• Sights on Africa by Charles Cuttone

    July 7th, 2010 by Charles Cuttone:  Ex Breakers keeper set for coaching mission
    Most every soccer fan in the United States has their mind on Africa this month. But while Tracy Noonan , like everyone else, is thinking about the World Cup, her thoughts have gone beyond the 32 teams that have been playing. Noonan will be making a trip to Africa later this summer, not to watch soccer, but to teach it.

    The former University of North Carolina and U.S. Women’s National team goalkeeper will travel to Tanzania as a volunteer for Coaches Across Continents. Part of the mission is to teach life skills through soccer.

    “It’s really important to get really strong female role models involved,” said Noonan, who was a member of the 1999 Women’s World Cup team (she was Tracy Ducar then) as the backup to Brianna Scurry. “It isn’t about teaching kids to be the best soccer players they can be,” she points out.

    Coaches Across Continents partners with local organizations in various African nations. In addition to coaching soccer, volunteers teach local coaches and also provide counsel on aids awareness and female empowerment, conflict resolution and general nutrition.

    Noonan says it is rare for females in African cultures to play soccer, but the organization hopes to empower youngsters so they know they have choices.

    “I think I will probably get more out of it than they will,” Noonan says about the experience.

    A former ‘keeper for the Boston Breakers in the Women’s United Soccer Association, Noonan got involved with Coaches Across Continents because of a friend she met in Boston, Nick Gates, the founder of the organization.

    “His passion sucks you in,” she said. “To me it was a no-brainer that I got involved.”

    Noonan will leave August 27, and be in Tanzania through September 10. In the meantime, she has been working on fundraising (http://www.firstgiving.com/tracynoonan) to cover the expenses for the trip, going through logistics, taking care of shots and medical needs and working on her fifth season running the Dynasty Goalkeeping Academy, which is a specialized program for elite young female goalkeepers.

    Noonan has made community service part of the curriculum for her academy.

    “When I was with the national team, they made it easy for us to do volunteer work,” she said of her time alongside icons such as Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain.

    That was a key reason she started introducing the community outreach program as part of her academy, showing her students a way to get involved.

    Each of her students is encouraged to do something in her own community, but also to do something as part of the camp experience. Last year, they donated gloves to Coaches Across Continents. This year, all the campers were asked to bring extra sports bras, so that they could be donated.

    Noonan says because the cost of shipping items to Africa is so astronomical, volunteers usually end up carrying an extra bag with them, with the donated equipment.

    Last year, Coaches Across Continents reached 15,000 kids in three countries. This year, it will touch about 90,000 kids in 15 countries.

    Part of what the coaches will do is teach local coaches, so that a sustainable curriculum can be developed.

    For Noonan, who played in six countries on three continents with the National Team, and has visited another seven on her own, this will be her first trip to Africa.

    “I’m really looking forward to doing something completely different,” she said.

    Tracy will be part of the Coaches across Continents team in Kigoma, Tanzania