• Crossing Borders, Finding Home

    February 25, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Process Consultant, Emily Kruger writes about FESAC program in Obregón, Sonora, Mexico.

    Part 1: Borders

    We arrived in Ciudad Obregón after an incredible 4 days with the Physical Education teachers in Hermosillo, who set the bar very high for the three locations in our partnership with FESAC and SEC in Mexico. Within just a few minutes of Monday morning’s Circle of Friends, it was obvious that these 50 PE teachers would bring the same enthusiasm and creative thinking that enriched the week before. This meant another week with a special flare for a Year 2 program, where CAC could confidently share ownership of the week with the participants. When asked about creating and leading their own games, participants made it clear they wanted more responsibility than they took on last year.

    By Tuesday they were already working together to prepare the session for Wednesday. There were seven groups of 4-5 coaches, each one huddled around big sheets of paper on make-shift tables with markers in hand. We walked around and listened in as they collaborated: pointing, moving, deliberating, drawing, and re-drawing. Within 30 minutes, each group had a full sheet of paper with a diagram up top, description of how to play, and potential questions to ask while leading it. They were even checking the criteria: Are the games you created universally accessible? Is there space for problem solving and critical thinking by the students? Is there a social impact message integrated into the game? We asked if they would be ready to coach them the next day and there was a resounding “sí!” from everyone.

    My favorite game was called “Muro de Trump” or “Trump’s Wall”. They split the groups into four teams and asked each one to pick a Mexican city that borders the U.S. When the coaches called out a city, that team tried to “cross the border” without being tagged by the border control officers. They added ways to get through border control legally, like obtaining a visa i.e. a ball. This was such a creative, locally-relevant iteration of what I called “sharks and minnows” growing up. Considering it was a new idea, the coaches agreed that there was more to the metaphor that they are going to work out because they really want to use this game to talk with their students about the realities and dangers of crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. For example, what are the consequences of being caught by border police without a visa? What might happen when you get to the other side? Why do people in Mexico want/need to live in the U.S.? There is so much here to dig into! Not only is it a dynamic game, but it also creates a space for some very important conversations between teachers and students here in Mexico.

    This game made me see immigration through the lens of people in Mexico. It will be an important conversation and reflection to continue as we travel to Nogales for our final week working with the Physical Education teachers of Sonora, Mexico!

  • 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.

  • Buwaya: By Foot, Matatu, Boda-Boda, and a Boat

    April 22, 2014. Our third week in Uganda brings us back for a third year to a remote community on the shores of Lake Victoria. CAC staff members Nora Dooley and Markus Bensch join long-time CAC partner and friend, Godfrey Mugisha (Moogy) for a week-long training in Buwaya.

    P1030476Every morning our coaches embarked on the journey across the lake from Entebbe, which involved walking, chasing down a matatu (large group taxi), clambering into a wooden motor-boat, and hopping on a boda-boda (motorbike taxi). Upon finally reaching their destination, our team was met by a bumpy, yet beautiful grass pitch set above a sprawling green backcountry. As the program participants trickled in from all directions, One World Futbols were scattered about, completing the perfect CAC picture.

    The coaches who joined the training this week are not of the typical CAC breed, but represent everything that CAC stands for – the desire to make an impact in your community. They are not from an existing NGO, they do not have a formal football academy, they are not government or municipal workers, but they are people, passionate people who love a game and want to learn. We cannot possibly ask for more.

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    We had previously visited this community for two years and a few of this year’s participants were part of those trainings as well. Once we got a feel for the dynamic of the group – knowledge, experience, social issues, and the realities of the resources in Buwaya – we were able to steer the focus of the curriculum in the direction of maximum social impact for this particular group, during this particular week, in this particular community.

