• USA Soccer Hall of Famer Seamus Malin Talks About Planes, Rains and Cones

    US Soccer hall of famer, experienced commentator at World Cups and Olympic Games, and Coaches Across Continents board member, Seamus Malin, writes about his first ever time On-Field with CAC in Zanzibar and Pemba, Tanzania.

    May 21st 2015. When it comes to travel it has been said that “getting there is half the fun”.   Who exactly said that anyway?  Not sure I would like to hear any other nuggets of wisdom from that source. Why? Well let’s just say that getting to Zanzibar, for me, had its moments of drama. In Muscat, Oman on board the flight to Zanzibar we were cheerily told that we would be diverting to Jeddah for refueling as our journey was being lengthened to avoid Yemeni air space where some folks were hurling bombs about! Good call, Oman Air Lines!!

    After a spectacularly successful week on the playing field with CAC staff and fabulous local coaches as well as a charming experience of that exceptional island it was time to head for another island of Tanzania, namely Pemba, for the second week of the program. Back in a plane again, this time a ten seater single engine item from the Air Salaam fleet. Sitting right up front near the pilot I had more experience that I ever want of first hand exposure to a driving rain storm, making an ear-shattering din on the windshield, as we ducked in and out of heavy storm clouds, and our fearless impressive Tanzanian pilot took us through the thirty minutes to the tiny landing strip on Pemba. “Half the fun?”……NOT.

    The soggy arrival was a precursor to a week of continued stormy conditions with lots of intermittent  heavy rain, but the silver lining, as it turned out, was that our promised playing field (the local stadium with artificial grass) was suddenly not available, and our substitute space was a large indoor facility built by Japan for Judo instruction and in fact used for multi-sport purposes. Provided originally as a disappointing second choice to an excellent outdoor facility it turned out to be a gift which we appreciated every rain-drenched day. The floor was covered by scores of thick heavy judo pads, each about 3×5 feet which had to be lifted and stored   –   a first chore for all the coaches as well as CAC staff and which was an instant bonding experience. (Another benefit of our new facility was the nap-time now on offer thanks to these pads piled up on a large stage at the end of the hall and which some staff and  participating coaches utilized during our lunch time breaks. Why not?)

    Then we finally got down to the nuts and bolts of the program, with a new and enthusiastic set of coaches, all but two of whom were male, about which more later. The expertise of Nick and Kelly in our new echo chamber of a facility (the roof was metal, the floor concrete) was put to the test as communication was a challenge, but they rose to the occasion wonderfully. The same can be said for Nick’s mother, Judith, along for the two weeks and a vital contributor with her own seminar sessions on hot button topics of Health and Wellness in the Zanzibar context as well as the vitally important area of Respect for Children and the curse of Abuse- a world wide blight, regardless of how “developed” a nation may claim to be.

    Also along for the two weeks was Nick’s father, Bill, a constant source of encouragement to and appreciation for the local participants, as well, of course, as a walking, living, breathing example of Middlesbrough FC who are, we were daily reminded, the “greatest football club in the world”. Chelsea, Schmelsea!!! Happily Bill and I had a brilliant two weeks of participatory fun and tons of evening laughs over dinner and at football matches on the hotel lounge TV. As a tribute to our Senior Citizen status Bill and I were duly appointed “CONE BOYS” by the head honcho, young Nick!! We were given the massive responsibility of setting out cones properly for the CAC games, being sure the proper supply of balls was readily at hand, and even later in the week awarded the added privilege of tacking up multiple sheets of poster board on the walls with all the notes that Nick, Kelly and Judith had composed for the coaches. Bill and I were all over these tasks; we were a bit frustrated though that the “senior” staff could never seem to understand the subtle difference between “cones” and “discs”. Something they need to work on!  Bill and I are not going to be around for every program, you know!!!

    Another challenge that Bill and I had to cope with was the notable slant in the concrete floor at one point carrying out from the center to the Northwest corner. When a series of balls was set up, they needed strict watching, since, if you turned your back, they would slyly start meandering their way into their favorite hiding corner!! They got away from us once, and sat there in the corner looking smug. We whipped them into shape from then on, I assure you. We also were hard pressed in our poster board duties as the rain was so heavy at times that a few small leaks would appear and the water trickling down the walls loosened the adhesive taping. We supervised this closely (I am downright exhausted now thinking of all the mighty duties that Bill and I handled. I may need a nap. Wish I had one of those judo mats nearby).

