• Give Us A Problem… We’ll Address It With Sport

    August 4th 2016. CAC’s second year partnering with Menelik Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Problem: Corruption

    Corruption is an epidemic with greedy claws gripping the international community. Sometimes it dons an invisibility cloak. Other times it stares you straight in the eyes. When corruption made itself abundantly visible to the ignorant members of the global football family, the beautiful game felt violated. So why not use that very game to stimulate dialogue on the issue?

    Solution: Sport

    The group of coaches is split into four teams. Each team lines up behind one of four cones equidistant from each other and from the center of the space. In the center lay scattered pieces of any kind of material – cones, bibs, balls, or anything (safe) that a coach can get their hands on. On this day we have cones and bibs aplenty.

    The first task: one person at a time from each team sprints to the middle, selects one piece of equipment, brings it back to their team, tags the next person, and joins the end of their team’s line. Continue until all the equipment is out of the middle. Simple? Simple. 1-2-3-Go!

    We have a mix of misunderstanding and outright cheating. We clarify rules – one person at a time, one piece of equipment at a time, and the next person must wait until they are tagged before they go. What’s the difference between making a mistake and cheating? Great – we’re on the same page.

    Task two: This time each team has a goal of 6 pieces of equipment total and must decide how many of each type will make up the 6. For example they can set their goal at 4 cones and 2 bibs or 3 cones and 3 bibs. Then we will see which team has achieved their goal.

    We allow the teams a few minutes. We hear their goals. We take away some equipment to ensure chaos. We test their concentration with some start-when-I-say-go-1-2-3-begins. We play.

    CHEATING!

    We ask if they saw any cheating. They all point fingers at the other teams. We ask if anyone will own to cheating. A few raise hands. We praise their honesty. We ask why they think people, in general, are motivated to cheat? They discuss. We listen.

    The desire to win at all costs. Because other people are. Because everyone else is.

    How do you feel if you win by cheating? How do you feel if you lose but did not cheat? Why is the fear of failure greater than the fear of dishonesty?

    Idea pause. Let’s play again. Do you want to play with or without cheating? Without? Okay let’s give it a go.

    Third task: Same rules. But this time once all the equipment is gone from the middle you can begin taking stuff from the other teams. All previous rules remain though – one person at a time, one piece at a time, etc. If you want you can adjust your goals. One minute, then we play. 1-2-3-Go!

    Good… gooooood… okayyy… niiiice… well done… uh oh… oh no… here we go…. OH MY CHEATING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Absolute chaos. Let’s explore. What happened?

    Some more accusations. Laughter. Some honest reflections. Some delicious silence.

    Cheating was infectious. Like corruption? How do people become corrupt in your community? How can you prevent corruption? They discuss. We listen.

    The group of 30 coaches from Boma, DRC organized by CAC partner Menelik Education, was curious with a dash of skepticism that sport could be used to teach subjects like sexual health and corruption. After growing better acquainted with our methodology and several CAC games, we hope they believe in the power of sport. A power, like any, that can be bent towards destruction… unless we choose otherwise, unafraid to fail, praising honesty and vulnerability as we explore the chaos.

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  • Can I get a Whoop?

    July 24th 2015. CAC staff member Nora Dooley writes about our extra time with training4changeS in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

    A beautifully honest blog by my good friend and fellow Columbia ’12 alum, Mike Mazzullo, detailed our first week in Cape Town. It is an absolute treat to have someone from my pre-CAC life out here to be part of it all. And it is made even more special when ‘it all’ comes in the form of magic.

    Working with training4changeS (t4c) is significant for various reasons. The main one being the first impression they made when I was there September 2014 to kick off our partnership. I’m fairly certain I ‘whooped’ when I learned I would lead the team retuning for year 2. The wonders of Cape Town and Stellenbosch naturally played a role in said whoop, but I have been lucky (understatement) to visit so many beautiful places in the past few years. The essence of this legendary whoop is credit to t4c – who they are and what they do.

