Here’s a glimpse of my home away from home.
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.
I didn’t realize then that was page 1 of a love story.
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.
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.
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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.