• Tbilisi – City of Culture, Poets and Passionate Coaches

    September 18th 2017. CAC Community Impact Coach Lorik Hartoun, from our partners GOALS Armenia, discusses her experiences during our work with Georgia Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs in Tbilisi. We want to thank the Games 4 Good Foundation for supporting Lorik’s trip to Georgia. 

    Almost every Armenian poet, author and intellectual has studied and been educated in Tbilisi in the 19th century and earlier. I have always wanted to visit this city and feel the culture and passion hidden within. I was lucky enough to be able to travel with Coaches Across Continents as a Community Impact Coach (CIC).

    As we were on our journey from Yerevan-Armenia to Tbilisi-Georgia, I had my list of places to visit and some information about the people and country. We entered the city and drove through the city center Avlabari, which is home to an Armenian community. We passed through cobbled streets and saw churches with different architectural styles. We also passed by Rustaveli street which was my favorite, because of its mixture of old stoned and column buildings and modern glass towers. Finally we reached our hotel.

    Our program was held and organized by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia. Almost 80 coaches representing 23 different disciplines registered for the program. It was very interesting to get to know people who are very similar to my ethnicity. Everything except the language was common and similar to Armenians. Even their comments, jokes, their love towards poets, culture and patriotism were similar.

    During the week-long seminar, I learned about the rules of different sports and exercises such as American Football, Frisbee, Baseball, Kudo, Judo and more. It was very inspiring to get to know female judo and other martial arts coaches. During the program we had a discussion about gender equality and their opinions towards it. It was a challenging topic and it was mostly the women who were aware of the positive consequences of implementing gender equality. I also learned that in Georgian the word for ‘mother’ is ‘Deda’, which means mother of Earth. The word for ‘father’ is ‘Mama’. It was very interesting to me that in Georgian the symbol of earth and empowerment is associated with the mother of the family.

    On the last day of the seminar we closed the program with a discussion about children’s rights and the characteristics of a good coach. I received positive feedback from the participants and they showed their willingness to attend the CAC seminar next year. I gained invaluable experience as a CIC during this program; I met coaches and made new friends and partners who would like to organize programs focusing on Female Empowerment. I want to thank CAC for giving me this opportunity.

    On the last night I had some very tasty Georgian wine, combined with lots of toasts and celebrations towards the connection of sport and peace. I want to make a toast towards this program of CAC and its growth and I hope it continues its efforts around the world. Puchka Puchka (Cheers in Georgian)!

  • Pathways to Female Empowerment

    September 13th 2017. CAC Community Impact Coach Lorik Hartun wrote about her experience with CAC and our partners GOALS Armenia in Dilijan. We want to sincerely thank the Games 4 Good Foundation for their support of this partnership in 2017. 

    Exactly the same day last year I was just an inspired participant of the CAC’s ‘ASK for Choice’ program in Yerevan, Armenia. While I was getting to know the CAC team and playing games, I was thinking that I have always tried to raise awareness about social issues. But, I had never thought about combining sports and social awareness. That was the time when a spark occurred in my mind and I approached Nora (the head coach), saying I will definitely continue implementing your games.

    I got to know about GOALS (Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer) during the same program and I offered my help and cooperate with them. After a while their team approached me and offered me to work with them as the director of programming and training. I accepted their offer and along with several educators and trainers from all over Armenia, we passionately continued to implement CAC games, which incorporate themes that need to be discussed, such as: gender equality, women’s rights, discrimination, stereotypes etc. After a few months of being involved in programming and monitoring the NGO’s programs, I was given the chance of being GOALS’ Executive Director. Now being GOALS’ CEO, as well as a partner of CAC, we have been able to organize several successful events with the idea of raising awareness of social issues our communities face. For example, this year we organized a CAC training in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, as well as at one of the greenest cities of Armenia; Dilijan.

    Markus and Jamie from Coaches Across Continents were leading the programs in Armenia and I was excited to join them as a Community Impact Coach (CIC) in Dilijan.