    Aside from the usual, worldwide favorites like Mingle Mingle and Condom Tag, this group learned tons of football skills during Ronaldo, Wilshere, Xavi, and Wambach Skills for Life, and had an absolute blast with Touré for Health & Wellness and Falcao for Fun. Touré for Health & Wellness is one of our new games that is quickly becoming a CAC fixture. During this game there are two teams lined up in front of identical grids. The grids are made up of four or five cones – in Buwaya we used four bricks (solve your problem!) – and each cone is assigned a number. The coach yells out a sequence of numbers, maybe starting with two and increasing to four or even five at once, and one player from each team has to touch the cones in that exact order as fast as possible, racing the other player to either an additional cone on the other side of the grid or to one football that they race to shoot. This is a brilliant game for agility and quickness of body and mind – a perfect union of football and social impact, not to mention it’s incredibly fun to play as well as to coach.

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    Falcao for Fun is another terrific new game that we ended up playing for an hour with this group… and our CAC staff jumped in – we couldn’t let the participants have that much fun without us! In this game there are two teams lined up by the “posts” or bricks of two goals that are close together. This was a smaller group so we played 2 v. 2 but it can be played 3 v. 3 or 4 v. 4. If one of the teams scores or if the ball crosses the other team’s end-line, then the shooting team stays and two new players come on with the ball from the side that was shot on. This game is FAST and rewards shooting and quick decisions, as the next two players have to be ready with a ball pending a shot from the opposing team. And the group in Buwaya absolutely ate it up – maybe it’s the answer to African football… stop passing/dancing and SHOOT. Who knows?

    After the program our team stayed the night in tents across the lake instead of returning to Entebbe. A fun experience for our staff, but moreover it was a gesture of friendship and gratitude that was deeply appreciated by the entire community. Although this is a third-year program, CAC will be returning to Uganda and will hopefully be able to fit in a quick matatu/boat/boda-boda adventure to pay a visit to our friends in Buwaya.

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  • Football for Female Empowerment

    Why is it important for girls to play sports? This is a question we ask all of our participants, all over the world. Our female empowerment initiative here at CAC is all-inclusive… meaning we hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold the rest of the world. Our team is made up of at least 60% female coaches, and we do not accept partner programs that do not include women in their activities. It is important to understand, however, that gender equity is the ultimate goal. Yet, so often we hear the phrase, “she doesn’t play like a girl.” What does this mean? How do we move away from this type of mentality that so generalizes and devalues female potential?

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    The need for female empowerment on a global scale is urgent. We recognize that need and in response, allow it to permeate throughout our organization on and off the field. On-field, aside from leading programs with female senior staff and the most female-empowering men you’ve ever met, we have injected it into our curriculum. Every player has a Gender Equity game. An example of one of these games is Messi for Gender Equity. This game addresses violence with particular attention to violence against women and girls.

    In order to bring these issues to the forefront we play a game with variations that point to specific topics. In the first round there are the taggers that represent different forms of violence – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual – that chase the others around a box that represents their community. If tagged, the player has to freeze with one hand covering their mouth, signifying the inability to speak. We will stop and have a brief discussion about that round and how difficult it was for the players being chased. We will ask who in their community can help put an end to violence against females and those answers will elicit a ball. The footballs can be passed among the players being chased, representing members of the community that can help prevent violence and also assist those that have been victims of violence. The players in possession of a ball are safe, and those that are frozen can be freed if a ball passes through their legs. The final round of this game allows the frozen players to call for help, demonstrating that an act of violence did not take away their voice.

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    Messi for Gender Equity is a terrific game of tag that incorporates the ball and captures the essence of violence – the affects, how to stop it, how to help each other, how to help ourselves. The game embodies the message, and the details come through in the discussions, which, as always, vary as the culture varies. A group of sixty middle-aged men in the toughest neighborhood of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Cité Soleil, Haiti, is going to have a different discussion from a group of twenty teenage girls in downtown Mumbai, India.

    With this game, and many others, an obvious target is the voice. A massive part in all that we do, the voice is the most powerful tool that we can use to make our own decisions in life, to make our own choices. Every person, young or old, female or male, is entitled to a voice and a choice, and we work to empower them to claim those rights.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows us that participants who know how to use football to give young girls a voice and to have confidence to make personal choices jumps from 17% before to 96% after a CAC training.

