My Home Away from Home

Here’s a glimpse of my home away from home.

photo credit: Martin Berglund via photopin cc
photo credit: Martin Berglund via photopin cc

It doesn’t have to be this exact field. Any soccer pitch will do. Even a rival’s.

I’ll tell you why this is my home away from home, ahead even a disc golf course or closest taco truck. (Maybe in heaven there’s a disc golf course around a soccer pitch with a taco truck. On each sideline).

It’s cliché to call it a field of dreams. A field of hopes, maybe? Of transformation? You’d have to know me before the soccer pitch became part of my life. I’d never won. In anything. Introducing the King of Mediocrity. Average grades. Average SAT.

Plenty of third- and fourth-place ribbons.

Soccer wasn’t even on my radar.

Then, I became a father. With a daughter who wanted to play soccer.

I volunteered to help with assessments. I took a knee in front of a boy to explain what it means to dribble. Yeah, me, the eternal backup, gave instruction to an impressionable child. He put the ball at his feet, and moved forward.

Without tripping.

I didn’t realize then that was page 1 of a love story.

photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc
photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc

In springtime, when allergies ravage my head and lungs and fog my thoughts, I can’t wait to get to the field.

In winter, with ice on the grass and chill in my lungs, I can’t wait to get to the field.

In the onerous oppression of summer … well, you get it.

It’s where I’ve found myself. When I didn’t have a job. When I didn’t have a clue. Or a direction. I always had the field, and a team, and a chance to find something. Sometimes, it’s victory, or success. Other times, it’s failure, or a loss.

Either way, it’s a direction. And you go from there.

In the waning moments of the first championship I ever coached, I turned to my assistant. “We’re going to win this, aren’t we?” Up 3-0 with less than a minute left. Even I couldn’t screw this one up.

The moments after the whistle blew? Just a blur of flying clipboards, swarming kids and tears of disbelief.

Years later, I muttered those words again, at a tournament in Columbia.

I told the girls they could tackle me in the mud when the whistle blew. Ten more seconds, tops. In case you’re wondering, Ten seconds is enough time to score the goal that ties it and sends the match to overtime.

We lost that day. And there were tears of disbelief that day, too.

photo credit: scottwills via photopin cc
photo credit: scottwills via photopin cc

Lots happens between the lines. Good, and bad. Injuries. Losses. Crucial mistakes. Sometimes, your baby lies motionless on the sideline. Then you hear sirens. Then you follow ambulances to the hospital.

You also see first goals. Unexpected triumphs. Displays of heart and soul and sportsmanship. Funny stuff, too. I’ve slipped in the mud and had water-cooler showers. Grace once even pulled my pants down at halftime. On accident.

On a day I wore silky soccer-ball boxers.

This is a post about hope, and home.

No matter what happens at work or in traffic or at a doctor’s consultation, I can call the kids in close. I can  deliver a message, teach a lesson, invoke some passion, and see how far it can take us.

Even all the way back home.




# # #

I wrote this blog in response to a prompt the company DogVacay sent me. They challenged me to tell about that place I considered my home away from home.

Since day one, DogVacay has believed that our pets are our family and deserve the best care available. Founded by a husband and wife team out of their own home, today DogVacay has grown into a community across the country, linking tens of thousands of dog owners with loving, safe dog sitters.


  1. ksbeth says:

    this is beautiful, eli, and so clear you are a natural at this and have truly found your home here.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      thanks beth – it’s been a refuge for things great and small for more than 10 years for me.

  2. Eli, what can I say you captured the feeling of the soccer field with your girls perfectly here and you know I can totally relate being a soccer mom now. And also totally sharing this with my husband, because I know he would definitely get this, too 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It can be an awesome space, can’t it Janine? I’m sure it’s this way for your hubby, too.

  3. My 4.5 y/o started youth soccer last weekend, and while it was absolute chaos, this post makes me excited for the future…and glad that my husband played soccer for years and actually knows what’s going on!

    As always, beautifully written, Eli.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      At 4.5 years old, there’s more entertainment value in a soccer match than you can imagine, Nicole. Enjoy the show.

  4. Rorybore says:

    so wonderful. love how you wrote this.
    I’m just gonna stand here now quietly on the sideline and bask. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Rore. It came from the heart. And you can have a spot on my sideline any day.

  5. Kim says:

    I love your home away from home – I love that you found your passion out there on that soccer field. So many kids to coach – they are lucky to have a coach like you who cares not only that they learn soccer but that they learn about life!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Kim, me too. Most of what we do has more to do with life at large than just the beautiful game.

  6. Sandy Ramsey says:

    I know this other home. Mine isn’t a soccer field but a football field, a baseball field, and a volleyball court. I don’t coach but I’m there. In the stands, on the bleachers, and at the sidelines. Right now, there isn’t anywhere else I would rather be.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Look familiar, Sandy? Yours takes on different shapes, but it’s the same concept – being there. I’ve had teams that didn’t have parental support, and it made a huge difference.

      and when you love to be there? The kids can tell. Good job, mom.

  7. Finding yourself, a purpose, a direction is something that many people are still searching for in their lives. So happy you have found your home away from home!

    From where I come from (work wise) we talked about home away from home being called “the third place”. The first and the second are your home and workplace (for some it’s the other way round), and the third, well, that place where you hang out, relax, drink your coffee, meet with friends, read your paper or write your blog.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I wonder what I did before I found soccer. Or maybe it found me.

      I could see that hierarchy taking shape … and it’s not about the time you spend there, but where your heart is. Many of my blogs get written – in my head – next to those white lines.

  8. tamaralikecamera says:

    hmm.. this is making me all thinky about my home away from home.
    You have certainly set the stage here and I can almost smell it and hear it. It’s not my special place but it could be.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You might even consider including photographs with that post. Anyone ever told you that?

      Can’t wait to see it.

  9. laurie27wsmith says:

    This is great Eli. Top quality writing, it shows your passion and dedication. Worthy of a sporting column.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you, brother. That means a lot coming from you. When I was young, I did write a sporting column.

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        Well it must have been a great one.

  10. Kathy@kissingthefrog says:

    Love that you love the soccer field. That was my home away from home for ten years. I still miss it sometimes. Not sure if I’ll have a soccer player yet. There’s still hope for one of the last two.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I really think the sport chose me, not the other way around. It was good to you too, wasn’t it Kathy? I was lucky in that the other two followed big sis right into shin guards.

  11. Soccer fields are our home away from home too. I’m not sure how I’ll feel when they no longer are. I’m sure I will miss it.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      What else would we do on Saturday mornings? I think after the kids are done, the parents are supposed to join an adult league. I’ll coach.

  12. Lauren says:

    “…and a chance to find something…” I love so much about that phrase. It is ripe with possibility, and your passion is beyond heartwarming.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Especially on gameday, there’s something about first laying eyes on the field that tells you something incredible is just about to unfold. Who knows what, until it happens.

      Thanks Lauren – I think that chance to find something brings out the passion.

  13. Silky soccer ball boxers? Where’s THAT pic? mwahaha!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Banned by the FCC. For everyone’s good.

  14. The love you have for your daughter is palpable, Eli, and it’s moving as well. Never thought something based on athletics could be so poetic, but that’s how this post feels. Like poetry in motion. 😉 Great post.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks! There’s a lot of poetry in athletics, a lot of literature there, too. It’s the grandest stage. Don’t get me started!

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