# GeekDad Puzzle of the Week: Soccer Wars

The small, fierce one may not yet have Ronaldo's soccer skills — but she kicks like piranhas bite, and her kick rate may save the kindergarten soccer season…with your help.

Saturday was Leif’s first kindergarten soccer game. Actually, because nothing short of Silence of the Lambs restraints was going to keep his little sister (seen above) on the sidelines, it was Kestrel’s first soccer game, too. And after a quiet backroom deal between my wife, other parents and the Boulder Valley YMCA, it turns out that, lo and behold, I’m the coach.

Here’s the thing: we got massacred.

That said, I think the kids had a pretty good time — but despite our most over-the-top attempts to push the idea of doing your best and playing for fun, there were rumblings of displeasure from the under-six crowd and I can’t imagine positive vibes will persist if we can’t do something about the likely string of drubbings I see on the horizon stretching through May.

There has to be a better way.

Here’s what I imagine: instead of trying to make Manchester United and inevitably seeing it devolve into what looks like a National Geographic film of a pride of lions mobbing an elephant, maybe it’s best to spread kindergarteners like fussball figures, or more like pinball bumpers? I wonder what is the best way to order kids on the field to maximize the chance of the ball happening to flow forward through this string and into the opposing (and not our own) goal?

Picture the soccer field as five boxes, stacked in a line, with nets just off the grid at either end. Imagine that an opposing player has an equal chance of bringing the ball into each grid space occupied by one of our five players. Whoever is goalie stays in the back square and adds 10% to their “divesting” chance and has 90% chance of propagating the ball forward one grid space (and a 10% chance of accidentally kicking it into our own net). Otherwise, each player kicks the ball according to the following rules:

• Leif: 50% chance of divesting an incoming, opposing player; 50% chance of propagating the ball one grid space; 25% the ball will propagate two grid spaces; (25% he will be divested before propagating); 80% the ball will travel forward from grid space; (20% it will travel backward).
• Kestrel: 10% chance of divesting (5% chance of biting opposing player); 90% chance of propagating one grid space; 5% of propagating two; (5% divested before propagating); 50/50 whether the ball travels forward or back.
• Bobby Big Kicker: 10% divesting; 10% one space; 50% two spaces; 10% three spaces; 60/40 forward versus back.
• Pamela Precision: 20% divesting; 70% one space; 90% forward.
• Erin the Enforcer: 80% divesting; 40% one space; 75% forward.

How should I order these five kids in these five boxes for the best chance of success?