at the other end of the field. When she heard Splodge bark, Renee looked over at them and waved.
Renee was a much more experienced football player than Sammy. Of course she’d be up here, on the field, practising at the weekend.
“Just trying out my new boots,” Sammy shouted.
Renee did some warm-up stretches, then walked across the field towards Sammy and Splodge.
“Hi, Splodge,” she said. “Hi, Sammy, why don’t you start breaking those boots in with some dribbling practice? I could run with the ball at my feet and you could try to get it off me. I can try tricks and turns to stop you taking it away.”
“OK,” said Sammy, “but I’m not very good at it.”
“All the more reason to practise,” said Renee, with a smile.
The two girls practised dribbling together. They started off up the field, but Splodge decided it was a game for three. He kept darting in and trying to take the ball away.
“Sorry, Renee. He’s not the best practice mate,” explained Sammy.
“I’m going to run around the field for a while,” Renee said. “Keep dribbling. Two minutes up, then two minutes back.”
Splodge gave three woofs.
Sammy told him sternly, “It’s hard work. I’ll start, then you can have your turn — and you have to be fair. No grabbing hold of my socks or shorts. No cheating! OK, let’s go.”
Sammy rolled the ball away from Splodge and ran after it. When she started dribbling the ball, Splodge was right on her heels. He followed Sammy’s every move. They went all over the field. Up and down, and side to side.
All the time, Sammy was trying to keep her body between Splodge and the ball. Splodge, on the other hand, was trying to get his nose on the ball. He tried three times to run around the outside to get the ball off Sammy. He wanted to dodge in front and nip the ball away from her. Each time, she chopped the ball back on the inside so he couldn’t.
Splodge was a very clever dog. He tricked Sammy by pretending to run down the outside again. When Sammy went to move the ball inside, he darted through her legs. Straight into the ball he went with his nose. Sammy got more and more frustrated. She looked up. Renee was standing watching. Sammy felt embarrassed.
“He certainly knows how to play football,” Renee laughed. “Your mistake, Sammy, was in doing that trick too many times. You have to outwit your opponent all the time. Splodge knew what you were going to do, didn’t you, Splodge?”
Splodge didn’t answer. He just stood, legs far apart, head down. His eyes never left the ball.
“OK, I get it,” said Sammy. “Splodge planned a move to take it off me. What can I do to make sure he doesn’t do that to me again? Oh, I know …”
Sammy set off for another go. This time, she did different things. Renee stood still and watched. Sammy went straight, sideways, made number eight patterns on the grass, and all sorts of other moves. She moved the ball in front, from the inside to the outside, and from the outside to the inside. Splodge had no idea what she was going to do next. He couldn’t get the ball. Suddenly, the two minutes were up.
“Yay,” said Sammy, “I made it!”
Renee shouted from down the field, “Good one!”
Sammy waved back to her and Splodge wagged his tail. Sammy bent down to put her face near his nose.
“You didn’t get the ball. I wouldn’t let you get it. I won. It’s your turn now. Let’s see if I can get it off you. Ready, steady, go!”
Splodge put his nose down. Nudging the ball, he zoomed off. He zipped here and there, all the time keeping the ball at the edge of his nose. Sammy had to run like mad to keep up with him. She was really puffed but she kept going.
Sammy and the Shooting Stars
Written by Dr Michele Cox
Illustrated by Miguel Carvajal
Published by Clean Slate Press
Dr Michele Cox is a former Football Fern — the New Zealand Women’s National Football team — with six published books to date. The Sammy Football Trilogy draws on Michele’s experiences growing up playing football — a male-dominated sport. Michele and her mother, Barbara Cox, were the first mother and daughter in the world to play together on the field in international games. The duo debuted in the national team in 1987. Michele’s sister, Tara, also played for New Zealand, and her dad, Roy, coached the national team.
Michele believes in promoting health and well-being through physical activity. To complement her work in sports, she has an array of qualifications, including a PhD in Physical Activity/Health Promotion.