• Coaching For Change in Fiji

    November 8th 2016. Recently CAC ran a program with students at Holmesglen University in Melbourne. Since then the students traveled to Fiji to work with children on the island and use the CAC tools they were given. This is an excerpt from their blog about the trip.

    The Coaching for Change Project ran successfully in Fiji from the 17th of October until the 28th of October 2016. The coaching for change project helps the underprivileged Fijian school children learn the importance of sport by running coaching sessions from an array of different sports that they might not have available to them. Coaching for Change also donates a large of sum of equipment to each school they visit. Through the help of Basketball Victoria, Netball Australia, Regan Milstein Foundations, Footy 4 All and Sprite all the equipment that was donated to Coaching for Change was successfully given and handed out to the schools that were visited by Coaching for Change.

    The project met its goals with introducing and successfully running coaching sessions to Fijian school students as well as donating as much equipment as possible to the schools that we attended. Sport has a major social impact on the island. Through sport many social barriers can be broken down. Using the ideas and suggestions of Brain from Coaches Across Continents the language barrier between Australia and Fiji was overcome. Introduction games such as CAC’s Circle of Friends, were also a huge contributor to breaking down the culture barrier by making the school children more comfortable and allowing them to completely express themselves through sport.  Overall the project ran smoothly and the experiences during the unforgettable trip led to a feeling of fulfillment.

    For more on their trip please take a look at this blog.

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  • One Love – My First CAC Experience In Jamaica

    CAC volunteer Laura Kane blogs about Jamaica and her first CAC experience with Go Ballaz.

    December 19th 2015. It is natural for us to form an opinion based on the things we see in society, social media, and music.  It isn’t until you travel to different countries that you truly form an understanding and appreciation for other cultures.  Prior to my first CAC trip to Kingston, Jamaica, I thought that Bob Marley and everything he stood for was representative of the majority.  As a fan of reggae music and a belief system of “one love,” I thought for sure my experience in Kingston would confirm this.  After four days in Kingston woring with a group of local coaches, I’ve gained a whole new understanding of the culture.

    First, Rastafarians (Rastas) only make up a small percentage of the population in Jamaica.  Not only are they the minority in terms of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against to this day.  In our coaching group of close to 40 coaches, we had two ‘Rastas’.  I was able to speak with one of the gentleman, Mike, at lunch and he gave me several examples of times when police had verbally discriminated against him because of his dreadlocks.  Mike was one of the kindest, most soft-spoken people in our group of coaches and I feel blessed to have met him.

    Second, Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as the most homophobic country in the world because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people.  Coming from the U.S. where gay marriage is now widely accepted and legal, it felt like I had jumped in a time machine and was transported back to the 1980’s. The term “battyman” is their racial slur referring to people who are gay.  This term was used freely throughout the week and was typically the catalyst for laughter and jokes.  The glaring contradiction came when we discussed child rights.  They agreed that children should have the right to be who they want to be (freedom of choice).  However, the caveat was that if they choose to be gay, they must not tell anyone.  As long as they remain in the closet and do not “infect” others with their belief, they would not do harm to them.  I must say, it was tough for me to hear but I respectfully listened to their point of view.

    Finally, the most encouraging thing I learned about Jamaica was that musicians, disc jockeys (selectors), and professional footballers have a ton of influence.  At one point, former national team player and head of Ballaz Football Academy, Andre Virtue, jumped on the back of one of his coaches who was only giving piggy back rides to the girls of the group during Circle of Friends.  While we all had a laugh in the moment, it was quite clear that even a small action from a well-respected elder could break major barriers within the culture.  During our child rights game, coaches were blindly following the actions of another former Reggae Boy in the group.  Even when they knew the answer was incorrect, they didn’t have the courage to be different.  While these aspects of the Jamaican culture were eye opening to me, they were also encouraging.  It was clear that even a small group of people who are well-respected can work to affect positive change.  If groups like CAC will continue to work with coaches and educators in leadership positions, we truly can get to a place where we love one another and respect our differences.  Jah Bless!