    The main portion of the training was excellent – launched by a big W for the women of the United States (WHOOP!), and capped off by some impressive coach-backs by the participants. But that was not the end of ‘it all’ for CAC and t4c on-field in 2015. This training went into OT the following week, and I can tell you now that this goofy blog will not do justice to what we witnessed – no words could.

    With our extra time with training4changeS we were presented with an incredible opportunity. And we spent two days building up to the magic I allude to. We started off easy and discussed what we love to do outside of work and football/futsal, we learned more about each other, and we dug deeper into the issues the coaches and staff see in their communities. The coaches then chose one of these issues to unpack: corruption. What do we think of when we hear corruption? What are some of the causes, effects, and potential solutions? Now, let’s use this game we love to solve the problem – we small people may not be able to cure FIFA but maybe these coaches can be part of the solution for their community and the next generation of ballers. The coaches set off into three groups and each created a new game to teach about corruption. Once they were ready we went outside and group-by-group, they brought their games to life with young players.

    The result? Magic. Corruption = Solved.

    I left that session feeling like I could whoop for days. That^^^ is why we do what we do. Our partners are brilliant, the coaches we train are on another level of commitment, and they make our job ridiculously enjoyable and rewarding. To be even a miniscule part of what the t4c coaches and staff are doing in Stellenbosch keeps me going on this mad adventure I’m on with CAC.

    Surely, you can set aside your pride, and give t4c your most obnoxiously heartfelt….. whoop !!!!

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  • Small Group, Big Impact

    Boston University student and soccer center-back, Rachel Bloznalis blogs from Kumba, Cameroon

    June 18th 2015. After my third week in Cameroon with CAC I am realizing why they call Cameroon “the melting pot of Africa”. We started the journey in Yaounde, the nation’s capital, which is in the Centre Region. Then we traveled to Ngaoundere in the Adamawa Region, Dschang in the West Region, and the town that we are in now, Kumba, in the Southwest Region. Each destination has such a distinct culture that it makes them each feel like a different country. The landscapes, climates, religions, food, languages (over 250 dialects in Cameroon), tribes, traditions, and people are unique in every one. Our partner program in Kumba, Cameroon Football Development Program (CFDP) is made up of incredibly smart, eager, friendly, funny, and talented people that make Kumba unique.

    CFDP is unlike the other programs that I have been a part of because it was week one of a two-week program. In week one we had the chance to work with the full-time staff, which is about eight fulltime men and women. The second week we will be working with community coaches and young leaders in addition to the direct staff totaling about 40 educators and coaches. Working with a small group of full-time local coaches dedicated to using soccer for social impact was extremely insightful for me. Getting to know the coaches personally, while also being able to have serious in-depth discussions about important issues in their community made this week very productive. At the beginning of the week, we had them brainstorm a list of issues that they thought were prominent in their community so that we could adapt games to fit exactly what they needed. The biggest issues in Kumba that they identified included tribalism, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual health and HIV, child labor, domestic violence, corruption, and school dropouts. It was a successful week because we had time to learn from them and listen to them so that they could learn from us.

    The CFDP staff has the people and the motivation to make a long-term impact on their community. I could see and feel the direct CAC impact in all of the coaches when they were able to adapt games to teach about a specific community issue. A moment that stuck out to me was when one of the young leaders who attended every training session this week was able to create a game and coach it to the group. He chose to address the issue of school dropouts, which he knows first-hand is a big issue being a 15-year-old schoolboy. He created a simple game that involved foot skills and agility, while teaching about the negative influences that cause kids to drop out of school, which they defined as negative peer-pressure, child labor, alcohol and drugs, and financial issues. He taught this game confidently and proficiently to a group of coaches who were all older than him, some by 20 years. This was rewarding because he used what he learned from the CFDP curriculum and coaches with the help of CAC and applied it to make a direct impact on his young peers.

