• Self-Directed Cooking

    December 8, 2014. Volunteer, Ali Pleiman, writes about her 4th program with CAC in Bengaluru – our second week working with Magic Bus On-Field in India.

    I’m not a chef but when I “cook,” these are the usual steps:

    1. Search kitchen for ingredients (whatever looks good/hasn’t expired)
    2. Throw it all in a big pot on the stove
    3. Voila! Let it stew and hope for the best.

    Yes, there’s a level of risk in not knowing beforehand how certain flavors or quantities will mix together. What if it’s a disaster? More importantly, why am I talking about cooking? I wanted to bridge this connection because this week felt like one of my cooking experiments…

    Our participants traveled far and wide across India to meet in Bangalore for a CAC training. Coming from 5 different cities, our 4-day session would bring together 3 organizations: Magic Bus, Dream A Dream, and Sparky Football. I’ll admit I was skeptical upon realizing that our melting pot would include multiple languages, cultures, and coaching styles. How would we be effective? Is it possible to find a balance with all the different spices?

    When making dinner, my main goal is obviously “don’t burn the food.” Similarly, everyone in the training could be aligned by a shared desire, “coaching for social impact!” I recognized this unifying element in the first morning, as this group of individuals was extremely bright and enthusiastic; their passion was a key ingredient that would see us through the week, making it possible for intrinsic differences to contribute strength rather than weakness. I was excited for this experience with so many great flavors coming into the mix, which would surely widen perspectives and benefit all parties involved.

    Of course, there were many challenges! We were fortunate to have some fantastic translators helping us to taste-test our progress along the way, so that we could adapt our strategies and discussions to better meet specific needs. Several coaches in the program were already familiar with the idea of using a game to highlight an underlying social message. As this is also the nature of CAC, I was amazed to see and understand that HOW you coach can make all the difference in the impact. When we introduced the CAC focus on “self-directed learning,” I was surprised that the majority of the participants interpreted this as a pretty foreign concept. I grew to realize that this week’s group was more accustomed to coaching towards one particular outcome, whereas the CAC view is geared more around the process.

    For instance, although participants brought many skills to the table, I found their coaching style to be very “by the book.” They were programmed to deliver a social message at the end of a game, in the same way that the rules were delivered at the start. CAC differs in their teachable moments by calling attention to the messages throughout the game; CAC will connect the dots as they evolve through play, instead of after the fact. Plus, learning is more fun when you don’t realize it’s even happening! Children will be more receptive to quick spurts during a fun game than to a long lecture at the end of playing.

    Moreover, CAC doesn’t force feed all the answers. In fact, CAC problem solving games are designed specifically to provoke conflict. This methodology was the most difficult to communicate to our group this week. We were met with opposition when we stepped back to say, “solve your problem.” We were encouraging but they were still frustrated when they couldn’t always be told a right or wrong scenario to enforce, wanting more clear-cut rules to clarify. That’s the point! In life, there is not always 1 correct answer. The beauty is in understanding that there can be many solutions to a problem.

    Coaches Across Continents strives to create coaches who are active facilitators rather than dictators– asking questions to help children along the way, but giving them the opportunity to think for themselves. CAC aims for coaches to engage the children throughout play and discussion, encouraging their interaction every step of the way. This group was also hesitant to accept this mentality, wondering what should happen if chaos ensues. Sometimes, let it be! Why not? Let the field be a safe space to practice handling conflict, without violence or retreat. A little chaos is okay. It may take a little longer for them to solve their problem but they can do it with guidance. If we just instruct them at every turn, then they will always be looking or waiting for instruction when they need to make their choice and act. Rather than breeding this dependency, CAC games have such a heavy focus on physical and mental skills that help on-field AND off-field. We seek to breed self-awareness, self-control, and confidence. In life, they may not always have the exact recipe laid out for them, or the help they thought they needed. Our job as coaches is to make sure they feel they have enough to work with.

    You can prepare as best as possible, but you always reach a point when it’s time to trust your skills and make your choice. Then you own the consequences, good and bad, and learn from them as you keep moving forward. That’s all anyone can do.

