3 Weeks, 3 Goals – Coaches Across Continents Scores a Hat-Trick in Cambodia
CAC Board Member, Judith Gates, writes about her three weeks on-field with CAC in Cambodia, highlighting the third with Globalteer in Siem Reap.
August 30th, 2014. As a board member I have been involved with the thinking and planning behind CAC from day 1 and now take part on-field in one program each year. It is this on-field involvement that colors my perceptions, changing them from monochrome to startling technicolor. This year has been no different.
Cambodia offers the Western visitor a taste of the exotic. The temples of Angkor Wat remind one of the grandeurs of the past. As a symbol of purity, lotus flowers bloom everywhere, whilst Cambodian smiles and graciousness dominate every exchange. But what also flourishes amid the exotic is grinding poverty, learned helplessness and scarcity of hope.
In the last three weeks in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, CAC has worked with two extraordinary not for profit organisations, Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) and Globalteer, and through them been linked with local partners, including Stepping Stones and ABC’s and Rice. Overall I am humbled by their efforts to help children and young people secure an education and combat poverty. It is a privilege for CAC to bring our program of ‘sport for social impact’ to support their sterling work.
And what positive responses we have had! Maybe the final session with Globalteer best captures the contribution CAC has made. Despite the relentless mid-day sun, despite the tired bodies drenched in sweat, no one wanted to leave the pitch. Certificates were distributed, words of appreciation and thanks were exchanged, innumerable photos were taken, and still the conversations continued, punctuated by laughter, permeated by hope.
Founder Nick Gates often asks his coaches to name their hat-trick of the day, their three outstanding memories. Let me take this concept and apply it to my time on-field in Cambodia.
My most powerful memory is of two words, simple in construct, profound in meaning; the words ” I promise!” For two years CAC has been linked with UNICEF in a project designed to further child rights and child protection in and through sport. CAC was determined to avoid a “filing cabinet approach”. We wanted to create a model which avoided systemised signing of forms, subsequently filed, quickly forgotten. Instead CAC sets out to engage the hearts and minds of local coaches so that their commitment to child protection is both heartfelt and sincere. Following a discussion on forms of abuse, coaches are asked to consider what they must ALWAYS do and NEVER do to protect the rights of children in their care. The discussions were personal and, at times, painful, but the outcomes were powerful. As each session closed, each and every coach shook hands and signed the flipchart to formalise their promise to protect. Their commitment was obvious. They want to improve their community and their country. Throughout the days following this powerful session coaches frequently came up to me to say only two words. ” I promise!” I heard their words, I saw their faces, I respect their determination to be role models for the future.
My second memory is of empowerment. On the first morning of each program CAC was confronted by compliant individuals, culturally conditioned to acquiescence, victims of learned helplessness. By day four, as a result of carefully structured curriculum games, these ‘coaches in the making’ had found their ‘voice’, practised collaborative problem solving skills and were able to take a leadership role in “coach-backs”, namely coaching their peers in the games they had learned. From ‘silence’ to ‘voice’, from ‘compliance’ to ‘problem solving’, personal development was evident.
My third memory is of the power of “self-directed learning”. CAC works with local partners to create “Community Impact Coaches”. These partner coaches complete our program within their community and then take their emerging ‘sport for social impact’ skills and widen their coaching experience by working with CAC coaches in another community. Five Community Impact Coaches were chosen from ISF in Phnom Penh to travel to Siem Reap to work with CAC and Globalteer. There they identified local problems and created and coached football games for social impact. Within the space of a very short time these Community Impact Coaches had grasped the concept of football for social impact, along with the capacity to create and coach games to address local problems. Now that is progress!
Three weeks in Cambodia, three goals achieved. Truly a hat-trick of successes for Coaches Across Continents. When we work with our partner coaches to create self-directed learners, local coaches capable of making thoughtful choices, when they in turn work in their communities to create empowered youth, ‘learned helplessness’ is diminished and the cycle of poverty is interrupted. When disempowered people find hope, their language becomes a language of possibility. And who knows where a sense of possibility may lead.