• Somos Niñas Sin Miedo – We Are Girls Without Fear

    June 8th 2017. ASK for Choice Strategist, Nora Dooley, shares thoughts about the 2nd On-Field training in collaboration with Postobón and Nike in Bogotá, Colombia.

    Is it natural to fear? Do evolving human beings carry traces of antiquated phobias? Are evolutionary fears related to learned fears? Fears that we adopt because of all the interconnected strings pulling at our lives from the moment we are born – fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of other… Social and cultural fears being the more present and immediate evolutions, adding tension to our human experiences with their restrictions, walls, and immobilizing forces.

    I am a woman with fears (spiders and death to name a few)… but I think there is a difference, albeit blurry, between learning with and owning your fears, and being taught to fear by your environment. I was (and still am) lucky to have been nurtured in a space where fear was offered recognition but never deference. And that, I believe, is exactly what Niñas sin Miedo is doing in the hills of Soacha, Colombia.

    Let me please tell you – these girls are powerful. From their booming voices answering open-ended and complicated questions about gender in Colombian society, to their passion for play and commitment to the beautiful communities of Los Pinos and Bella Vista. These are areas few might label as ‘rich’ but having been there myself, having worked with and learned from the Niñas as well as several other leaders from organizations around Soacha, I can vouch for the seemingly endless riches at play here.

    At a time in Colombia – and in the world – where working through our fears, engaging in dialogues with people from different backgrounds, asking ourselves difficult, uncomfortable questions, challenging our accepted beliefs about our lives and our worlds, it feels timely, essential, and poetic that this group of human beings was brought together. And especially for the girls, the women, and any human that has ever felt marginalized or discriminated by a society that learned to fear uncertainty or  ‘other’.

    I once again feel so honored to have shared space and time, and to have collectively raised consciousness with a group of inspiring leaders in Colombia. Thanks to our ongoing alliance with Postobón, Nike Colombia, and our impressive local implementing partners like Niñas sin Miedo, we’ve been gifted opportunities to laugh, dance, play and dig deep into what gender equality looks like, and what we are going to do, personally and collectively, to arrive at a more equal future.

    When people unite energies, particularly people from a variety of perspectives, histories, environments, sports, and all the intricate factors that make us who we are, I passionately believe this is when the magic of creation is unleashed. I also believe, together with a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across Bogotá, Colombia for a week in May 2017, that we harnessed that magic and created something that will transcend borders, walls, harmful cultures, and, yes, fear.

    These Niñas sin Miedo have inspired me to live beyond my fears – and I am so excited to hear their voices echoing around the world.

     

    El 8 de Junio, 2017. Nora Dooley de CAC y ‘ASK for Choice’ comparte su experiencia sobre la segunda capacitación de la alianza con Postobón y Nike en Bogotá, Colombia.

    ¿Es natural para tener miedo? ¿Los seres humanos llevan vestigios de fobias anticuadas? Miedos que adoptamos por todas las cuerdas interconectadas desde el momento en que nacemos – el miedo de fracasar, el miedo de lo desconocido, el miedo del otro… Los miedos sociales y culturales siendo las formas más presentes y inmediatas de evolución, añadiendo tensión a nuestras experiencias humanas con sus límites, paredes, y fuerzas de inmovilización.

    Soy una mujer con miedos (las arañas y la muerte para nombrar algunos)… pero creo que hay una diferencia, aunque borrosa, entre aprender y reconocer sus miedos, y ser enseñad@ a tener miedo por su ambiente. Yo tenía (y todavía tengo) mucha suerte para ser criada en un espacio donde el miedo era ofrecido reconocimiento pero nunca deferencia. Y eso, yo creo, es exactamente lo que Niñas sin Miedo está haciendo en las comunas de Soacha, Colombia.

    Déjame decir por favor – estas niñas son poderosas. De sus voces resonantes contestando preguntas abiertas y complicadas sobre genero en la sociedad colombiana, a su pasión para jugar y su compromiso a las comunidades bonitas de Los Pinos y Bella Vista. Quizá poca gente se puede decir que estas áreas son ‘ricas’, pero de mi punto de vista, habiendo aprendido y trabajado con las Niñas y otros líderes de organizaciones alrededor Soacha, yo puedo asegurar que hay muchisimas riquezas en efecto allí.