    Most importantly, the attending coaches were fabulous, charming, engaged, enthusiastic and willing to take risks. None more so than the two women who began somewhat overwhelmed but who quickly caught the spirit of the program and allowed their inner enthusiasm to become manifest without self-consciousness and in a massively engaging manner for all involved. That was inspiring, deeply moving and memorable. In addition,  the whole group gave it their best shot when it came to creating their own games based on what they had experienced as well as implementing the principles CAC tries to convey and inculcate. I will never forget the simple but evocative exercise that one of the women developed in which her children players would finish their football drill with an exercise of finding their way home safely through various societal threats all enacted by the other participating coaches as she had creatively set them up.  Meanwhile at the other end of the building the other woman coach was leading all the guys in a series of innovative stretches before her program, illustrating confidently despite the constraints of her traditional somewhat limiting clothing. Hugely moving experiences, both.

    Also highly memorable were the literal hours of time many of the participants spent taking notes in their own notepads, sitting on the floor by the walls where the large sheets were hanging. Often we would find them arriving early for this purpose, as the large sheets were left there overnight , and indeed during the lunch breaks they accomplished the same feat , moving around from wall to wall until finished. This enthusiasm and commitment speaks volumes for their passion to contribute in meaningful ways to their own world and most especially to the children coming behind them. This bodes so well for the future, and I feel hugely grateful for the opportunity both to have witnessed and participated in such a moving, heartwarming and immeasurably important journey of life.

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  • 3 Weeks, 3 Goals – Coaches Across Continents Scores a Hat-Trick in Cambodia

    CAC Board Member, Judith Gates, writes about her three weeks on-field with CAC in Cambodia, highlighting the third with Globalteer in Siem Reap.

    August 30th, 2014. As a board member I have been involved with the thinking and planning behind CAC from day 1 and now take part on-field in one program each year. It is this on-field involvement that colors my perceptions, changing them from monochrome to startling technicolor. This year has been no different.

    Cambodia offers the Western visitor a taste of the exotic. The temples of Angkor Wat remind one of the grandeurs of the past. As a symbol of purity, lotus flowers bloom everywhere, whilst Cambodian smiles and graciousness dominate every exchange. But what also flourishes amid the exotic is grinding poverty, learned helplessness and scarcity of hope.

    In the last three weeks in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, CAC has worked with two extraordinary not for profit organisations, Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) and Globalteer, and through them been linked with local partners, including Stepping Stones and ABC’s and Rice. Overall I am humbled by their efforts to help children and young people secure an education and combat poverty. It is a privilege for CAC to bring our program of ‘sport for social impact’ to support their sterling work.

    And what positive responses we have had! Maybe the final session with Globalteer best captures the contribution CAC has made. Despite the relentless mid-day sun, despite the tired bodies drenched in sweat, no one wanted to leave the pitch. Certificates were distributed, words of appreciation and thanks were exchanged, innumerable photos were taken, and still the conversations continued, punctuated by laughter, permeated by hope.

    Founder Nick Gates often asks his coaches to name their hat-trick of the day, their three outstanding memories. Let me take this concept and apply it to my time on-field in Cambodia.

    My most powerful memory is of two words, simple in construct, profound in meaning; the words ” I promise!” For two years CAC has been linked with UNICEF in a project designed to further child rights and child protection in and through sport. CAC was determined to avoid a “filing cabinet approach”. We wanted to create a model which avoided systemised signing of forms, subsequently filed, quickly forgotten. Instead CAC sets out to engage the hearts and minds of local coaches so that their commitment to child protection is both heartfelt and sincere. Following a discussion on forms of abuse, coaches are asked to consider what they must ALWAYS do and NEVER do to protect the rights of children in their care. The discussions were personal and, at times, painful, but the outcomes were powerful. As each session closed, each and every coach shook hands and signed the flipchart to formalise their promise to protect. Their commitment was obvious. They want to improve their community and their country. Throughout the days following this powerful session coaches frequently came up to me to say only two words. ” I promise!” I heard their words, I saw their faces, I respect their determination to be role models for the future.

