#BringBackOurGirls. Her and Me: Defining Chance
CAC Senior Staff member, Nora Dooley, tells her story as it compares to the lives of the young women she meets in her CAC travels.
I am on a field. The best kind of field. I look around and see players warming up. The best kind of players. I close my eyes. I listen. I am thrown back into a time in my life on a different field, with different players. But the sounds are the same. The feeling is the same. Excitement, energy, passion, and hope. When I open my eyes sadness pervades my thoughts. I remember where I am, and reality smashes through my nostalgia like a ball to the gut. The slick turf fields in my mind crumble into the rock‐strewn dust pitch where I stand. Half-covered in the dust myself, I take in my surroundings. White and brown skin melts into deep black. Common shouts heard during practice jump from English to Créole. Fully‐matured young women run around quite obviously lacking an essential article of female athletic apparel. Goals are missing nets. Cleats are missing soles. But that feeling lingers. Excitement, energy, passion, and, now even more, hope. The vast majority of my 24 years in this world have been devoted to the game of football – or soccer, thanks America. Before college I lived and breathed the sport. I’m convinced that the only reason I did well in school was because, yes, I have a decent brain thanks to my genes, but mainly I was so competitive in everything else, why not in school too? From the age of 5, it was on. Sports were me and I was sports. Basketball took the early lead, but soccer was gaining fast and soon emerged as the obvious choice – I was a little baller. Being born and raised in America meant I had to keep up with the competitive nature of the country, which far surpasses my innate yearning for the win and bleeds into every aspect of the suburban sports scene. From equipment to training to multiple teams to travel, blind excess wreaks havoc on youngsters with dreams. A new pair of cleats every season? Par for the course. New warm-ups so we can look better than the next team? Sure, why not? Beautifully manicured grass pitches? Brand-new, top of the line field turf? Why? Because we can. This is America. And the best/worst part? My family was on the conservative end of the excess. My supportive parents never reached lunacy like so many others. They only wanted me to be happy, and had the means to do so. How lucky was I? Lucky. Since graduating from Columbia University where I played for the Women’s team for four years, I have jumped full‐throttle into a lifestyle that is drastically different from the first 22 of those oxygen/football guzzling years. I spend my time traveling week to week working for Coaches Across Continents, the best organization that ever claimed to be making a difference in this wildly unequal world. I spread the gospel of football, stifling my competitive urges in the name of social impact – educating underserved communities on how to think differently about the sport in order to empower their children to become self-directed learners. It is a true vocation.
Some of the places I stay would be unacceptable, shocking, in fact, to many of the people I grew up around in suburbia. Places where shitting in a hole with cockroaches exceeding fingers in numbers is the norm, getting malaria is a rite of passage, and iPhones might as well be UFOs. But standards of living are relative, just like pain, and love, and pretty much everything that elicits emotion. We react based on what we are accustomed to – whether I clearly love this man more than the last, or that story about the girl losing her mom hit home because I lost my dad, or man, shitting in a hole sucks, I never knew how high maintenance my ass was. We are the sum of our experiences, and my experiences, lucky as my circumstances were, led me to forgo the comforts of the lifestyle I was used to, and become a bona fide vagabond.But I’m not homeless. I have the most loving family and friends who never make me feel guilty for spending my days so far away. I have financial stability due to a great boss and supportive mother, and I know in an instant, I could return to the other side with the greener grass, and the timed sprinklers, and the fake smiles. But, really, I couldn’t. I can’t. I’m not homeless because my home is on the glass-ridden, dust-blown football pitches that furnish communities throughout the world. And, relative to my life, this is the only option. Bridging the absolute abyss that chance of birth creates – this is my ambition.
I am back on that field. I’m talking in broken French to a beautiful 20-year-old Haitian girl. On the surface, sure, we’re different. Her skin is dark, mine is freckled white. Her eyes brown, mine blue. Her hair is in corn-row braids, mine in one long, thick braid. And then I watch her play, and my metaphorical heart leaps to my throat. What can I say? She reminds me of me – different language, different culture, different people. But in that moment we are two girls with a fierce passion for a game, hoping that it will carry us into our futures, and nothing else is worth the loogie I just hocked.
So, I ask you, what is the difference between her and me?
Coaches Across Continents supports #BringBackOurGirls and last month ran our Female Empowerment program in Nigeria that impacted 7,500 young Nigerian women.