• A Kick in the Right Direction

    Certificates for the Grootbos Foundation coaches

    May 30th, 2011 from AJ, Alicia, and Sophie

    Solving Problems

    On Friday we finished up our time in Gansbaai working with the Grootbos Foundation, the South Africa Football Foundation, and Dibanisa, and the program overall was an amazing success. The three main social issues that we focused on were violence, social inclusion, and the environment, and the local coaches were eager to begin creating games to address them. By the end of the week, they really started to grasp the idea of football for development. Whereas before the main focus of the coaches was to develop the players’ skills, now the coaches are learning how to incorporate social messages into the drills. At the end of the week we discussed the community’s unique environmental concerns,  namely the preservation of fynbos and the poaching of abalone. Then the coaches worked together to invent football games with the aim of educating the children and promoting awareness about these problems. It was satisfying to see what games these promising new leaders came up with and that they had potential for making an impact.

    In the evening sessions with the younger children, we experienced some of the violence that exists in the community first-hand.   It proved difficult to manage the group of girls and boys who were inclined to incessantly pick fights and forcefully hit and kick each other.  They did, however, really seem to enjoy the Marta and Ronaldo skills, and they understood and remembered the take-away messages of health and female empowerment.

    The older boys also really enjoyed the Marta and Ronaldo skills, but this group too showed the social problems of the area.  In addition to new skills, our sessions with them focused on social inclusion and teamwork.  While the older boys did not display as much physical violence as the younger children, we encountered a lot of bullying in the form of humiliation and laughter. We brought these issues up with the coaches, and had a discussion about coaching ethics and non-negotiable behavioral expectations, such as non-violence.

    Coaches Working on Social Inclusion

    We finished the week with a ceremony where we recognized the coaches’ efforts and gave them certificates. Each coach told us something he or she had learned, from being able to talk about serious issues while having fun, the importance of bringing energy and enthusiasm to sessions, and the ability to implement the newly learned games across various sports. Already after the first sessions, even the rugby and netball coaches discussed how they had already effectively adapted our curriculum into their respective sports. This is promising because the different sports reach different demographics within the community. It was gratifying to see that the coaches really got on board with the program and we are sure that throughout the next year they will be able to use what they learned this week to continue to take on the challenges of uniting the three communities of Gansbaai through sport.

    Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working on our WISER evaluation to help this amazing program with their monitoring and evaluation for sport and development in Gansbaai.

  • Coaching at the bottom of the earth: Gansbaai

    May 27th, 2011. From AJ. Alicia and Sophie.

    We’ve now had 9 hours on the field with the local coaches, and have been working with the local children for several days.  Most of the children we’ve seen are from Masakhane, the black township. One of the biggest social issues that the Gansbaai faces is the lack of integration among the black, white, and colored communities. We’ve been addressing this issue, along with violence, HIV, and the environment with the local coaches, and they seem enthusiastic and willing to try to use football to promote change. The football aspect is already well-established, and we’re now showing the coaches different ways to use football for development.  The coaches really enjoyed the HIV session we ran yesterday, which uses football games to encourage children to make good choices while laughing and having fun. Coaches across Continents requires that a community have both male and female coaches in order to partner with them, and about 20% of the local coaches at our sessions were women.  It is the first time these women have had the opportunity to become coaches and role models for the young girls of their community.

    In the afternoons, we have been travelling to a school in the neighboring town of Stanford to coach 12- and 13-year-old girls who have never played a football game before.  On Monday, they learned all about Ronaldo and by the time we arrived for our second session, the girls surrounded and greeted us with displays of their well-practiced Ronaldo skills.  Their enthusiasm to learn is rewarding for us to see in our quest to encourage more females to play and benefit from the power of sport.  The girls loved our session on Marta, the Brazilian sensation who is an inspiration to all female footballers.  By the time we left, the girls were singing, dancing, laughing, and practicing their new Marta skills all the way off the field.  It is so gratifying for us to see girls always wanting to learn and play more football as we continue to strive for female empowerment.   

     In the evening sessions – from 3:30 to 5:45 pm – we have been working with under 13 and under 15 year old boys and a couple of coaches that are with us in the morning. Although they were a bit skeptical at first to be coached by three women, they quickly realized that girls can play just as well as boys when they saw us perform the Ronaldo skills. They turned out to be an attentive and enthusiastic group, and they quickly picked up the skills we showed them.  On the first day we had about 20 kids, but word must have gotten out that we were there, because on the next day the number was almost doubled, and included more white children and girls. We are hopeful that the efforts of the program to integrate the three separate communities of Gansbaai will be successful.

    If you would like to support the efforts of Coaches across Continents with the Gansbaai project, please visit our fundraising pages at:

    http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/aliciajohnson/coaches-across-continents-inc

    http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/alexandra-millet/coaches-across-continents-inc

  • Introduction to South Africa.

    May 25th, 2011. From Alicia, AJ and Sophie in South Africa.

    We’ve been in South Africa for nearly a week now, and it’s been quite an introduction.  Our first few days in Cape Town were spent settling in and learning about the history and culture of South Africa.  We visited Robben Island to see the prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during Apartheid, and it was powerful to see. Word was out that we were in Cape Town, and the head of the African Brothers Football Academy came to our hostel and asked us to run a session with his teams. The kids were great and really bought into the Ronaldo health and wellness games. Coaching with Table Mountain as a backdrop wasn’t too bad either.

                    On Friday, after a bowl of crocodile stew, we set off along the coast for Hermanus—a beautiful town on the ocean that is a whale-watching hotspot.  We spent one night here before observing an all-day local football tournament on Saturday.  It was so much fun watching kids from different towns and schools ages 8 to 15 laughing and interacting through the power of football.  We were excited to have the chance to meet some of the local coaches from Gansbaai with whom we would be working in the next week or so.

                    Today was our first day on the beautiful turf field with the Gansbaai coaches.  The weather, on the other hand, was not quite as beautiful, with rain and powerful winds all day long.  The African winter didn’t stop us though!  We ran 18 of the town’s local coaches through our “Ronaldo” day—a fun series of various drills and games that emphasize the importance of maintaining one’s health and wellness, as well as finding ways to resolve conflict.  The coaches were very enthusiastic, and even the five female coaches who had never touched a soccer ball before were engaged and open to learning the new Ronaldo skills. 

    If you would like to support the efforts of Coaches across Continents please visit our fundraising pages at:

    http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/aliciajohnson/coaches-across-continents-inc

    http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/alexandra-millet/coaches-across-continents-inc