    We were lucky to have such an incredible group of participants this week, willing to face obstacles head on with smiles and open minds. We did some serious work but we had a blast while doing so. I will miss my new friends who shared their spirit, AND their dance moves. As always, I was pleasantly surprised to see how a crazy concoction could find a way to come together in the end and taste so good! This week quickly became my new favorite dish. So that’s why I like to cook this way, and I’m pretty sure the best chefs don’t always use precise measurements, so maybe my method is genius… Either way, the week solidified my belief that CAC is uniquely valuable in the work they’re doing around the world.

    “What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on and the fact that you know how to drive.” – Barbara Kingsolver

     

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  • A Week to Remember

    December 5, 2014. Volunteer Coach, Keren Lavi, from Israel partner, Mifalot, joins CAC On-Field in Iringa, Tanzania and write about her first experience with CAC outside of her country. 

    I always knew my first time to Africa would have to be an unforgettable one, after traveling around 3 continents “IT’S TIME FOR AFRICA”.  I arrived to a motel in Dar es Salaam where I waited for Nico (CAC’s local partner and first ever Community Impact Coach) to pick me up for an amazing field week at the new ‘Football for Hope Center’ in Iringa. The morning we left to the bus I happen to fall down the stairs with my suitcase and twist my ankle! How am I going to get through this week now?! I stood up and walked with Nico to the bus, I was ok. The bus station was full with people and buses, I have no idea how he found the right bus but I guess every country has its own order they follow. We get to the bus and Nico goes down to find a cold water bottle for my ankle, after a few seconds I realize the bus starts to leave with no sign for Nico! “Nico, where is Nico” I shout in the bus, the bus has already left the station, I get to the driver “please stop! Nico is missing!” as if he knows who is Nico and that this is my first time in Africa and I have no idea where and how to get to the place I am supposed to get to. The bus driver stopped on the side road, meanwhile I start to panic and cry having no idea what to do. After 5 minutes of total panic Nico arrives hitchhiking on a motorcycle sweating with a cold water bottle in his hand!

    I started my visit at the peak which only continued to climb higher and higher. I met Kelly and Marcus, CAC’s team, when we arrived to Iringa – both seem to be born to the field of football for social impact! I was honored to see them coach and to coach with them! They immediately made me feel part of the team and I am thankful for that! As I already mentioned Nico took great care of me, I must say he is the best local partner an organization could ask for, not only does he organize the coaching seminars and talks to all local partners he is an inspiring coach and person that really connects with CAC’s vision! Working with such awesome people this week was a real treat! The local coaches we met were all part of Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC) which hosts the FIFA Football for Hope Center. We had a week full of games, laughs, serious talks, coach-backs, and dancing mingle mingle at any chance of the day! One of the most memorable parts for me was having kids around the field almost 24/7! They will not leave the place till it was dark! It is amazing to see how a football field becomes the center of a community and the safest place for kids to play. I am loaded with energy to get back to my organization in Israel –

    My name is Keren Lavi and I work for Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises which is an NGO located in Israel. We also work globally in order to create social change via the football field. After training with CAC twice in Israel it was my time to join them in another country in order to learn and feel the work CAC does across the continents… My role at Mifalot is to develop the international programs. We provide educational curriculums and share our best practices, this is why partnering with CAC in order to exchange knowledge about football for social change is not only a privilege but an opportunity to grow and spread the love we share to the game and to the impact it can have on people all around the world. Mifalot share with CAC this vision and I can only hope for both organizations to keep growing and touch many coaches around the world.

     

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  • New Punjab

    December 3, 2014. Volunteer Coach Billy Hawkey tells us about his time with CAC On-Field in Punjab, India working with YFC Rurka Kalan. Billy first joined us in October for two weeks in Lima working with Unicef Peru.

    After two weeks in Delhi, arriving in Punjab was literally a breath of fresh air. Vast fields of potatoes, corn, wheat, sugar cane, kinnos groves, and farms in all directions. Shining stars and cool, crisp nights, the agriculturally rich state of Punjab provided a stark contrast to the country’s buzzing and beeping capital.