    En un momento en Colombia – igual en el mundo – cuando trabajando por nuestros miedos, abordando en diálogos con gente de perspectivas distintas, haciéndonos preguntas difíciles y incómodas, desafiando nuestras creencias aceptadas sobre nuestras vidas y mundos… parece oportuno, esencial y poético que este grupo de humanos se reunió. Y especialmente para las niñas, las mujeres, y cualquier humano que se ha sentido marginad@ o discriminad@ por una sociedad que aprendió a tener miedo de incertidumbre.

    Me siento otra vez tan honrada para compartir espacio y tiempo, y para elevar colectivamente la conciencia con un grupo de líderes tan inspiradores en Colombia. Gracias a nuestra alianza con Postobón, Nike Colombia, y nuestros aliados locales como Niñas sin Miedo, se nos ha regalado oportunidades a reír, bailar, jugar, y profundizar qué significa ‘igualdad de genero’ y qué  vamos a hacer, personalmente y colectivamente, para llegar a un futuro más justo.

    Cuando las personas unen energías, particularmente personas de diferentes historias, ambientes, deportes, y todos los factores que contribuyen a nosotr@s mism@s, yo creo – apasionadamente – que esto es cuando la magia de creación está soltada. También creo que junt@s con este grupo de individuos y organizaciones diversas de todo Bogotá durante una semana en Mayo 2017, que aprovechamos esa magia y creamos algo que puede trascender fronteras, paredes, culturas dañosas, y sí, el miedo.

    Estas Niñas sin Miedo me han inspirado a vivir más allá de mis miedos – y me siento tan emocionada para escuchar a sus voces resonando alrededor del mundo.

  • Free On The Field

    May 30th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo returns to work with CAC and the Ministry of Sport in Unguja, Zanzibar. 

    This week we were back on the largest island of Zanzibar, Unguja, for what is now the fifth consecutive year. Community Impact Coach Nico and I participated here for the first time, though Nick has been here almost every year. With nearly eighty participants, a pristine turf field at the city stadium, adequate cones, and a horde of One World Futbols, we could not have asked for a better setup for our program. The end result did not disappoint – we dodged (almost all of) the rain, played over forty different games, and capped off our excellent week with a much-hyped full-field match between coaches and teachers. Though we ran the program at a fast pace, we did not sacrifice depth: we had a number of substantial discussions about opportunities for girls and women – on and off the field – the rights of children, and how the prevailing Islamic culture in the Zanzibar archipelago underpins local attitudes on these topics. All around, we had a fantastic week.

    One of the best things about the week was just another simple reminder about why the sports field is such a special place.  On the field, people are free. Free to express themselves in the way they play each game. Despite a language barrier, I’ve often felt like I get to know each participant personally by watching how they play; the way they run or approach the ball reveals something about a player’s personality. It is nothing short of beautiful to assemble a group of men and women of widely ranging ages and watch each of them light up when they receive the ball, or solve a problem, or, most brilliantly, when they celebrate scoring, and to witness them shed some of the restraint they may exhibit off the field. Ultimately, stepping onto the field grants players the liberty to be themselves. It is a form of expression, and the games we play make this joy accessible to participants of any age or ability. For many, sports can be an outlet or a refuge from anything else in their lives; once they take the field, nothing outside of the field matters anymore. While football has this power in all corners of the globe, somehow I never get tired of recognizing it.  

    Realizing this anew underscored for me the significance of a major focus of our program: the value of offering all children – boys and girls alike –  the opportunity to play sports, and secondly, ensuring that those children are protected from all forms of abuse on the field. When communities and families can be rife with conflict, violence and abuse, the opportunity to play freely and safely is ever more valuable to children. To deny that to any child, whether because of their gender or ability or by allowing the field to become an abusive environment, slims the chance that any of those children will grow up to escape the cycle of violence. In our program, we spent considerable time discussing the ways that adults abuse children, how to recognize this abuse, and, most crucially, how to find other ways for our coach and teacher participants to discipline their children. We devoted several other conversations to discussing how and why girls are excluded from sports, finding that the often strict Islamic culture discourages people from allowing girls to play sports, football in particular. Though opposing a dominant religion can stir controversy, as the participants seemed to decide that their girls did in fact have the right to play sports, we explored ways that they could offer girls the opportunity to play without contradicting religion. There remains a significant cultural resistance to overcome, but we tried to avoid pitting girls playing sports against our participants’ religion.