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  • New Country, New Experiences, Big Impact

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    February 28, 2014. It is safe to say that our coaches experienced a true CAC first upon their arrival at their weeklong home on the Yucatán Peninsula. After two flights and a quick 14-hour layover in between, staff members Nora Dooley and Sophie Legros alongside volunteer and all-star translator Tomas Torres-Tarver of the One World Futbol family, arrived safely in Mérida, albeit exhausted, excited, and a bit delirious. Our gracious hosts, FEYAC (Fundación del Empresariado Yucateco A.C.), gathered us from the airport late at night and brought us to our temporary oasis… and when I say oasis, I mean… oasis. Eyes watering from laughing so hard, our coaches could do little else as they soaked in the reality of living directly on a beach, in a gorgeous house with more space than our two seasoned staff knew what to do with. Suffice it to say we are not used to such luxury, but when it comes our way we certainly are not shy in seizing the moment.

    Other than the VIP accommodation, this week in Mérida stands as our first program in Mexico, and this group of coaches definitely delivered. A band of about 50 men and women from all over the Yucatán state, these participants proved each and every day how much they not only care about the children in their care as teachers and coaches, but also how passionate they are about finding innovative ways to educate. They unequivocally latched on to the social messages of every game we played with them, making our jobs incredibly easy, fun, and rewarding.

    1502va108As we do with all programs, in all cultural contexts, in so many communities around the world, we asked this group about the social issues most relevant to their society, to their culture, to the people, young and old, that they encounter in their everyday lives. The feedback we received was integral in planning the training schedule, as our priority is always to give our participants exactly what they ask for as we help them on the path to self-directed learning.

    The collective voice of this assembly of coaches emphasized the reality of bullying and discrimination facing children throughout the communities they live and work in. In response to this we played a game called Lupita Against Bullying. We named this game after a participant in this training who has been playing for the Mexican Women’s National Team for 15 years – Lupita Worbis – a true role model who cares deeply about community development and using her celebrity to pay it forward.

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    In this game there are players who represent different forms of bullying such as insults or violence. These players must chase the others around the grid – which represents their community – and try to tag them. If they tag them they yell out what type of bullying they represent and the player they tag must crouch down on the ground, making it clear that they have been caught. Once all the players are tagged we play the game again, but this time we introduce a way for the tagged players to be freed. This can happen when a free player approaches a crouching, frozen player and empowers them with a complement, raising them back up and giving them the power to run once more. Following this game was a great discussion about how we can combat the issue of bullying, addressing specific circumstances raised by some of the participants as well as in a more general context.

    This dynamic and fruitful week of training left our CAC team in high spirits. Yes, the beach house played a slight factor, but even more inspiring was the passion exuded by the participants and members of the FEYAC team day in and day out. To say we are excited about the future of this partnership is an understatement, but when I say our staff will be fighting over running this program in the coming years… I’m talking rumpus!

    Thank you FEYAC and all the coaches and teachers for the incredible welcome, hospitality, energy and commitment to social impact – ¡Muchas gracias!

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  • Do you use Amazon to Shop?

    August 9th 2013: If you do most of your shopping on-line then we have developed a great way for you to shop and donate money to Coaches Across Continents and the children we impact all over the world!

    Through Fundinco you can now pay the same price for your Amazon items safe in the knowledge that 3% of the fee spent will go to Coaches Across Continents. Upon clicking on this link you will be taken to Fundinco. All you have to do is click on Coaches Across Continents or the Amazon button and you will be on Amazon and can shop until your heart is content. IMG_0344 For each item purchased during that visit 3% will go to Coaches Across Continents without adding any extra onto the cost for you! Please note that upon entering Amazon you will receive no more information regarding your CAC donation but as long as you went through Fundinco to Amazon your 3% will get to CAC! This is perfect whether you are buying for yourself or presents for friends and family.

    There is no sign in and no extra cost. Not only will you get what you want but you will know that you have helped children all over the world be educated through soccer. With CAC now reaching 120,000 children in 20 countries your help can support our innovative curriculum which teaches significant social issues such as conflict resolution, life skills, gender equity and health and wellness including HIV behaviour change.

    Click on the button below to shop and make an impact globally! Remember you must go through fundinco each time you shop on Amazon.