    Another perk of a two-week program is being able to build strong relationships with the coaches and learn more about the local culture. A few of the coaches took us to Kumba’s crater lake on Saturday and we got to relax and enjoy the beautiful lake with them. I also got to experience more Kumba culture when one of the coaches brought me to church on Sunday morning. English is the first language in Kumba, which is another reason it feels like we are in a different country. Speaking English has helped me get to know the coaches better and more importantly it has allowed me to coach a few games after seeing them coached by Nora in French for two weeks. The local’s speak Pidgin English so it has been fun learning some phrases and words that sound like slurred broken English.

    I am looking forward to the next and my last week in Cameroon with an excited and smart group of coaches!

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  • Mubangyizi’s First Week With CAC

    Markus Bensch, from nearby Dresden, Germany, joins CAC in April, 2014 – beginning his on-field training in Uganda with senior staff member Nora Dooley.

    IMG_0881Let me say this first: It was a brilliant first week with Coaches Across Continents and our partner Mbarara Soccer Academy (MSA) in Uganda. Nora gave me a very good first introduction into the work of an On‑Field‑Coach and we were hosted by the very welcoming and warm-hearted family of Salim Blanden who is one of our Community Impact Coaches (CIC).

    I left Germany on Saturday 29th March and when I said “Good Bye” to my parents and my brother George at the Berlin airport my new adventure started. I was excited, but after my arrival I felt for the first few days quickly pitchforked into a survival modus. My body and my psyche were not used anymore to the African heat, food and living conditions. My stomach rebelled, my body felt weak and I wanted to sleep a lot. After 2 months in Germany I had to get used to using holes for toilets and taking a bucket shower. But my physical condition quickly got better as soon we moved on the football pitch.

    After a very rainy Tuesday including a thunderstorm, we finally could start with our first-year program on Wednesday. We welcomed over 30 coaches and they get very quickly into it. After we did the baseline questionnaire we started with Circle of Friends and trained the Ronaldo Skills. The two main aims for the week were to let the coaches experience the idea of self-directed learning and to let them understand what it means to solve their own problems. All our games are based on these two principles so the coaches had many chances to learn how to put them into practice.

    As with most of the groups they liked our “Mingle Mingle” game very much. The coaches are dancing in the “Mingle Mingle” rhythm and have to get together in different numeric groups depending on which number the coach shouts. After the first few rounds when there was pushing and pulling we discussed this behavior and agreed that it is important to make our own decisions and let others decide too if they want to join a group or not. We even took this game further and didn’t allow the coaches to speak anymore so they experienced and practiced different ways of (non-verbal) communication like hand signs, eye contact and body language. It was a very fun way of learning different solutions and the importance of communication and to respect the freedom and independence of the other person. P1030072

    One of the most successful games in this week was “Adebayor Makes Good Choices”. This game focuses on good choices that can protect from getting HIV. Many good decisions like being faithful, using a condom when having sex, getting tested and getting educated protects from the HI-Virus. The more good choices somebody makes the better he/she is protected. After we brainstormed many good choices we played the game “Keep away” where the players in the outside circle try to keep the ball away from the one or two players in the middle who represented the HI-Virus. Every player on the outside who touched the ball yelled out one good choice that protects from getting HIV. Later during the review the coaches came up with the idea to modify this game and address the problem of corruption. On Saturday morning one group developed ideas about good choices that can be made to prevent corruption. Again the players on the outside yelled out phrases like honesty, don’t take and don’t pay bribes, education or transparency. The players in the circle represented corrupt lawyers, policemen or politicians. That was a perfect example of self-directed learning and solving your own problems. We as coaches were impressed from the creativity of the coaches and it was the best reward we could get from the group. If groups develop their own games we know we’ve done a good job.

    We’re sure that our training has an impact in the daily work of the coaches and we already look forward to next year so we can see the development in the coaching skills of our participants. By the end of the week I got baptized on the name Mubangyizi which is in the local language Lunyankole and means ‘supportive person’. That was a huge reward and a big compliment for me. I look forward to next week in Kampala and I’m excited to get more involved and lead my first games.

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