    The Ministry of Education also plans to implement CAC curriculum in all of the schools in Unguja, so we can now see how the five years of CAC programs have been appealing to people, and that the discussions we’ve begun on the field have spread off the field throughout the other 51 weeks each year. Excited to see what this program will look like in its sixth year!

  • Gender: Zooming in and out as We Search for Equality

    May 5, 2017. Nora Dooley shares thoughts after her visit with long-time partners ACER Brasil in Diadema for the fifth year of programming and first year of ASK for Choice.

     

    What does it mean to be a man? To do something ‘like a man’? To be ‘masculine’?
    What about a woman? Female? Feminine?

    As the lines between genders blur and we begin to understand the origins of these identities, we become better equipped to recognize, question, and challenge expectations, norms, traditions, and cultures that limit us – whoever we are, whatever we call ourselves.

    But…

    While the smashing of labels and boxes that contain us sends a powerful message to any who dare assume our strengths, abilities, and vulnerabilities – our wants, needs, and fears – solely based on what body we are born to… can those same labels serve a collective, more equal future? And if we use those labels to empower us – to put language to injustice and call out oppressing forces – how do we strike the balance between the ideal and the real? How do we walk and breathe equality in a vastly unequal reality?

    These are some of the complex questions we explored on the futsal court last week in Diadema where we have worked for several years with our partners, ACER Brasil.

    Through almost 50 different games and activities we moved together as a group of humans, each with our own individual experiences and visions, towards a tangible, practical, and sustainable goal. We navigated the existing issues and climates that contribute to the realities people in Brazil (and the rest of the world!) are faced with each day, and emerged through this complicated, sometimes blinding, fog with a fresh sense of possibility.

    This group of women and men from different communities, and with nearly 50 years of life between some, welcomed me for the second consecutive year into their space. They offered me their time, ideas, voices, ears, kindness, hugs, and willingness to march together for a future where all of us have access, knowledge, and opportunities to make the choices that will serve our personal and collaborative aims. I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to build on this rich partnership, introducing and tasting new ASK for Choice flavors, and sharing this inspiring and creative environment with the ACER team and our other valuable partners.

    In the final days we made commitments to ourselves and to each other to continue asking ‘Why?’ and to move with clear eyes from the ‘What?’ to the ‘How?’. We played, laughed, danced, discussed, dug deep, reflected, and created. I leave Brazil eager to watch and listen as these leaders bring policies to life in their communities and beyond.

    Obrigada, Diadema! Eu Vou…

  • ASK for Choice: International Women’s Day 2017

    Coaches Across Continents has been supporting March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD), for many years. We love being part of this beautiful tradition!

    Each year we share a packet of selected games from our curriculum to celebrate the amazing women and girls of this world. The activities address diverse needs and issues relating to gender equity. This year’s games are samples from our comprehensive curriculum on gender justice from the ASK for Choice program. Please email if you are interested in receiving the packet, or if you have questions about the games or anything else related to ASK for Choice. 

    IWD 2017 is slightly different from past years for CAC. As with any tradition in our lives and organization we are continuously examining what we are doing, why we are doing it, how it affects our partners and the citizens of this world, and always, how we can do it better. So this year we have added a key component to our March 8th celebrations. We have been working for several months (and years!) with our partners across the continents to design, develop, and implement locally relevant women’s rights policies and bring them to life on IWD. The ideas shared with us so far have been inspiring.
    After this year’s IWD we will be sharing the stories from celebrations of gender policies brought to life around the world. Please contact if you would like to add a story or policy idea to the collection. We are also happy to share some of these ideas before March 8th if you want some extra inspiration!
     
    Thanks to all of our partners and the thousands of incredible women and girls involved in our work at Coaches Across Continents. On March 8th, and beyond, we celebrate you!

  • From Cambridge to Port-au-Prince

    January 23rd 2017. CAC Global Citizen Jessica Li writes about her experience with CAC and the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This partnership is supported by USAID.

    Sitting back in my dorm room in Cambridge, I can’t quite believe that I’ve just come off an absolute whirlwind of a week in Port-au-Prince. Last week marked the fourth year CAC has worked with the Haitian Initiative (HI), a program that uses soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty for Haitian children. In the neighborhood of Cite Soleil, children face a high risk of gang violence, hunger, and HIV/AIDS. Children must consistently attend school and have passing grades to participate in the program. The program includes six days a week of practice or games as well as English class and a hot meal. For the majority of the children, that meal is the only one they get each day.

