Paul Cuadros’ A Home on the Field is an inspirational retelling of the author’s three years as the soccer coach at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City, NC. His players, most of whom were Hispanic immigrants from Central and South America, were struggling to prosper in the American football-crazed town before he arrived.
When Cuadros, who went to North Carolina to study the growing Hispanic populations in the South, approached the school’s principal about starting a team, he acknowledged that Cuadros’ idea was a good one, but he did not foresee any long-term viability for the program. Besides the costliness that surrounded establishing a program, the principal mentioned that most of the Hispanics at the school, who would make up the core of the team, “really do not understand being eligible to play a sport” (33). Cuadros persisted, and eventually received support from the school district’s superintendent to start a team with him as the coach.
Cuadros structured early practices around teamwork and always finished practice with a game that was a team favorite: cascarita. He began to realize, however, that the players, though they wanted it to be, could not keep soccer as a high priority. Many players were forced to work jobs in order to help support their families, so practice attendance numbers fluctuated. In the book, Cuadros wrote that the type of work did not matter, only that “[one] was working and making money” (76).
The beginning of the inaugural season arrived, and Cuadros, through his position on the board of a local soccer league, was able to acquire new uniforms for the boys to wear. Cuadros wrote that the boys “were giddy with excitement” (77) and were finally able to feel like a part of their school, for “they were no longer on the sidelines watching teams compete as Jets…they were now Jets themselves” (78). Although they found success on the field, home lives for the players were never easy. For instance, Cuadros wrote about a player named Indio who called Cuadros one night stating that he would have to go back to Mexico to tend to his ailing grandmother. Cuadros implored Indio to remain in North Carolina, citing that he “might never get back to finish school” (196). After Indio’s father spoke with Cuadros to alert him that he would be traveling back to Mexico but that the rest of his family would stay in Siler City, he, with the help of Cuadros, wrote a letter for Cuadros to give to his family in case he never returned. Cuadros mentioned that he placed the letter on his bookcase, and “it sits there to this day” (197).
The culmination of Cuadros’ and the team’s hard work came when they won the state championship during his final season at the helm. In an almost stunning turn of events, supporters for the Jordan-Matthews soccer team came out in troves. Although just a mere three years earlier the idea of a soccer team in the town was essentially unheard of, Cuadros recalled that “there were black, white, and brown students…[and] teachers…to support their kids” (250). In the book’s final passage, Cuadros conjures up an image of the trophy case at the high school that houses the state championship trophy and a picture of the team. When Hispanic students pass by and glance at the case, Cuadros writes, “they see themselves with the promise of a better future” (264).
Great underdog story