• Emulating Self-Directed Learning

    February 20th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and FESAC in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

    The Coaches Across Continents team landed in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico at 11:30pm after four two-hour flights. While a bit exhausted we were greeted by a bubbly character by the name of Andrea from the local partner, Fundación del Empresario Sonorense (FESAC). She hit us with a burst of energy that quickly permeated our sleepiness. This is an energy that we would continue to experience with the participants throughout the week! Hermosillo reminded me a lot of home in Southern California. Paved roads with some street vendors selling delicious tamales, tacos, and fresh fruits.

    The first day the partner took us to Náinari Lake. It was the place to be! Everyone was there. Vendors were selling food and drinks, there was a stage with live music, people were on pedal boats across the lake, zip lines longer than a football field were hanging above the lake, we saw birds being fed, trampolines being used, and countless children in battery operated cars driving around in front of their parents while they walked the perimeter of the lake. It was stunning. We were able to walk around and watch the sun set over the lake until it became too chilly. Then the partner took us back to our hotel. It was a nice break before getting the week started.

    This week we worked with Physical Education teachers and students in the Hermosillo area. The teachers were eager to learn and get started. A lot of them remembered a couple of the games from last year and mentioned they used them throughout the year. We were told that one of the teachers even took the CAC curriculum they learned from last year to nearby after-school programs outside of Hermosillo. What an impact! It was so great to hear about the CAC curriculum making it’s way around Sonora, Mexico after teachers had gone through the training last year. This group was ready and engaged. As new games were being presented they had plenty of questions, conversations and creative solutions to current challenges facing their schools today. This group was so involved that they were able to adapt games on the spot when asked how they would change the game to make it even more relevant to what they face as Physical Education in schools in Sonora, Mexico.

    Seeing this group take to the CAC curriculum so wholeheartedly, the CAC team decided they were ready for the challenge to create their own games in the realm of health and wellness, bullying, and inclusion issues. These issues were the main conversation points throughout the week. The teachers created teams of three to four people to collaborate, create, and deliver a new game that addressed the three main points above. The CAC curriculum “students” were now becoming the creators! The resources CAC supplied them with in regards to games, social messaging, and questions allowed this group to continue in their learning, challenging of concepts, and adapting to make them relevant to their area. It was phenomenal to see how well the games addressed certain issues and how well the teachers emulated Self-Directed Learning within their sessions. One of the Physical Education university students absorbed CAC so much that she wanted to know more about the philosophy and volunteer opportunities. Below is her story:

    “My name is Dayanna Enriquez from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I attended the training sessions this past week. I currently study physical education and as a student, the sessions Mark, Taylor and Emily provided taught me so many things when it comes to teaching children. How simple games can impact the lives of so many kids and the way we as teachers can help them grow and accomplish many goals in life.

    The week was very productive with a lot of fun games and lessons learned. We had lots of fun and they actually inspired me to find out more about the organization Coaches Across Continents to see if there is any way for me to volunteer and try and help others make the world a better place.

    I want to thank Mark, Taylor and Emily for providing me with the opportunity to take part in the weekly sessions. Also I want to congratulate them for their enthusiasm and their great outgoing personalities that made this course lots of fun and a great atmosphere for us to learn while enjoying ourselves.

    Hopefully one day I can get a chance to become part of this great experience!”

    Coaches Across Continents has created a space for teachers at different schools to come together and start a conversation around how they can overcome the biggest issues facing their kids today. The CAC curriculum has already sparked action within the teaching community in Hermosillo.  After successfully taking on the challenge of creating their own games with social messaging attached, the teachers are motivated and determined to continue the work and adaptation of the CAC curriculum to address relevant issues in their communities. I look forward to seeing the growth of this group in the next few months! Great job CAC!

  • Soccer Sisters

    February 2nd 2017. Blog from partner Soccer Sisters, discussing CAC concepts. 

    How Sports Taught My Son To Solve His Own Problems

    (And Do His Own Homework!)

    My fourth-grade son hasn’t missed a homework assignment in 18+ weeks. Talk about a revolution. That’s 18 weeks and counting without him forgetting a single assignment, log signature, reading, permission slip or long-term project.Nothing short of a miracle. For some context, in the past, labeling him lackadaisical would have been a compliment.