    When we arrived at the YFC Rurka Kalan headquarters we were taken out to walk the field and get a lay of the land for where we would be for the week. The stadium was pristine, and the well kept natural grass pitch was flat, wide, and green. We all sensed that it was going to be a good week.

    After walking the field we met inside the office with Prateek, a member of YFC, over a cup of chai to discuss the expectations and goals for the week, as well as familiarize ourselves with the local social issues. The main problems that were identified were substance abuse and gender equality (or lack there of). We assured Prateek that these issues would be addressed during the week with various games from our curriculum.

    We learned that 60% of Punjab’s youth are believed to be using medical or synthetic drugs and that 1 in 3 households in Punjab have a drug addict living in their home. It is easy for Punjabi children to succumb to drug and alcohol abuse simply because they have nothing else to do. That is why at YFC, the players have structured training 320 of the 365 days of the year.

    Gender equality is also a major issue in Punjab. Girls are confined by tradition which views sport as a male hobby. Society’s dominant stance on women in the community is that they belong in the home. For this weeks’ training we were going to be working with a group of predominantly young female leaders in the morning from 9-1, and a boys team in the afternoon from 2-6. One of the reasons for this was because from 2-6, women in Punjab are supposed to be in the home working.

    Our days began with a half mile walk to the YFC center from our guest house down the road. We had breakfast at8:00 a.m. in the YFC kitchen. Breakfast consisted of omelets, bananas, cereal with hot milk, juice, toast, stuffed chapatti, and of course, chai. Chai is like water in India; at the end of a game during the week, kneeling over at the knees and out of breath, a man exclaimed “I need, chai!”. The kitchen always smelled amazing. Hot chapatti being turned out every minute, and local organic vegetables being seasoned and prepared the Punjabi way.

    YFC has a residential facility that houses an elite u-14 boys team comprised of high level players from all over India. The boys live here for several years training and attending school which overlooks the main field. At 9:00 a.m. we began classroom sessions with our first group, approximately 40 individuals, 30 of whom were females. These sessions included “What makes a good coach?”, review of the games that we played from the previous day, group presentations, and a child rights discussion/training. By 10:00 a.m. we were on the field ready to play.

    On the first day the majority of women arrived in their saris and sandals. Despite the fact that we suggested they wear athletic clothes, the group was comfortable in their outfits and continued to sport their colorful silks for the rest of the week (but with a few more sneakers). The group was new to futbol, but eager to learn. An older woman revealed that this was the first time she’d ever played a sport. Being 50 years old, she explained that old tradition had kept her away from sports, and that her parents and society saw no value in it, especially for girls; an idea that is still held by many in India. However she was ready to break away from the restrictions of traditional society, and proved to be a symbol of change and courage for everyone. Her story sparked an applause from the group; and she demonstrated first hand a core belief of CAC, that is to challenge and question tradition.

    At this point Community Impact Coach, Guru, asked the group to look around and notice something. All of the women were standing shoulder to shoulder in the front, and all the men were standing together in the back. “That’s old Punjab” Guru exclaimed, “we want New Punjab”, and with a slight hesitation, the group intermixed the genders. Boys and girls don’t play sports together in Punjab. At least until now.

    A game that brought this message to life was Marta for Gender Equity. In this game two teams play a game of futbol to goals. However, one team plays with all of their players and the other team plays with only half. This creates an 8v4 situation. The four players sitting out represent women and their team represents only the men participating in society. The other team with all eight players represents a cohesive community in which both men and women are utilized. After about 10 minutes we brought the group together to discuss. The excluded players said it wasn’t fun or fair to have to sit and watch. It was noticed how much better the full team did in this game, just as a society functioning with all of its resources similarly is more successful. Teams reversed roles so the other group could experience how it feels to be excluded from participating in sports. Finally, the third progression starts with both teams playing 4v4. When a team scores a goal they get to bring another player on; representing empowering a female to play. This must be done by verbally communicating an empowering message to the women on the sidelines. The energy and excitement on the faces of the players, especially the men, when they had the chance to bring on a female, was amazing. I watched a man sprint to the sideline with a huge smile on his face, screaming in Punjabi and lift a woman to her feet to play. This was not just a product of the competitiveness of the game; these powerful sentiments for equal opportunity for women in sport was expressed genuinely and proudly by the men in the discussions. It was acknowledged that if women had the same opportunities to train and develop starting at the same age as men, then they would be just as skillful. YFC is hoping to achieve this by training their female youth leaders and starting women’s teams this season.