    My second memory is of empowerment. On the first morning of each program CAC was confronted by compliant individuals, culturally conditioned to acquiescence, victims of learned helplessness. By day four, as a result of carefully structured curriculum games, these ‘coaches in the making’ had found their ‘voice’, practised collaborative problem solving skills and were able to take a leadership role in “coach-backs”, namely coaching their peers in the games they had learned. From ‘silence’ to ‘voice’, from ‘compliance’ to ‘problem solving’, personal development was evident.

    My third memory is of the power of “self-directed learning”. CAC works with local partners to create “Community Impact Coaches”. These partner coaches complete our program within their community and then take their emerging ‘sport for social impact’ skills and widen their coaching experience by working with CAC coaches in another community. Five Community Impact Coaches were chosen from ISF in Phnom Penh to travel to Siem Reap to work with CAC and Globalteer. There they identified local problems and created and coached football games for social impact. Within the space of a very short time these Community Impact Coaches had grasped the concept of football for social impact, along with the capacity to create and coach games to address local problems. Now that is progress!

    Three weeks in Cambodia, three goals achieved. Truly a hat-trick of successes for Coaches Across Continents. When we work with our partner coaches to create self-directed learners, local coaches capable of making thoughtful choices, when they in turn work in their communities to create empowered youth, ‘learned helplessness’ is diminished and the cycle of poverty is interrupted. When disempowered people find hope, their language becomes a language of possibility. And who knows where a sense of possibility may lead.

     

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  • The CAC Staff Zenith

    January 15, 2014. Coaches Across Continents is always on the move – Fact. Our team meetings mostly consist of deftly planned Skype sessions connecting us from Hawaii to England to somewhere in the depths of Africa. But, for the first time, the majority of our staff members came together in one place: the newly founded CAC Global Headquarters in Orlando, Florida (thanks to our wonderful partners XL Soccer World). Over the course of these three jam-packed 10-hour days, senior staff members from England, Scotland, Belgium, and the USA put our game-faces on and effectively mapped our future.

    Welcome to the Zenith. 1461455_552087681540649_2024566814_n

    When planning for what lies ahead, it is imperative to reflect on the past, our history, where we came from. It’s hard to believe that in 2008 CAC was running just one program in one country – Kigoma, Tanzania. In 2013 we had programs in 20 countries, 51 partner programs, over 2,100 trained coaches, thousands upon thousands of ‘Ronaldos’ and ‘Martas’ and ‘Messis’, and an inconceivable number of air miles later, here we have the CAC envisioned by our fearless leader, Nick Gates.

    But what we have realized is that the world of CAC is, in one word, unique. That is to say, it is rather difficult to understand what we do from the outside looking in. After your first day on the field in northern Uganda, or southern India, or rural Haiti, however, and all of a sudden it clicks – you have one of those “Ohhh!” moments and no longer think your crazy friend who works for CAC is “running around Africa playing soccer” or “holding soccer camps for little African children”.

    There had to be a better way to tell our story.

    IMG_8732There was, and is, and thanks to the hard work of one of our staff members – Adam Burgess – with help from the Taiji Group, our story has become very clear. With refortified mission, vision, objective, beliefs, principles, approach, personality, and promise, CAC is ready to launch into 2014, sharing our story off-field, while living it every day on-field.

    The Zenith now marks this turning point in CAC history; the moment when our founder unveiled the final product in our collaborative effort towards establishing the CAC brand. It would have been a proud moment for a stranger walking in off the street. So imagine a room filled with about ten people who are so invested in what Nick has created (including his contributing and immensely supportive parents, Judith and Bill), to the point of no return. It was a great moment.

    The importance of telling our story encompasses all the work put in to making this organization what it is today. From Tanzania to Sierra Leone, to Indonesia, Nepal, Jamaica, and Colombia. From all the coaches of past, to all the coaches of present, and all the coaches to come. From Skills by Ronaldo, Marta, and Messi to Skills by Mia Hamm, Sawa, Neymar, Xavi, and Nkwocha. From Sport for Social Impact to Self-Directed Learning. From Chance to Choice.

    CAC_BoxLogoCoaches Across Continents believes in the possibility of a better world. We trust in the capacity for humans to change. We thrive on cooperation and respect. We are inspired by the promise of equality.  And we live and die on the all-mighty power of the beautiful game of football.

    Now, back on the field!

    “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.“ – Plato