    So what turned him around? Lectures? Bribes? Threats? Nope. He used something called “self-directed learning” from playing games on a soccer field.

    As an advocate for girls and women in sports, I am a big believer in sport for education and this summer our family took a service trip to Armenia with Coaches Across Continents, the world’s largest charity that uses sport for education. The CAC curriculum relies on “self-directed learning,” which means kids play games based on soccer drills that create conflict and the players solve their problems in order to win or play.

    The games were fun, but the message repeated over and over again was simple and genius: “Solve your problems. Solve. Your. Own. Problems.” Not the parent/coach mantra of, “Here, let me help you. Let me show you. Do it this way.” The framework for learning was soccer and fun, but the message was unusual. Most of the time, either on or off the field, we tell our kids what and how to do something and think that is the only way to teach or play.

    When we, as parents, solve our kids’ problems, we are hampering their ability to solve them on their own. In my view, that’s exactly when parents and coaches get tuned out like all the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Remember those? Wah Wah Wah. Blah Blah Blah. Words Words Words. Instead, imagine the fun and challenge of playing games where teams have to move a ball together around a cone with all members of the group touching the ball at the same time but without using their hands or feet. How do you do that? Well, figure it out. Solve your problem.
    It was simple and genius and I am convinced that something about those games on the soccer field clicked for my son. He learned to take care of fourth-grade business. I have been watching his complete turnaround over the last six months. At first, I thought it had to do with just turning ten. Or being in a different classroom.

    But this week, I was convinced it was more than that. He has late soccer on Tuesday nights, getting home at 8:45 p.m., still having to eat dinner and shower. Usually he’s too worn out to read after all that, so he does it beforehand. On the way to soccer I asked him if he had completed all his work, and his 30 minutes of required nightly reading. Surprisingly, he hadn’t.

    Every one of those 18 weeks he got a star sticker for doing all his homework – and he really likes those stickers. I said, “OK. Well, I’m not signing your reading log if you don’t read, so you are just going to have to figure it out.” No signature, no sticker.

    From the back seat came his answer: “This was totally my fault and my responsibility.” I think my eyebrows reached my hairline. He got there on his own and acknowledged that it was his problem to solve. In the bustle of dinner and dishes, I promptly forgot all about it until I went up to his room after washing up. He was in bed, still in his soccer clothes, finishing his reading.

    He’d solved his problem. I felt like the Ponce De Leon of parents. How did this happen? Without me doing anything? Then it hit me. William learned it all on a soccer field – and it was fun.

    I realize that few people have the opportunity to go on a foreign trip with an organization such as CAC, and to learn first-hand the kinds of exercises that focus on “self-directed learning.” But you don’t need a passport and a plane ticket to learn it. So much of it is already ingrained in the culture of sport, in the teambuilding and problem-solving that happens on the pitch at practice every day.

    For William, the message reached him in a way that 1,000 wah, wah, wah morning lectures on responsibility never would and never did.

  • Setting New G.O.A.L.S

    February  13th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and G.O.A.L.S. Haiti in Léogâne Haiti.

    Passing through Port-au-Prince into Léogâne took us from a concrete city to the tropical countryside. Just beyond the street borders to the west was the ocean and to the east was flat land full of sugar cane stalks reaching about four feet to six feet tall surrounded by palm trees bearing green coconuts. In the harvested areas animals roamed such as cows, pigs, chickens, goats, and horses. The air was cooler and lighter from the ocean breeze than the middle of the capital city, also not as many people or cars on the road. When we arrived to the apartment the entrance was secured by a giant metal blue sliding gate that covered the driveway at the curb. Once the security guard pushed it open we saw the entire driveway made of smooth oval black and gray rocks that crunched underneath the tires. There were bright white buildings embellished with blue and green accents from the color of the doors, window shutters, and staircase railings. In the middle of the driveway stood an enormous lush mango tree with green mangos dangling from the branches.

