• Football for Conflict Resolution

    Solve your problem; CAC words to live by. The underlying message behind such a simple instruction is that you are looking for an answer; I will not give you one, so find it yourself.

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    Coaches Across Continents works in some of the most conflict-ridden communities in the world. Our Conflict Resolution games work to confront issues in places such as Sierra Leone where many of our participants are amputees as a result of civil war. An integral part of this module is social inclusion as we work to combat discrimination and solve problems in a peaceful, inclusive manner.

    These messages comes to life in many of our games, but they is especially magnified in the Conflict Resolution aspect of our curriculum. In these games more than any others we separate the football for social impact coaches from the football coaches. The best way to explain is with an example. In the game Wilshere for Conflict Resolution there are five cones creating a pentagon. Behind each cone is a line of anywhere from 1 to 4 players but should not be more than 4. The only rule in this game is that players must pass the ball to one line and run to a different line, or in other words, they cannot follow their pass. What usually happens next is a moment of calm, and then many mistakes. Passes will be sloppy, players will take multiple touches before making their mind up, they will forget the only rule, and once they stop doing that, they will pass to the line with only one person in it, meaning it will then become empty. This is what we want.

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    This one rule forces players to think before they make decisions, and the conflict is inevitable. Our goal in this type of game is to provoke that conflict, and then we say, solve your problem! The players will often look first to the coach for answers because so many societies have ingrained that sense of dependency on authority figures such as teachers and coaches – but not here. They look to us, we say solve your problem, and then what? Magic happens. The players strategize, they start communicating – verbally and non-verbally – they get into a rhythm, quality of passing improves, fewer touches are needed, and they are working as a team. To make it more difficult we can add another ball, we can limit touches to 2 or even 1, and we can give them an objective to reach a certain number of passes without a mistake, or to play for one minute without a mistake. If there is a mistake, we ask, who suffers in football if a player gets a red card? The same goes for this game, if one player makes a mistake, we all pay the price.

    At our level in coaching football for social impact these types of games are invaluable.  They enable players to think for themselves and find solutions to their own problems, individually and as a team.  These skills are important for all of us, and this manner of coaching is crucial for coaches to adopt if we want the next generation to be one of free-thinking self-directed learners.  Ultimately these self-directed learners will be able to apply their critical thinking skills to all aspects of their lives.  The local coaches and young players will be able to create solutions to whatever problems exist in their communities, the countries, and the world.  They will not look to outsiders or to the West for solutions, they will look to themselves. When given the opportunity, when given the chance, children will surprise us all – in a game that has one problem, they will find infinite solutions, and in life when faced with important choices, they will make the right ones.

    Extensive Monitoring & Evaluation has given our team some insight into the work we do regarding conflict resolution and social inclusion. Before our program only 19% of participants knew how to use football to teach young people how best to resolve conflict, and afterward, 99% have the skill set to do just that.

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