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  • I Have A Voice, Listen To Me!

    CAC SDL coach Markus Bensch blogs from Kathmandu, Nepal with Go Sports Nepal.

    December 15th 2015. I arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday, November 29th for my last on-field program this year with our partner Go Sports Nepal and its founder Sunil Shrestha. As we started on Monday I was very happy to see almost equally as many women as men who were ready to play. We started off with ‘Circle of Friends’, a warm-up game where players warm-up their bodies, minds and voices. This game is a lot of fun and creates high energy as some players go through the center of the circle doing an exercise (i.e. high knees) and then find a person on the outside to go to. For the exchange both players do a move (i.e. high five) and use their voice by saying something such as their name or favorite football player. As usual on the first day the voices were very low and people didn’t speak up. This was a clear teachable moment and I talked with the participants about the importance of our voice for building confidence, to communicate, express ourselves and many more. It is always amazing how the volume increases as the week progresses. This week was no different. By Thursday the participants led the Circle by themselves and there was a lot of laugher, screaming and shouting.

    But the change of voice does not only happen during Circle of Friends. People also speak up more and more during the social impact talks that are related to each of our games and I see this change particularly with female participants. In many communities I work, girls and women are not supposed to raise their voice in front of their male counterparts and they are not encouraged to speak up publicly. We addressed this issue through our games. One of them is a version of Circle of Friends where the players say things that are empowering girls and women, i.e. “I have a voice, listen to me!” or “I am woman/man, I want to play!” As a coach I also create a safe space and a platform where female participants can speak up and to be listened to.

    On Tuesday I introduced our female role model Marta who is a Brazilian footballer and five times Ballon d’Or Award winner. Many male players got confused and assumed that I was talking about Juan Mata, Manchester United’s midfielder and Spanish national team player. Finally one of the women raised her voice and said: “No, she is a female player and comes from Brazil.” During the game reviews I realized how powerful Marta was for the female participants. A group of women prepared the game Marta Skills for Life and in the Social Impact section they wrote down all the details about Marta’s story and how women can do everything that men can do. It’s amazing to see how smart and intelligent these young women are and how much they absorb everything that gives them the vision of a different life with more freedom and more choices. At the same time it makes me wonder how hard it must be for them to always hold back their thoughts and creativity, because society doesn’t believe that they have any valuable contribution to important matters.

    On Friday we ran our coach-back session and we included the children from SJ Primary School, who allowed us to use their sport court for the whole week. We started again with ‘Circle of Friends’ and I was surprised that the children were not shy at all, but rather had strong voices and there was a lot of laughter and excitement. I was happy to see these young girls and boys play together so blithely. My last On-Field week this year was truly inspiring and these amazing participants will remain in my memory. In future every time I witness how girls are held down and have to keep quiet I will remember these girls and women in Kathmandu who realized that they “can also change the world when they get the opportunity”.

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  • Unleashing Joy

    CAC continue our #PlayItForward partnership with Chevrolet FC and Manchester United in Yunnan Province, China.

    December 14, 2015.  Do you remember where you were the first time you ever played football?  For many of the kids at the Huo Shan School in Yunnan Province, China, they can answer positively that their first footballing experience came this past week.  As part of our continuing award-winning relationship with Chevrolet FC and their #PlayItForward initiative, we have been working at the Huo Shan school.

    As experienced as Coaches Across Continents has become in our past 8 years of sport for social impact education, it is extremely rare that we come across a community that has little background in football.  Towards the end of the first day after playing Circle of Friends and teaching passing skills, we set up small-sided scrimmages.  For the first three minutes, not one player moved from their starting position, as they kicked the ball back and forth.  Then, a light bulb went off – and a few players began chasing the ball, screaming with delight as they did so.  It wasn’t long before we had a critical mass surrounding the ball, wherever it went on the school grounds, during their first-ever game of football.