    On the first day of our training, as Markus, Jamie and I were walking along the beautiful green field of UWC, where our training would be held; I was looking at the faces of the participants and I could already predict their questions of what exactly we are going to do and how sport and social issues could be involved. Training started. On the first day some of them, especially the adults, didn’t feel comfortable doing more active games such as dancing mingle mingle and doing crazy things in the circle of friends. But on the last day almost everyone was doing fun activities. The point being that: as we grow up we think we shouldn’t be free and have fun like children, but fun and freedom shouldn’t have any age limitations.

    The most challenging part for us during the training was bringing up discussions about women’s rights and equality in Armenia. Most of them were denying the existence of gender inequalities. People were also applying their generic ideas of their community to the rest of the country. We gave them some hints and a place for them to think and study more about those topics.

    I am very happy that 8 participants from the program joined the GOALS ‘after school’ program where they chose one of my designed modules, which focused on: discrimination and equality, leadership and problem solving, and lastly environment and healthy lifestyle. The coaches will implement the games once per week adapting them for their individual needs as they represent different disciplines such as, basketball, track and field, wrestling, boxing etc. I feel confident that through the program the coaches are now well-equipped to apply the games and activities with their students and players. And I am already looking forward to next year’s program where we want to welcome many returners so they can continue on their journey of becoming Self-Directed Learners.

    It is very fun working with “nature-boy” Markus as he gets called by Jamie, the Scotsman on our team. I am already looking forward to working with them in Tbilisi, Georgia.

  • Games 4 Good and GOALS Armenia

    August 29th, 2017. Jamie Tomkinson writes about his experience working On-Field during a Coaches Across Continents ASK for Choice program with partners G.O.A.L.S. Armenia. Jamie was a 2016 Michael Johnson Young Leader, with experience working with CAC. We would like to extend a very sincere thank you to the Games 4 Good Foundation who sponsored this program. 

    The closest I thought I’d ever get to Armenia was watching Mkhitaryan playing for Man United on the television. However these last two weeks I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Coaches Across Continents program working with GOALS Armenia.

    During our week in Yerevan we were training up community leaders, coaches and teachers about using Sport for Social Impact in efforts to help improve the lives of others in their community. This was an ASK for Choice program which specifically focuses on using games from the ASK curriculum around Women’s Rights, choices and Female Empowerment.

    One of the highlights of the week has been working with Markus, a guy who speaks English as his 3rd language, and everyone being able to understand him better than my Scottish accent! It’s a tough week ahead when even the translator can’t understand you.

    With the help of Lorik from GOALS, we were able to work with the group to a point where they understood the games, could deliver them to local children and take part in meaningful, engaging discussion around Armenia and the challenges that women face. These challenges include being under represented in parliament to the morality of a woman driving a taxi! Why is this such an issue in Armenia? Through conversations following the Coaches Across Continents ASK for Choice games, one of the participants felt inspired to create a booklet teaching women in Armenia (and encouraging them, should they wish to) how to become taxi drivers. This to me is a meaningful impact and sustainable impact from the week. Because of the Coaches Across Continents ASK for Choice program, these women are taking action towards change.

    Looking forward to working with GOALS in the mountainous village of Dilijan next week.

    Learn more about on-going work and the history of Games 4 Good Foundation partnership with CAC in 2015 in Cameroon and 2016 in South Africa.

  • Online Education Program connects Coaches Across Continents

    February 24th, 2017. Online Education Strategist, Markus Bensch recaps last years OEP.

    In football there is a saying that when a team gets promoted to a higher league, the 2nd year is the toughest one. You must prove the quality of your team once the wave of excitement has faded.

    We faced a similar challenge as we entered into the 2nd edition of our Online Education Program (OEP). We started with a new group of participants in March 2016! There were 12 coaches from 4 different continents (Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe) that graduated in the 2015 class.

    We’ve introduced new technology tools such as hosting quarterly webinars and using an interactive feedback sheet. During the 9‑month program the coaches invested 200 hours on-field and off-field. The coaches implemented games with their teams, participated in 4 webinars throughout the course, shared their monthly feedback online, and entered games on Sport Session Planner (SSP).

