• 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.

  • “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.

     

     

  • Celebrating Successes and Constantly Improving

    January 11th 2017. CAC strives to improve every day. During our meetings this week at Hawthorne Police Department in Los Angeles we are reflecting on the successes of 2016 and discussing how we continue to be an organization which provides year-round educational consultancy and mentorship to create social impact through sport. Over the past day our meetings have included extensive sessions on:

    • Monitoring and Evaluation in every aspect of CAC’s work
    • Online Education Program and the use of technology in our partnerships
    • How to develop our year-round resources offered to all of our partners
    • The Self-Directed Learning methodology and how it applies to each partnership
    • The progress and development of the Community Impact Coach initiative
    • Our ongoing use of social media and this website!

    CAC is adept at working in many sectors. Alongside more meetings this week we will also be presenting at the NSCAA convention, running a session for public school teachers in LA, talking on a radio show and working with the Hawthorne Police Department to engage children in Hawthorne. We are delighted to continue to build our productive partnership with the Hawthorne PD who have been very kind to allow us to use their meeting space.img_1732

  • Designing, Developing & Implementing CAC

    January 9th 2016. The CAC team of sport for social impact experts are meeting this week in LA, USA. Yesterday was the first full day of the meetings between the team to learn from the 2016 successes and build towards an even better 2017. The Hawthorne Police Department have kindly allowed the team to meet in their conference rooms, following the development of our partnership in 2016 which aims to use sport as a tool to break barriers in the community.

    The meetings provide an opportunity to discuss all aspects of sport for social impact. On day one discussions included:

    • 2016 successes
    • The 2017 vision
    • The ASK for Choice gender equality initiative
    • The Self-Directed Learning model
    • Our revised and improved sport for social impact curriculum

    Over the next few days the meetings will cover all aspects of using sport for social impact globally to enhance the resources we can offer community partners, government partners and corporate partners. Later this week the NSCAA convention will be coming to LA. Two of the CAC team will be presenting on what US soccer coaching can learn from developing countries.

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  • The Beauty of Sindhupalchok

    December 16th 2016. Dylan Pritchard blogs from Sindhupalchok, Nepal where we work with Childreach Nepal.

    In my last week with Coaches Across Continents, Mark, Tejas, and I were with Prateek and Shamsher of Childreach Nepal along with Pema who is a leader on the Michael Johnson Young Leader course in Manekharka, Sindapalchuk. Manekharka is a small village that is only five hundred meters long in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountain Range. It took us three different jeeps to get us there from Kathmandu in six hours. For only about thirty minutes of that six-hour drive were we on paved roads. The rest of the time we were driving up and down mountains on rocky dirt roads. It was a rough ride to get there but once we got there it was absolutely worth it. The beauty of the place stunned Mark, Tejas, and me. Manekharka is at the top of a foothill so you can look down and see a beautiful valley filled with terrace style farming. When you look up you can see some more beautiful foothills and can even see some peaks of the Himalayas. On the first morning Mark and I decided to hike to the top of the mountain we were on so we could get a better look at the peaks of the Himalayas. It was super tiring but we made it and snapped some awesome photos before we realized that we could possibly be late to our first training session. We booked it down the trail and ended up about half a mile away from the tin house we were staying at with only ten minutes to spare! We had to get some directions from some little girls, jump down some farming terraces, and jog but we made it because all the coaches and players came an hour late. So we had breakfast, got dressed, and made the five-minute walk to the training field.

    The setting for the field was stunning. It was not a very nice pitch but it was nestled on a terrace in the mountain and was surrounded by houses and animals with the Himalayas in the background. Only pictures can do any of the views I am talking about justice. This week’s program was set up the same way as last week in Bhaktapur except the players were older. It was an awesome week and I finally felt that I actually made a difference with my coaching. I worked on all of the points I have received from the coaches I have encountered on this trip and it culminated with this week. This week I taught all of the skill games that are modeled after famous football players. The way these games work is you do three different skills over the course of the drill and while you do the skill you must say what skill that is, such as “Ronaldo 1!” The drill works on soccer skills but it encourages the player to become more comfortable with their voice. Later on they then have the chance to choose what skill they want to do which reinforces the Self-Directed Learning part of CAC because they now make the decision on what skill to do instead of the coaches. What made me happy was that in the player’s spare time in between drills and during water breaks they were doing the skills and saying the skill aloud like I coached them. This is a reflection of their eagerness to learn and play football but it made me giddy inside knowing that I aided in the process of sustaining CAC curriculum past the time I leave. This was the first instant I felt the affect of coaching and it will definitely not be my last. During this past five weeks it has helped me realize that football must always be part of my life and coaching would be a great way to do that whether it be part time or full time.

    I have had an awesome time this past five weeks learning about football for social impact and I would like to take this time to thank Coaches Across Continents for giving me this opportunity. They say on their website that you will not understand what football for social impact is until you go on a trip and I cannot agree more. The experience I have had learning about different cultures through soccer has been one of the best of my life so far. I owe a special thank you to Mark for putting up with me for five weeks but also teaching me so much about coaching, being a leader, life, and myself. The concepts I have learned from you on this trip will serve me for the rest of my life. Thank you again Coaches Across Continents for this experience and hopefully I get a chance to work with you again in the future.

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