     

    The program consisted of around twenty five coaches from G.O.A.L.S. Haiti – a sport-for-development nonprofit organization helping children and teens in Haiti through the love of soccer. Many of the coaches met us at the G.O.A.L.S. office; the apartment we stayed in sits just above it. The G.O.A.L.S. Haiti staff share a white pick-up truck and every morning there would be around ten coaches in the bed of the truck ready to hitch a ride to the field for training. Being welcomed by that type of energy every morning was uplifting to say the least! We would open our door to come downstairs and around five to ten coaches would greet us once we were down by the mango tree. The field we got to play on was a grass field enclosed by a chain link fence with several openings that would later allow for chickens, goats and stray dogs to find themselves roaming around our trainings. At one point, a goat found herself in the middle of the goal when we were about to do a shooting game. Other fields were right next to sugar cane areas with cows, pigs, and horses within a couple yards of the field. The background was a scenic view of green mountains with the sun setting just over the horizon. It was a stunning view with the green mountains, tall palm trees with coconuts, lush sugar cane fields, and animals roaming around filling the landscape.

     

    This week we were accompanied by Community Impact Coaches (CIC’s) from the Haitian Initiative Program. These particular Haitian Initiative coaches have been a several year partner with Coaches Across Continents and have been noticeably impactful in their communities by using CAC curriculum. The CIC’s are there to support CAC in delivering the curriculum side-by-side to other partners, with the hope of Haitian Initiative and G.O.A.L.S. Haiti to join forces and continue to build onto each others’ positive impacts in communities throughout Haiti beyond the borders of their own cities. It was great to see other programs with similar missions coming together and discussing how they can join forces to create an even bigger ripple in their communities.

     

    One of my favorite moments from the week in Léogâne happened after the first day. A young woman who speaks English, and is an English teacher, came up to me and told me she learned two things that day. I was excited she opened up to me after the first day to share! I hadn’t experienced that in the three weeks in Haiti. She continued to tell me about her two favorite games from the day. She loved Mingle-Mingle and the Financial Literacy game. In Mingle-Mingle one of the questions asked was to get together with people of the same faith or religion. There were about five groups, and this woman, was actually standing alone. She mentioned she was Mormon, and not a lot of people in her community were Mormon, and for that moment on the field, she realized religion doesn’t have to be a conflict point. She learned that no matter what religion another person is they can still get along, they can still bond and work together on the soccer field, and they can still bond and work together off the field. I thought that was really neat to hear! In the Financial Literacy game she mentioned how she learned about taking ownership of her income, educating herself about options, and becoming empowered to make her own decision about whether to save, spend, or even invest. She never thought about investing or making investment purchases to move closer to her goals. Both comments really solidified positive outcomes and impacts the CAC curriculum can have on people that participate in these programs. It’s often difficult to see any sort of impact made in a week with people who speak another language, so it was reassuring for a participant to share these lessons with me.

     

    From the tropical setting, plus three organizations joining forces, in addition a woman opening up about lessons learned after day one – needless to say, this was an incredible experience. Coaches Across Continents is creating a safe space for their partners to have conversations around forward thinking and challenging harmful societal traditions in their communities all driven by the participants themselves. CAC is empowering individuals to think creatively, to challenge harmful mindsets, and to envision a better future; all through sport! The Self-Directed Learning model (SDL) is giving opportunities to people who want to see a change in their communities for the better. They are equipping participants with curriculum that can open up the conversation around improvements within themselves, their teams, their communities, and ultimately turn them into action plans. I am proud to be a part of an organization so driven to create a better world, one partner and community at a time. Keep up the great work CAC!

  • “She was prominent. She was confident. She knew the game.”

    January 31st 2017. CAC Global Citizen Taylor Allen writes about her experience working with CAC and the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 

    Upon arrival into Port-au-Prince I could already get a sense of the bustle around the capital city. Our partner arrived at the airport shortly after we landed and drove us to the guest house the CAC team would be staying for the week. The sun was relentless in its heat and humidity, and the amount of cars we saw on the road could rival the infamous Los Angeles traffic. The sidewalks were full of vendors selling t-shirts, shoes, electronics, rice, beans, fruits, vegetables, and drinks. We arrived at the beautiful guest house the local partner offered to CAC, with a beautiful pool in the courtyard, wi-fi, electricity, and three prepared meals a day. The continuous energy that welcomed us as we walked off the plane was the same energy that surrounded us for the remaining two weeks on and off the field.