    At the end of a midweek session we drank more chai, sang and danced on the field and a small talent show was conducted as well. Definitely a new way of cooling down.

    After a delicious lunch, we switched gears and began our afternoon session with the YFC boys team. These boys, all dressed in their light blue training kits, were ready to play. The pace was quicker with the afternoon group; the ball zipped around the field in one and two touch, and players were sliding into their tackles.

    An impactful day was our Gazza day, with four games centered around substance abuse. Discussion questions included why people engage in anti-social behaviors, the effects of abuse on the individual and the community, safe spaces, support systems, and good decisions. One game in particular that held a strong impact was Gazza scrimmage. Two teams play a scrimmage to goals, one tem must walk at all times and the other team has no limitations. The walking team represents alcohol/drug addicts, who have clearly had their athletic abilities hindered by sustained substance abuse. This game followed Gazza dizzy tag, in which taggers must first spin around 10 times (or 20 if Guru is leading) before chasing players, exhibiting the immediate effects of intoxication. Gazza scrimmage shifts the message to an addiction and the effects it has on your life over time, and the effect it has on the community. The walking team got smacked, and the game bridged a discussion of alcohol and substance abuse and how it’s bad for relationships, school, functioning in society, and sports. It was clear by the discussion that these boys have chosen futbol as an alternative to drugs and alcohol.

    The two groups we had this week were unique and equally enjoyable. The week flew by and both groups understood the objective of the training as evidence of the coach back sessions on the final day in which participants are put in small groups and have the opportunity to lead games on their own that we did over the course of the week, adapt them how they would like, and even invent new games if they please. The coaches demonstrated confidence in their coaching and incorporated the social messages fluently.

    Until this training, YFC had focused mainly on player development in their sessions, without integrating social messages in games. But they are ready for change. They are ready for New Punjab.

     

    Side note: In the nights I played with people from town under the lights on the YFC pitch. Guru and I combined for a few nice goals. On our day off we traveled to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and visited the India/Pakistan border for a closing ceremony between the two country’s army officials.

     

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  • Solving Problems in Tanzania

    November 27, 2014. On-Field Coach Kelly Conheeney writes about our recent program in Njombe, Tanzania, organized by the Njombe Municipal Council. 

    As I was passing a classroom, I wondered why all of the girls’ heads were down. One set of eyes peered up at me as I walked by and I smiled to her before our gaze was interrupted by a sharp smack. Curious to find out where the sound had come from, I looked through the glass window once I made it outside. They were in the principal’s office, otherwise known as detention. This completely unacceptable form of punishment in the USA is common practice here in Tanzania. It’s called corporal punishment. If a child misbehaves, doesn’t finish his/her homework, arrives late to class or does something that the teacher thinks deserves punishment- they are physically hit with a ruler on the fingertips. My first thought – how are children supposed to learn in such a hostile environment? Intimidated to try something new, make a mistake or stand up for what they believe in? My second thought – how will the teachers we will be working with adapt to this new concept they are about to learn called self-directed learning?

    Two of the participants we are working with this week in Njombe, Tanzania are football coaches – the remaining 30 are school teachers. 4 women and 28 men. Every afternoon the coaches played our games with the children that came to the field from surrounding schools. Aside from a few of the coaches that lived more than 50 km from the field, all of the coaches were able to attend the afternoon sessions. It was crucial for them to watch their peers coach as well as experience the coaching themselves. At the last practice of the week, the pitch was filled with 60 children yelling out Messi and Marta skills that could be heard down the dusty Njombe road.

