• Keeper Scores in Colombia

    October 15th 2015. SDL Coach Nora Dooley writes about our first full training with Inder Medellín’s Deporte y Convivencia contingent, facilitated by Colombia partner Grupo Internacional de Paz.

    Push the envelope. Test the limits. Stretch the boundaries. Throw the kitchen sink. Raise the bar. Think outside of the box.

    These are all great idioms that well describe what we were striving for during our recent training with Inder Medellín. But for the sake of following our own advice – and for the beauty of football – we decided to create something new.

    So what in football represents this feeling? This need to rise to a challenge, to test ourselves and the participants that we are training who are asking for more with their experience, their language, and their honed knowledge of sport for social impact?

    Bring the keeper up!!!

    It was late in the game. We ran a one-day training with this group in February, and though it was productive and fun, we did not leave the pitch that day feeling like we left it all out there – or had enough time to find our rhythm.

    We weren’t down a goal, but we wanted the win. Grupo Internacional de Paz is a valuable partner for us in Colombia, having already set up programs for us to run earlier this year, they arranged for us to continue our work in Medellín. As I was part of the team here in February, I knew some of what this group of Inder coaches was capable of, and I also knew how little we had – yet – tested them.

    We thus had a goal in our sights. And we were willing to stretch ourselves to get there, to take risks, and to honor the struggle regardless of the outcome.

    It was time to bring the keeper up. With the keeper out of the goal, we were constantly on our toes, coming up with strategies and back-up plans in anticipation of that which is impossible to anticipate. But all the while knowing if our keeper scores, the risks and unknowns would be worth it.

    Our keeper was moving up all week. This group of participants – many from Inder’s Deporte y Convivencia initiative, others from outside organizations such as SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizage) – was an absolute joy on the field. Laughs were immediate and dependable, voices were assertive and considerate, insight was thoughtful and passionate, and minds were open and generous.

    All the positive energy only meant our task was more difficult. What can we offer this group that they will appreciate, embrace, and adopt? What will be new? How can we surprise? How do we get our keeper into the box? To score a goal??

    We play, we ask questions, we listen, we understand, we reflect, we ask more questions, we play more, we challenge them to create their own games with unique, relevant ideas, we participate, we ask more questions, and then we strategize with greater intention.

    A few of the requests made by the participants were for games that addressed some of the intense discussions we were having. These included equity vs. equality, acknowledgment of each other, games with different sports, responsibility and accountability, and fear of failure. The CAC curriculum is designed with adaptability in mind, and we have games to address all of these issues. But with one in particular – fear of failure – we thought it best to create a new game. So we played the others, allowed the discussions to unfold on-field, and demonstrated to the participants that they were being heard – all the while planning behind the scenes for the perfect set-up where our goalkeeper would either brutally miss, or score a golazo.

    The four of us (new SDL coach Rubén, myself, and two volunteer coaches CJ and Spring) planned individually and collectively and came up with a new game to address the fear of failure. The simple game that was anything but simple to design looks like this:

    The players will play individually. They have three options. With all three options they have 45 seconds to complete the chosen task. Option one is 5 push-ups and 5 burpees. Option two is 15 push-ups and 15 burpees. Option three is 30 and 30. The players choose, the coach says go, we play, the coach says stop.

    Then we play again. But this time the coach tells the players there will be a consequence. The players can change their choices. The challenge is the same or similar. We play.

    The consequence? Universal celebration. We celebrate the ones who completed the task. We celebrate the ones who did not complete the task. We celebrate those who tried their hardest. We celebrate honesty, self-awareness, effort, success, failure, and fun.

    In this line of work it is difficult to measure success – sometimes impossible. We cannot prove that our efforts had a positive impact on the group this week without extensive resources and time. We cannot prove that this game will help kids celebrate their failures as successes. We cannot prove that our goalkeeper scored. But I will write this, and you can choose to believe it or not – or you can go to Medellín and visit these wonderful, brilliant people – but we walked off that pitch with a collective vision that our keeper just scored a better goal than Lewandowski’s 5th in those 9 minutes, or Rooney’s bike in 2011, or maybe even better than Carli Lloyd’s from half-field…  ¡Que golazo!