    It was an amazing opportunity to get the chance to play in Haiti’s National Stadium. The stadium is located near the base of a mountain, which made the views all the more beautiful. Every morning we’d pile into the car and drive for an hour to get to the field that was three miles away. Streets were busy every morning with young children dressed in their school uniforms walking to class along the sidewalk with motor bikes zooming in and out of traffic. This past week we had a total of ninety participants, among them were coaches, players and students. The partnership with Haitian Initiative (HI) is in its fifth year, therefore, the decision was made that by the end of the week Coaches Across Continents would be there as support, while the coaches of Haitian Initiative would run a futbol for social impact program with CAC curriculum and their adapted games they’ve created over the last five years with the participants. The games included some from CAC Curriculum, class sessions with CAC, and adapted games created by Haitian Initiative coaches specifically for the local issues they wanted to address as leaders in their communities.

    In the middle of the week, inspired by CAC staff Emily Kruger and Jordan Stephenson, Haitian Initiative coaches decided to create a list of criteria that they believe encompasses a successful training session for self-assessment and peer-assessment to make improvements. Once this list was created, every afternoon following, the HI coaches would sit down and run through each session from the day and check off (or not check off) the boxes. In doing this, we saw noticeable improvements each day! HI coaches took full ownership of running the program for the week by Thursday and Friday. It was incredible to see CAC’s program come full circle and achieve the goal of sustainable social impact through sport.

    One of my favorite moments this week came from an HI coach named Astrude. Among the HI coaches, there are about four women. One of the women is a powerhouse, she’s one of the best coaches within the group, male or female, her name is Marie-France. When the participants were split into smaller groups, Astrude was paired with Marie-France. I had never really heard Astrude speak, she was quiet and kept to herself often. Then the day came, I could hear and feel her presence on the field, and ran over to catch the rest of the session. She took initiative (no pun intended), she was prominent, she was confident, she was heard, and she knew the game. Not often did I see a woman leading a group of men this week. Astrude was as confident as the best of them while leading a group of twenty-five men in teaching skills and proper technique. She was knowledgable and is a great player to begin with, so you can tell she was comfortable. What an inspiration. She’s surrounded by talkative men throughout the day, but when it was her turn to step up, she filled even the biggest shoes.

    This week was a lot to take in and a bit challenging at first, from sights to smells, to navigating communication without being able to speak the same language. I was lucky enough to learn from the leadership of CAC’s staff Emily Kruger and Jordan Stephenson. They are great role models to follow when it comes to circumventing new and unfamiliar situations on and off the field. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be a part of. I’ve learned a lot, met a lot of new people, learned a lot of new games, built new friendships, and look forward to keeping in touch with the inspiring coaches I’ve met on this trip. Thank you Coaches Across Continents for sharing what you do and allowing for opportunities, like this, for people like myself to volunteer. I look forward to my next trip to Mexico with CAC!

  • From Cambridge to Port-au-Prince

    January 23rd 2017. CAC Global Citizen Jessica Li writes about her experience with CAC and the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This partnership is supported by USAID.

    Sitting back in my dorm room in Cambridge, I can’t quite believe that I’ve just come off an absolute whirlwind of a week in Port-au-Prince. Last week marked the fourth year CAC has worked with the Haitian Initiative (HI), a program that uses soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty for Haitian children. In the neighborhood of Cite Soleil, children face a high risk of gang violence, hunger, and HIV/AIDS. Children must consistently attend school and have passing grades to participate in the program. The program includes six days a week of practice or games as well as English class and a hot meal. For the majority of the children, that meal is the only one they get each day.

