• Getting our feet wet… literally

    June 11, 2014.  This blog was written by our volunteer coach Kathryn Keefe in her first Coaches Across Continents experience – a memorable one!  Our first night together in Cameroon is a night that our team will not soon forget. I had a suprise awakening at four in the morning to what I first thought was rainfall, but then quickly it started sounding more like a waterfall – a very close waterfall. It was then that I realized that this sound was actually my water pipe that had burst in my hotel room bathroom! I woke up both Sophie and Josh and in the process also accidentally woke up Paul, the director from Breaking Ground, the program we were working with this week. Thankfully, he ran in and was able to shut off the water pretty quickly. After this alarming welcome that left us literally getting our feet wet in an inch of water, we were ready to begin our adventure in Cameroon with Coaches Across Continents.

    This is my first trip with Coaches across Continents and is also my first trip outside of the United States. As a graduate student studying sport for development, I was excited to have the opportunity to move beyond the theory learned in class to being a part of a program that focuses on the use of sport for social change in partnership with local communities.

    Ngaoundere is experiencing its first CAC coaching program, much like myself and Josh. Sophie and I were able to stay with a nice host family who provided us with amazing food, great hospitality, and hot showers. Josh and Paul were able to stay at a nearby hotel, but joined us for meals at the family’s home. When we werent coaching, we managed to keep ourselves busy this week by hiking Mt. Ngaoundere, hanging out with local Peace Corps volunteers, and enjoying a delicious dinner at the home of one of the local coaches.

    This week we worked with Breaking Ground, a local community development non profit focusing on rural development, entrepeneurship, and female empowerment as well as other coaches from nearby. It was exciting to see over 30 coaches ready to go when we arrived the first day and even more showed up throughout the week. They were excited, engaged, and very vocal throughout the training. Neither Josh or I speak very much French and the coaches spoke very little English, so it made for an interesting week of learning and teaching games without words. It also made us very thankful for Sophie’s ability to speak French to be able to translate and coach in their native language. You really realize how much you take your teaching voice for granted to when you are forced not to!

    It was during our first training session, during a game called ‘Mingle Mingle’ that I first felt the warm welcome of the Cameroonian community. In this game, everyone jogs around in a circle chanting “mingle, mingle, mingle” until a coach yells out a number. Then, everyone must quickly scramble to get in groups of this size. As you can imagine, there was a lot of pushing and shoving to make sure that your group is complete because if not, your group must do a short dance in front of everyone. This is a great game to teach about conflict resolution and it was also a nice ice breaker to begin feeling like we were among friends.

    Josh really enjoyed a game we played called, ‘95% football’. In this game, we play a generic game of football, except without a ball, and the player who has possession of the ball holds a hand on their head. To pass the ball you point to a teammate and say their name, forcing us to learn some of the coaches names. The experience brought out a feeling of unity among coaches. Regardless of where we are from or what our coaching objectives are, we are all here because we believe in sport and there is something about it that fosters such feelings. We are lucky to be working with organizations that work to cultivate this unity.

    It was hard to say goodbye to such a fun group of coaches at the end of the week. If this week was even a taste of what lies ahead for us, we are in for quite a treat in Cameroon. Speaking of taste, the food here is amazing! We would all silently cheer when our host family served us dinner because we quickly realized that we couldn’t be disappointed; everything that they cooked was delicious. Ngaoundere, you’ve really spoiled us!

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