August 31st, 2015. SDL Coach, Nora Dooley, reflects on running her first program in the United States.
I’ve been working for CAC for almost exactly two years. I have run trainings in dozens of countries and scores of communities – all foreign to the country in which I was born and raised: the USA.
August presented a new frontier for my work with CAC. Although I know the States well when it comes to my personal lens, my professional lens had yet to glimpse our work on my home turf.
Our first US partnership began in 2014 when Chevrolet built a portable field for Beyond the Ball in Chicago, Illinois as part of their #WhatDoYouPlayFor campaign. We have been involved in this initiative in many countries now, training local leaders in our curriculum in order to provide the communities that receive Chevrolet’s fields with resources capable of making the most of the new space.
I recently returned to Little Village, Chicago to pay a visit to Beyond the Ball (BTB), work closely with their coaching staff, and further their training in sport for social impact. That portable field that Chevrolet built? A community treasure. It was amazing to see proof that this gift of sport was received by an organization fit to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them.
During my week with BTB I learned a great deal about their organization, the people who work there, and the community they work in. With all of our programs there is a portion of training dedicated to discussing what it means to create a safe space for children to play and learn regardless of any differences they might have. Often, due to the poor conditions of the physical spaces our partners are tasked with using, the bulk of these discussions centers on the role of the coach in nurturing emotional safety. Beyond the Ball, however, opened my mind to the potential of a physical space to have incredible positive impact on an entire community.
BTB has been running free programs in the Little Village community of Chicago for nearly 20 years. Their mission is community empowerment. They have created a niche where all members of the community are welcome, involved, and valued as part of a growing family. The results that they have seen over time and with great sacrifice are impressive. Like a business, they identified a gap in the market, filled it with passion, and are humbly plodding on, aware of their homegrown success and ever eager to do more.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know this small organization with big ideas and the people capable of bringing them to life. Crossing the threshold from the known (foreign countries) to the unknown (the US) I was, honestly, more weary than I’d like to admit. I wasn’t confident in my ability to adapt to this seemingly alien culture in which I was once a part. A week with Beyond the Ball and my insecurities vanished. People are people no matter where you are. We all love to play, to learn, to love, and to laugh – especially at ourselves.