    Day 2 brought new revelations.  As we walked inside the school gate, we could see kids practicing without their teachers the passing techniques they had learned the day before, smiling all the time, as they got better.  When it came time to scrimmage, many of them came up with their own strategies on how to win the game.  The most effective were the teams that elected to field three goalkeepers and two outfield players.  Slowly and surely throughout the week, we continued to teach them more football skills and fill them in on a few rules – but making sure not to over-regulate their nascent love of the game.

    Friday was the highlight of the week.  In front of over five hundred community members, dance troops, a Chinese dragon, and the watchful eye of Manchester United legend Dwight Yorke and other dignitaries, the kids got a chance to play for the first time on their brand-new world-class field.  The handover from Chevrolet FC to the Huo Shan School provided a platform for them to show everyone how much fun they were having, and learning, by playing.  With this new facility, these students will have a place to pursue their love of the game.

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  • Eagerness, Excitement, Encouragement

    CAC SDL coach Markus Bensch talks about his time with Magic Bus in Hyderabad, India.

    November 18th 2015. Can you impact a group that you work with for 2 and a half days? That was the question I asked myself when I was approaching Hyderabad for my 2nd program with Magic Bus in India. Tejas (one of our Community Impact Coaches in India) and I arrived together with the participants at the A.P. Forest Academy in Hyderabad on late Saturday morning. This campus would be our home for the next 2.5 days. Due to the Diwali festival the program was scheduled over the weekend and would end on Monday afternoon.

    After everybody’s arrival we ate lunch together and I had to realize that the food in Hyderabad was even spicier than in Bangalore. I had to use quite a bit of the yogurt sauce that was provided to soften the taste. After Tejas, who lives in Bangalore, said that the food is spicy for him as well, I was re-assured that everything is fine with my taste buds.

    After the heat left my mouth again we met for our first session in the classroom. As part of the introduction we asked the participants about their expectations for the course. As they mentioned their priorities I was putting together in my head the curriculum for the next two days. They asked for a game about nutrition? OK, we can play Balotelli for Health & Wellness. They want to get taught different warm-ups? No problem, I can show them many different variations of Circle of Friends. They want to learn goalkeeping skills? Great, I have planned to play Hope Solo Skills for Life anyway. They want to play Fun games? Sure, during Head Catch we will have a lot of laugher. They would like to learn how to easily introduce to topic of sexual and reproductive health to their children and youth? I think our ASK for Choice game ‘Indonesia for Knowledge’ works perfectly for that. And I was excited, because the participants seemed very eager to learn many new things.

    Hyderabad is a hot place during the day so we had to hold back with our excitement and only went on the pitch later in the afternoon for our first On-Field session. ‘Circle of Friends’ already caused a lot of laugher and Mingle Mingle kept the energy high. On the 2nd day we then also got to the topic of sexual and reproductive health. I was not surprised by this request, because I knew that India is a country where people have difficulty talking about any topic that is related to our bodies, sexuality and relationships. Again I was impressed by the eagerness of these participants to change that, because they have realized that keeping these topics under wraps impacts the high number of teenage pregnancies and abortions, forced marriages, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS. ‘Indonesia for Knowledge’ is a game where two teams are standing in a line and the first two people are facing each other. There is some space between the two players and to their left and right are two gates. One of them represents healthy/positive behaviors and the other unhealthy/negative behaviors. Now the coach yells out different choices a person can make and the respective person in the front has to quickly decide if it is healthy or unhealthy. I started with “Eat vegetables”, “Smoking”, “Drink Water”, “Eat a lot of chocolate” and then moved on to statements like “Have knowledge about your body”, “Use a condom”, “Talk about sex”, “Have a boyfriend/girlfriend” and many more. It was a lot of fun and competition and some of the statements caused an argument as they were not clearly positive or negative. The participants were very grateful for this game as it gives the children the opportunity to make a statement without having to raise their voice and the coach can get a very good idea of what his/her players think about sexual education. They were eager to use it as an introduction before they would even talk with their youth about sexuality.

