For the faith and agony ahead, I’m actually grateful

stormtrooper unicorn fairy garden

My soccer boys must face a team next week that we angered greatly last week.

We did nothing wrong. Outside of beating them. After the match, they sat on the turf in various stages of disbelief. An older, more experienced team tested and topped by a band of upstarts. It’s a sweet feeling to pull out a win like this.

And now, we must go to their place.

Moments that shape us aren’t limited to wins. Moments of discomfort and fatigue and dismay contribute to that ever-changing DNA of self. No matter what happens next week, the team we will convene as the next day will in part become a result of this match.

It’s a daily life for us and it involves way more than soccer.

Traffic or a medical condition might work in the same way for you. Politicians, storms, political storms and more can tug and rip at us and seem to contact on us and limit who we can become. But without their heavy bearing, we can’t become our best true selves.

We must also realize we’re not confined and held captive to these factors; instead we are the solution to them, the way out, the means to overcome.

rumi quote beauty

… like a piñata

I’ll walk on a soccer pitch now and the only thing I feel is the sun on my face.

I’ll deal with my team soon enough. I’ll unfold paper in my pocket and review a lineup. I’ll walk around among the boys as they warm up, patting backs and quipping about new haircuts and the need for one. Desperate need in some cases.

In that moment all I know is that kid’s status (you’re starting at forward – let’s get after it) and their reaction (are you crazy, coach? I’m a defender!)

Coaches, parents, officials … they’ve had their swings at me. Like a piñata. Their words and actions came on fields like this and possibly this very field. Will their words haunt those grounds? No. Look at me. I’m still here.

I once held a girl as she cried moments after she’d let in the deciding goal in a championship match we’d had won up until the final 10 seconds.

In that moment we shared the pain. I don’t know where she is today. I hope that if this loss stings still that she’ll remember that she wasn’t alone on that muddy field. Her teammates joined the hug because they’d been shaped also in the same circumstance.

She went on to wonderful moments on the pitch that season and I hope also that those memories pervade, because as it turns out she wasn’t the lock at all that limited her potential, but all along, she was the key.

Has anyone noticed?

There’s a banality to some growth, a stagnancy seemingly baked into the fabric of life.

In the moment it can feel like wheel-spinning. It can feel as if even if you accomplish incredible feats you might look up to see no one has noticed. Incremental growth feels like a setback when we take aim for the stars or at least the tops of really tall trees.

Then we encounter those points of revelation that feel like the winning goal and the first slice of pizza fresh out of the oven.

Are we looking at it as a slice, just one consumable portion, or the whole? The whole overwhelms me. In life, not pizza. In life, if I look up it feels hopeless. Yet the tiny battles I can wage and win on the stages makes me think anything’s possible.

It feels like a fight you’re swinging in but it’s actually a moment of surrender sometimes.

Chipping away. Knocking out this post and not worrying about one I want to write for someone else. Not thinking yet of the beer I’ll have with a friend or the dinner I’ll grill for the girls. Here. Now. Positive. It’s just as easy to fixate on limitations and annoyances.

Once your mind takes that exit, it’s tough to get back on the better highway. It’s exit only. One-way street and probably unpaved and wrought with gridlock.

Who wants that? I’m grateful for the sometimes rough road ahead, the opponent who wants another shot. Win or lose, whatever happens will shape the next stage of me, and of those boys, and isn’t that the direction we all want to take?

aristotle quote wisdom



  1. Beth says:

    You have so much wisdom to share on and off the field. I think you are an amazing coach.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You pick up some stuff after years and years on a sideline, Beth. Thank you for the kind words!

  2. You’re taking me back to the days when my dad was a soccer coach. It makes me wonder whether those things crossed his mind whenever he prepared his teams for upcoming games. It’s not quite the overall point you were making in this post, but it brought back memories of his games and the few times I was there for practice. Always as a spectator and fan, of course. 😉

    I have a hard time looking at the big picture of goals and dreams myself. Like with you, it overwhelms me. The amount of money I chose as my crowdfunding goal for my Iceland trip, the number of words I have left to write for my new novel… if I look too far ahead, it almost cuts off the breath from my lungs. But if I think in terms of baby steps – finishing a chapter, or hitting a word count milestone – then I’m not only better able to handle the pursuit, but I have an easier time celebrating each small success on the way to completing the entire project. And for all of those things, great and small, I am grateful. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That coach train of thought pervades though, Sara. Last week, we finished with a horrendous practice before a huge league game against a heated rival.

      Rather than bring that session up on game day, I keyed on what we needed to do today. We trailed 3-1 in the second half tied 3-3.

      The small victories give us traction to take on the big battles, don’t they? You see it when you write, a page at a time.

      All those adversities make our wins all the more sweet.

      1. Indeed they do. 🙂

  3. One of my biggest stumbling blocks in life is that I’m looking at that whole pizza in front of me, knowing I need to somehow find a way to eat it all, but not knowing if I really can. And which piece is the right one to start with? Is it the one that has that extra piece of pepperoni on it? Or the one that seems to have the most cheese? Maybe the biggest one?

    Perhaps this is why I like pizza places where you can buy them by the slice, and put on whatever toppings you like. You’re in control of what’s handed to you on that greasy paper plate.

    But the truth of life is that we have to throw our hope for controlling all of it out the window. Because sometimes life wants to give you a mushroom and onion pie when you only ordered cheese.

    But then… maybe….that’s when you realize that you really do have a choice: You decide to not eat any of it, and you make yourself a hamburger.

    We are a conglomeration of the choices we make in our lives. Your post is a reminder to me that I’ll stay on the highway the best I can, and that if for some reason I get off at the wrong exit, surely there’s a way to find my way back to where my true north points. And if the journey’s longer than expected, I’ll just make sure to take some food with me.

    Probably both the pizza and a hamburger. Just to be safe.

    Beautiful as always, Eli.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The whole pie is too much to consider, Corey. I used to try for the biggest piece, the one with the most cheese/pepperoni/mushrooms, but I gave that all up and opted for just taking the piece at 12 o’clock and going from there.

      Pizza by the slice brings our focus to the one on the plate, doesn’t it? And there’s always the option to go with a hamburger, which always sounds stellar.

      All this means something different, doesn’t it? You get it. You always do.

      Sometimes, we recalculate. Sometimes, that involves a single slice or a burger. Or both, as you said. Because of course.

  4. ksbeth says:

    you are soccer’s version of yoda

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That might be the nicest thing ever said to me.

  5. ❤️. Your perspective of life these days is heart warming. Totally from the heart.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Susan. You’ve seen it come a long way, haven’t you? There needs to be more from the heart. In writing and otherwise.

      1. Yes and yes! I’m so thrilled for you.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Thanks! It feels good.

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