Number Ninety-Nine

When Aaron and I agreed to coach the kids’ soccer teams this year, we found that the protocol for uniforms in the local soccer club was quite different from previous towns we have coached in. For Duncan’s team (in the noncompetitive kindergarten league), the players were issued uniforms at the start of the season at no additional cost. But for Wyatt’s U10 team, each player had to order and pay for their own custom-printed jersey in early June to ensure delivery to their homes by the start of the season at the end of August. This seems excessive to me—I think cotton t-shirts, or jerseys reused year-after-year, would be more than sufficient for a bunch of third graders—but it’s our first year in town and I figure we’ll give the local club at least a one season trial before deciding if it works for us.

The advantage of being the coaches’ kid is getting first pick at the jersey numbers. The disadvantage of being Wyatt is that real life just can’t compete with an unbounded imagination:

“Wyatt, what number do you want on your jersey?”

“For what?”


“Oh… um, what’s a jersey again?”

“The uniform shirt.”

“Oh, yeah… well what numbers are available?”

“Any number you want—I’m giving you first pick!”

“Well then, I’ll take one million!”

“Honey, you can’t be one million…”

“Why? You said any number.”

“Well, it has to be a two-digit number.”

Only a two-digit number?”

“Or a one-digit number.”

“How about three?”

“Number three?”

“No, I mean three digits. How about that?”

“No, only one or two digits. That’s it.”


“The number has to fit on your back.”

“They can just write smaller.”

“AND it has to be easy for the ref to read and call out quickly… You can’t have a ref trying to say, ‘Number two-hundred-seventy-one, keep your hands off number four-thousand-three-hundred-forty-two!’ in the middle of a game.”

“That’s not that hard to say.”

“Wyatt, just pick a number.”

“How about one hundred?”

“No, Wyatt.”

“But that’s just one more than two digits.”

“No, Wyatt.”

“Mommy, it’s easy to say fast, see: onehundred! Onehundredonehundredonehundred!”

“No, Wyatt.”


“Pick one or I’ll pick for you.”



“Yeah… it’s the only two-digit number I’m even a little bit interested in.”


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