    At the closing ceremony we got to see a visual treat as Tejas, who is a freestyle footballer, gave us a short performance of his skills. It was exciting to see what can be achieved through fun and hard work and what can be done with a ball when it is in the possession of an artist. And as we were driving back from the camp to the city of Hyderabad I realized that even a short training of only 2 and a half days has impact if it is paired with eagerness, excitement and encouragement.

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  • How My Lonely Shadow Became My Little Limelight

    CAC Community Impact Coach Tejas, who runs Sparky Football, talks about his work with CAC and Magic Bus in Bengaluru, India.

    November 13th 2015. I was sobering up from my solo trip to the Himalayas with 3 footballs and 300+ chocolates for the mountain kids – a trip which redefined my spirituality and perspective on life. On my way back, the purpose of my trip became clear: “everything we can imagine already exists. What more is there to life than making each other happy? And happiness begins with being content with the life that we are given”.

    On November 2nd, I was part of Coaches Across Continents . I was part of something greater than myself. As I hopped on my bike with sheer excitement towards the training camp, I encountered a  10 year old kid who was late to his school and trying to hitchhike. I considered it as sign for me to understand my blessings and share my luxury by dropping him to his school which was somewhere in the woods. After dropping off the child, I thought about the conditions of India today, where there are several  problems but people are trying to develop different solutions for them. The school kid had one for his!

    At the Nirjhari camp, I was happy to see the participants from last year (during which I was one of them) but this year I was a coach. This amazing transition from being a participant to becoming a Community Impact Coach (CIC) drifted my thoughts back to the times where I faced rejection and discrimination for local football coaching jobs, because they all saw me as a college failure. Today this failure of mine is the fuel of my success! As I thanked my universe, I met Markus at the camp. He bailed me out of these intense thoughts and emotions of mine, by presenting me with a CAC t-shirt – an unforgettable moment where all my hard work paid off. All my lonely shadow became my little limelight.

    As the session started, Markus addressed the 34 Magic Bus participants with his sharp and amusing introduction. During the session, I had the privilege of translating his English into 3 of our local languages- Kannada, Tamil and Hindi. I was happy to pay tribute to my school education this way. At one point, he correlated “Football for Profession” with “Football for Life” which made me understand that life is not about surviving but life is about living. Next day, I chose this note as a theme for my presentation on a literature examination addressing my college mates, which fetched me an ‘A’ grade. I was pleased to revive Buddha’s wisdom, “A master should create a master” by sharing what Markus taught me earlier.

    Back at training, I watched and coached participants who were jumping, dancing and rolling on the floor with such sincere laughter while we all played Mingle Mingle, Circle of Friends with Boom-Shakalaka, Messi for Conflict Resolution, Hope Solo Skills for Life etc. It was inspiring for me to watch the participants, who were 2 times my age, give 100% to the game and create such enormous positivity in the environment, which celebrated all the goodness in the world. This sense of belonging validated my life – I was privileged to be a part of something amazing yet again.
    As Markus piloted this roller-coaster ride of fun, he played a new game called “Brazil for Attitudes”. While the game was played, I was baffled and sad, to watch the stereotype actions of participants, when he called out actions such as “Punch like a boy, punch like a girl; shout like a boy, shout like a girl!”.

    At the end of the game, I watched Markus handling this critical situation with such subtle brilliance, by analyzing and making participants recognize their notions on the differences between men and women. The group split for a water break after this. Although the discussion reflected a positive attitude towards both men and women, I thought to myself, that the world would have been a better place if these stereotypes, our ‘pigeonholes’, were created just for pigeons rather than for judgmental notions.

    As Andy quotes in the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption’ – “Hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies”. With this I understand and believe that in spite of all the good and bad in the world, there is always hope for good things to happen.

    And, I hope that in all the pigeonholes we create from now on, the pigeons are going to be safe and happy, leaving our minds free for positivity.

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