    While CAC has partnered with HI coaches for four years, this year’s program included 150 new participants, including students, national team players, and coaches of all ages. Luckily, the HI coaches were familiar with many of our games and could help us manage such a big group! Our sessions were conducted at the Haitian National Stadium, a real treat for both us and many of the participants. During our drives to the stadium in the morning, we’d see people carrying objects of all shapes and sizes on their heads, pigs and other live animals roaming the streets, and all types of street art. The other thing we noted was that music was playing everywhere, whether from buildings, cars, or random speakers on the street (this fact made for some interesting moments during the week when we’d be hanging out with Titanic music playing in the background). The stadium itself is located near the foot of a mountain range, providing a bit of a respite from the chaotic streets and making for incredible background views. Upon arriving on the first day, many participants were already waiting for us, several of whom excitedly greeted Emily, who had worked with them last year. Jordan, Taylor (another Global Citizen), and I smiled when we saw this and eagerly anticipated forming our own connections with the participants.

    Throughout the week, I was struck by the incredible energy the Haitian participants brought to each session. They never hesitated to break out a dance move, and many a time I found myself suddenly engulfed in crowds of cheering and chanting coaches. They also never failed to make us laugh; once, when asked to find creative ways to cross the Circle of Friends while touching a partner, we not only saw coaches carry each other in all sorts of ways but also holding each other’s noses and ears. However, the coaches were also able to combine fun with serious conversations about ways in which they hoped to change their communities. They envisioned a Haiti with increased opportunity, equality, and hope. A particularly powerful conversation occurred after playing India for Knowledge, a game where teams label each cone as a women’s right and then race to the corresponding cone when the coach yells out that right. Although the group consisted predominantly of men, they came up with women’s rights such as the right to a voice, an abortion, equality, and respect. When asked whether women in Haiti currently have these rights, they all said no but that this fact should change. They genuinely wanted women to be their equals and saw them as integral members of society. Later, we used this list to start a conversation with just the women about creating and implementing a women’s rights policy. It filled us with hope to see the women creating a WhatsApp group, a network of support among strong and intelligent women who didn’t know each other prior to the program. We hoped they would continue to discuss ideas and inspire one another moving forward.

    This week has given me an incredible glimpse into the power of sport to transform communities. The HI coaches could discuss ideas for their own games or how to adapt our games with us, and we loved that they could help lead their fellow Haitian coaches. This week we were able to include 150 more coaches into the movement and know that many of them will also become leaders in enacting change.

     

     

  • CAC’s LA Adventure

    January 17th 2017. The CAC world has revolved around Los Angeles, USA over the past 10 days. For 4 days the team discussed CAC strategy at the Hawthorne Police Department who kindly allowed us to use their community room. We also covered new aspects of the CAC curriculum on the Chevrolet FC field which is managed and used by the Hawthorne PD to break down barriers between the police and local youth. It was built last year and opened by Manchester United legend Denis Irwin and Gyasi Zardes of LA Galaxy. Towards the end of the 10 days we branched out and fulfilled other commitments in the LA area:

    1. We ran a session with teachers from 9 different ICEF schools in the LA area (see picture above). This session focused on CAC’s educational Self-Directed Learning methodology. We demonstrated some CAC games to the group of engaged and passionate teachers which led to many fun and interactive discussions.
    2. Three of the CAC team (Nora Dooley, Emily Kruger and Kelly Conheeney) talked to volunteer Carrie Taylor on her radio show called Women Talking Football which airs on KaoticRadio.com. They discussed CAC’s partnership model and our ASK for Choice initiative which influences gender policy globally.
    3. CAC’s Chief Executive Strategist Brian Suskiewicz and ASK for Choice Strategist Nora Dooley presented at the NSCAA Convention at the LA Convention Center (see picture below). They analyzed ‘Global Coaching for Social Impact: What US Soccer Can Learn From Developing Countries’. During the convention CAC was also able to meet with many of our partners, old and new.
    4. Brian was also on a podcast called Youth Soccer Spotlight which is broadcast from Network Studios in LA. They welcomed Brian on to discuss CAC, our work and the work of many of the youth soccer coaches who get involved with CAC. Check out this podcast here.

    While it was a very busy week for the full CAC team things don’t get quieter! Some of the team have already gone to Haiti to start our 2017 partner programs with the Haitian Initiative while others have major external meetings planned this week. More on that soon!