    While CAC has partnered with HI coaches for four years, this year’s program included 150 new participants, including students, national team players, and coaches of all ages. Luckily, the HI coaches were familiar with many of our games and could help us manage such a big group! Our sessions were conducted at the Haitian National Stadium, a real treat for both us and many of the participants. During our drives to the stadium in the morning, we’d see people carrying objects of all shapes and sizes on their heads, pigs and other live animals roaming the streets, and all types of street art. The other thing we noted was that music was playing everywhere, whether from buildings, cars, or random speakers on the street (this fact made for some interesting moments during the week when we’d be hanging out with Titanic music playing in the background). The stadium itself is located near the foot of a mountain range, providing a bit of a respite from the chaotic streets and making for incredible background views. Upon arriving on the first day, many participants were already waiting for us, several of whom excitedly greeted Emily, who had worked with them last year. Jordan, Taylor (another Global Citizen), and I smiled when we saw this and eagerly anticipated forming our own connections with the participants.

    Throughout the week, I was struck by the incredible energy the Haitian participants brought to each session. They never hesitated to break out a dance move, and many a time I found myself suddenly engulfed in crowds of cheering and chanting coaches. They also never failed to make us laugh; once, when asked to find creative ways to cross the Circle of Friends while touching a partner, we not only saw coaches carry each other in all sorts of ways but also holding each other’s noses and ears. However, the coaches were also able to combine fun with serious conversations about ways in which they hoped to change their communities. They envisioned a Haiti with increased opportunity, equality, and hope. A particularly powerful conversation occurred after playing India for Knowledge, a game where teams label each cone as a women’s right and then race to the corresponding cone when the coach yells out that right. Although the group consisted predominantly of men, they came up with women’s rights such as the right to a voice, an abortion, equality, and respect. When asked whether women in Haiti currently have these rights, they all said no but that this fact should change. They genuinely wanted women to be their equals and saw them as integral members of society. Later, we used this list to start a conversation with just the women about creating and implementing a women’s rights policy. It filled us with hope to see the women creating a WhatsApp group, a network of support among strong and intelligent women who didn’t know each other prior to the program. We hoped they would continue to discuss ideas and inspire one another moving forward.

    This week has given me an incredible glimpse into the power of sport to transform communities. The HI coaches could discuss ideas for their own games or how to adapt our games with us, and we loved that they could help lead their fellow Haitian coaches. This week we were able to include 150 more coaches into the movement and know that many of them will also become leaders in enacting change.

     

     

  • CAC’s LA Adventure

    January 17th 2017. The CAC world has revolved around Los Angeles, USA over the past 10 days. For 4 days the team discussed CAC strategy at the Hawthorne Police Department who kindly allowed us to use their community room. We also covered new aspects of the CAC curriculum on the Chevrolet FC field which is managed and used by the Hawthorne PD to break down barriers between the police and local youth. It was built last year and opened by Manchester United legend Denis Irwin and Gyasi Zardes of LA Galaxy. Towards the end of the 10 days we branched out and fulfilled other commitments in the LA area:

    1. We ran a session with teachers from 9 different ICEF schools in the LA area (see picture above). This session focused on CAC’s educational Self-Directed Learning methodology. We demonstrated some CAC games to the group of engaged and passionate teachers which led to many fun and interactive discussions.
    2. Three of the CAC team (Nora Dooley, Emily Kruger and Kelly Conheeney) talked to volunteer Carrie Taylor on her radio show called Women Talking Football which airs on KaoticRadio.com. They discussed CAC’s partnership model and our ASK for Choice initiative which influences gender policy globally.
    3. CAC’s Chief Executive Strategist Brian Suskiewicz and ASK for Choice Strategist Nora Dooley presented at the NSCAA Convention at the LA Convention Center (see picture below). They analyzed ‘Global Coaching for Social Impact: What US Soccer Can Learn From Developing Countries’. During the convention CAC was also able to meet with many of our partners, old and new.
    4. Brian was also on a podcast called Youth Soccer Spotlight which is broadcast from Network Studios in LA. They welcomed Brian on to discuss CAC, our work and the work of many of the youth soccer coaches who get involved with CAC. Check out this podcast here.

    While it was a very busy week for the full CAC team things don’t get quieter! Some of the team have already gone to Haiti to start our 2017 partner programs with the Haitian Initiative while others have major external meetings planned this week. More on that soon!