    All week Markus and I had emphasized the importance of letting the children solve their own problems, encouraging them with positive reinforcement, as well as the importance of children using their voices. The biggest challenge the coaches faced was allowing the kids to solve their own problems. In the first afternoon session, the teachers played a game with the children called Messi for Health and Wellness. In this game, there are 2 teams and between the groups there is an area filled with cones, half are right side up, the other half are upside down. One team’s goal is to flip all of the cones so they are faced one way, and the other team’s goal is to flip all of the cones so they are faced the other way. Players take turns flipping the cones and switch every 15 seconds when the coach calls out their number. A simple yet clear example of letting the children solve their own problem would be to tell them to get into 2 equal teams. The coaches however took a very long time to divide the group into 2 equal teams and individually number them one or two.  When the game finally began, it was important for us to stand back and watch instead of intervening; only through your own mistakes do you learn to look within yourself to find the solution to your problems and become a self-directed learner. We used this example when talking with the participants during our daily feedback sessions. If you always step in and give the answer to your students or players, they will never find solutions to their own problems.

    Through thorough feedback sessions and practice throughout the week, the coaches learned plenty of games to add to their coaching folders and their yearly curriculum. The coaches are one step closer to becoming self-directed learners and I am hopeful that they will implement the games they have learned into their “sport for development” segment of learning in their respective schools. Watching the participants coach the kids was the highlight of my week. Every session the children lit up with joy when they played the games. The smiles and laughs shared by both the coaches and children created an atmosphere that every child should have the right to in this world; a safe space to learn, grow, play and fail without fear of what will follow.

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  • Community Impact Coach in Delhi

    November 21, 2014. Community Impact Coach, Gurpratap “Guru” Singh, joins CAC On-Field for three weeks of programs in India. He writes about his experience with The Football Link in Delhi, where we first met him this time last year. 

    It was 2013 November when The Football Link Delhi partner for Coaches Across Continents called me to attend a training program for coaches which was sports for social impact. It sounded great. It was the first time when I met Nora and Nick at the Delhi camp. The exciting thing about the CAC camp is that sports can be used for changing the world, spreading awareness about social issues through sports (football). The games which are played are all same in the world of football but the difference is the way of teaching with more fun and fun with many social messages in one game. A sport is not mere entertainment but it is much more than that which I learned from CAC. I love all the CAC beliefs and support them. CAC is totally different education/knowledge and learning for coaches.

    Working as a Community Impact Coach with CAC this year at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium has been a totally different experience, more of a learning as a coach than a participant. The most amazing part of my journey was to meet different organizations (Naz, My Angel’s Academy, Football Link etc) which are working for the development of football, kids, and community in the state. I was moved to see the amount of work they have done and got excited to see their future plans. The CAC journey has helped me to increase my social network of football. At Jawaharlal Nehru stadium I was surprised to see the number of coaches than last year when I was one among them. If I have to choose one game it is quite difficult and I know the CAC family would agree with me. I love all games played till yet but as the tradition which I love to follow which is expressing a game enjoyed the most, that would be Mia Hamm Communication. I love the combination of football and its social messages of communication, self confidence and telling the good thing about others making the environment amazing with positive energy. One feels positive vibes and safe space all around.

    Being a Community Impact Coach it felt great to see coaches looking at you as their role model and pushing themselves to be like us in their community. It gives you great satisfaction when you see people want to change their thinking and challenge themselves.

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  • CAC Attends Trust Women Conference, 2014

    November 18, 2014. Dr. Judith Gates, CAC Board Member, attends the 2014 Trust Women Conference in London over the next two days. Trust Women is an opportunity for leaders from different sectors around the world to unite around a shared commitment to empowering women.

    Coaches Across Continents, global leaders in sport for social impact, puts commitment to action every day on fields around the world with our football for female empowerment curriculum. This is a great event for CAC to be a part of, networking with like-minded organizations to take strides in the quest for gender equality, but also for a range of outlets, from government to foundations to corporations and media, to learn about what CAC is doing from a women’s rights pioneer.

    Dr. Judith Gates has been an integral part of Coaches Across Continents from the organization’s inception. She is not only a key member of the Board but also the mind behind our ‘Chance to Choice’ curriculum and Self-Directed Learning philosophy. There is no better person to be representing CAC and all that we stand for in the name of female empowerment at such an international event.

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