Dan West wonders which is more important to
him: Helping his long-time friend win back his business after being
accused of stealing money from the company or coaching his
eleven-year-old son’s soccer team trying to win an improbable
Money and prestige don’t motivate Dan.
Rather, family, work and coaching soccer are the underpinnings of
his life. He revels in the simple joys like hanging out with
his wife Jill, mentoring a young lawyer at his firm and watching
the boys connect on three passes before drilling the ball into the
back of the net.
Dan always knew to keep it steady—not to get
too high or he might get knocked off of his perch. And he
did, until he, and the boys’ soccer team, achieved unimagined
success. Before he can grasp how good he has it, tragedy rips
a hole in his family.
James Rosenberg, author of the bestseller
Legal Reserves, strikes a new chord in his exploration of
what makes a life and how to put it back together after it is
Charley bounds down
the steps to the garage and practically leaps into my little
hybrid. He wears his shin guards, soccer socks, and cleats, and
carries his water bottle. “Dad, this is going to be a great
do you say that?” I ask as we pull out into our street.
“Because we’re going to be better.”
pauses for a moment. I’m not sure where his thoughts will lead
want the team to improve?” I ask.
how do you get better?”
work.” He looks at me, grinning. “And cool shoes.”
laugh—he and I may not exactly have the same expectations for how
to get his team to improve, but at least he’s putting a little
thought into it.
ride to the soccer field is short, and Charley is energized and
talkative. We talk about school. I find out Arnold cut his hand at
recess. We discuss video games. He informs me the new Megazone game
comes out soon. We converse about the weather. He tells me once it
flooded so badly in Texas, it created a river of cows. I enjoy his
excitement for soccer, because he can’t stop giving me tidbits
about his life.
of his teammates are running around when we arrive. Practice is
scheduled to start at noon, yet there are only four players ready
five minutes before the starting time. At the anointed hour, seven
kids chase each other on the far side of the field.
to them, yet they ignore me. I put my fingers in my mouth and
whistle. They still don’t respond.
across the grass, yelling it’s time to begin. One of the boys
responds, “We’ll be there in a minute.” Five minutes later, they’re
still chasing each other.
and Stephen show up as I’m preparing a plan to gather the wayward
children. I ask them if they want to start. They respond by asking
where everyone else is. I point across the field to the mass of
bodies rolling in a pile. The allure of the scrum is too much. They
bolt to join in the melee.
fifty feet from the ongoing chaos with my hands on my hips as the
boys continue to throw each other to the ground and run around like
maniacs. I pull a whistle out of my pocket and raise it to my
mouth. The shrill sound catches their attention, and they pause to
glance in my direction. Like a pack of jackals eating their prey,
they aren’t bothered by anything not in their immediate vicinity.
They ignore me and begin jumping on each other anew.
toward them, crossing the white line that marks the edge of the
field. I watch in amazement. They have no concern for anything
other than what occupies them at that moment. A couple of the kids
glimpse at me but pay no mind. They will continue for the next hour
unless I do something. I again put the whistle to my mouth and blow
it as loud as I can. Finally, I have their attention.
soccer time, gentlemen. Care to join me?” I ask
really,” responds Nate, a tall defense man, who is holding
Stephen’s ball while Stephen tries to retrieve it.
swallow my rising anger. “Let’s go. It’s time to start.”
boys gather their gear and straggle across the grass. I instruct
them to stand on the white line. They gingerly walk to the chalk
and begin conversing again.
to refocus the group. “Who’s here to practice?”
couple of hands rise, but most haven’t heard the question as a new
round of stealing soccer balls begins. I blow the whistle
“Sit on the
line!” I demand, pointing to the ground. Desperately trying to
salvage some practice time and hoping to demonstrate my authority,
I stare at the group. I have their attention, I think, until my
hopes are dashed when four of them, including Charley, begin
chasing each other on the field. This encourages three others to
revert to climbing on top of their neighbor.
on the line,” I yell at the five kids who remain seated, as I to
leave to corral the wayward boys. After another five minutes, the
entire group is finally together. I pace in front of them, my anger
barely dissipating. “Who’s here to play soccer?” I again ask
Everyone yells, “We are!”
glad to hear it. Let’s talk about what we are going to try to
accomplish this year. First....”
in the air interrupts my flow. “Should we call you Dan or Coach?”
asks Lance, his high voice almost cracking.
think either is fine,” I reply. “I want to see if we can figure out
what went wrong last season. From what I saw, we should address a
few issues. For example....”
hand rises. I nod.
asks, “When is our first game?”
weeks. I think we should start, so we are ready.”
The inquiries begin without any hands being raised: “What
position am I going to play?” “Who’s bringing snack?” Why are you
wearing a green T-shirt?”
boys want to ask questions just to hear their own voices. We might
spend all practice playing this game, so I change
please,” I coax the group. They all rise, but soon three of them
are kicking other kids’ soccer balls.
them to focus, so I instruct, “Put your balls behind you.” The
words are barely out of my mouth when I recognize my
boys begin to snicker until Stan yells, “He said, ‘Put your balls
I heard that,” Ricardo responds.
this,” says Sam, as he puts his hands down his pants. “My balls are
behind me, now.”
Coach, how are we going to play with our balls behind us? It’s not
comfortable,” laughs Mike.
boys all attempt to put their testicles behind them. Each has his
hands down his shorts, demonstrating to his neighbor how difficult
it would be to play soccer with his balls behind him.
lost control and make a mental note always to refer to the item
they kick as a soccer ball. The boys laugh uncontrollably while
rolling on the ground. I pull out the whistle again and blow. They
stop. “On the line,” I yell.
return to their original positions.
“Nobody’s putting up with this crap again.” They stare, finally
their gaze. “Don’t give me that wounded routine. I will swear at
you if you act like babies again. I’m here to teach. I’m not your
babysitter. There’s one of me and twelve of you. You will win this
battle every time if you want. You’re lucky I told your parents to
stay away from the field today. You don’t want to learn today, and
if you don’t, I’m won’t coach. We’re done.”
and tap at a ball at my feet. “Next time, if you want to play, show
up on Tuesday. If you intend to screw around, don’t come. This
isn’t social hour. This is practice. We’re done. Your parents are
over by the pavilion. Go tell them you weren’t ready.”
and leave them staring at me. I’m mad but in control of my
emotions. Last season they trampled their coach. Not this time. I
suspect some parents will call. I rehearse in my mind telling them
their kids must be prepared for practice the next time.
runs over to join me as I walk toward the car. “Get the message to
the team this is not last year. If you’re here, you will focus on
the drills—no more social hour.”
stares at the ground. He won’t walk next to me, and I’m just as
happy to walk alone.
my favorite novel! The Jersey is engrossing, delightful and
heartbreaking. An experience of true love, the glories of youth
sports, tragedy and the universal fight for justice, all in one
package. With characters living, breathing and universally human,
The Jersey captures the feel, the complexity and the meaning of
real life, love and community....
is an emotional story that continues to build throughout the book.
You will witness the great love of one man....
Jim Rosenberg balances an
incredible trifecta with this deeply personal story : a dad trying
to coach his son's soccer team to the championship - a lawyer
trying to bring justice for his close friend - and a
heart-wrenching journey toward overcoming terrible grief . . . Yes,
I am biased (because I narrated the audiobook). But I also
connected directly to the warmth, love, laughter - and yes, many
tears - that fill this incredibly HUMAN story. Highly recommended
for any deep thinkers and deep feel-ers out there