    It is exciting to read that the coaches witness behavior change in their players when implementing Sport for Social Impact games! One story was shared with us by Paula, from Brazil, about the youth she works with: “In the group of teenager after playing human rights game, they began to speak more properly about the right to education and for the first time began to remind people in the community who have had their lives changed because of it as an example.”

    The participants went through three Self-Directed Learning (SDL) stages “Educate”, “Adapt” and “Create”, each lasting for 3 months. During the Educate stage the coaches receive a monthly curriculum to implement in their communities. During the Adapt and Create stage each of our 12 graduates developed and implemented 8 new games. In these 6 months each participant also implemented 8 games from other coaches and gave individual feedback.

    Lin from Kenya, now living and studying in the UK, reflected on her adapted game by stating: “Empathy grew as the players began to stop stigmatizing each other. They became less embarrassed and began speaking up about HIV/AIDS and how it is affecting their families and communities. They also understood that silence plays a BIG part in the spread of it.”

    We are very delighted that we now have almost 100 newly designed games available on our online platform SSP, ready to be implemented by coaches around the world. We have also included some of these games in the new CAC curriculum that will begin implementing during our on-field programs. The OEP is becoming a highly interactive program where coaches from different continents and cultures share knowledge, games, and experiences. The coaches have cultivated the skill of developing and designing FSI games, which are fun and educational. Reading the participants’ feedback you can see that they are very excited about their newly gained skills!

    Ryan, from GOALS Armenia commented: “I wanted to make games that that both teach soccer skills and life skills, which is really difficult. After researching and remembering different soccer exercises I was able to apply new rules and create social impact meaning behind that exercise’s technical objective!”

    There are certain challenges to the Online Education Program. Limited access to internet and technology has been the major reason for people not to be able to graduate. Although there are factors in place that make completion difficult for our participants, there are so many incredible success stories that rise from the program! Many participants go on to further schooling, rise to a new level of coaching, or have new found confidence in their ability to teach others. This is what OEP is all about!

  • Armenia Joins The CAC Family

    September 9th 2016. Andrea Montalbano writes about the start of our partnership with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS). Andrea is a member of the CAC Business Advisory Team and the ASK For Choice Advisory Team.  She is also the author of the Soccer Sisters book series.

    The feel of fall is in the in New York air, but all we can talk about at our dinner table is our family’s recent trip to Armenia with Coaches Across Continents. We worked with CAC staff and Board Members Judith and Bill Gates in several different locations throughout the former Soviet Republic.

    In the capital Yerevan, we trained with fantastic coaches and learned how powerful and fun sport for social change and education can be.  We were based at the Football Federation of Armenia, the country’s governing body, and thrilled to work with their girl players and see the future leaders come alive on the field covering topics such as health and wellness, life skills, gender equality, problem-solving, and team building. Boys and girls were playing together, which was amazing because we learned that it doesn’t happen very often.

    In the small village of Tumanyan, we worked with a variety of educators and community leaders in partnership with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF).  One of the most moving moments for me was to see men and women of all ages, debating and collaborating on policy toward the equitable role of women in society. The conversations were held in COAF “Smart Rooms” and using CAC technology – evidence to my eyes that conversations started on the field have impact off the field.

    Our family’s last stop (CAC would continue on to Gyumri) was at the beautiful UWC School in Dilijan, where the student body is from over 70 different nations! Talk about a worldview. It was truly inspiring to see so many young leaders from all over the world working together and getting excited to bring CAC into their community.

    One of the most impactful things I learned on the trip was to listen to the ideas of others, particularly the ideas of children.  So I thought it only appropriate to do a brief Q&A with the rest of my family and start with the kids.

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    William Jebejian, 9

    Q: Did you have a favorite game, William?

    A: My favorite game was when you had to make the animal sounds (an adaptation of Mingle Mingle) and you had to switch. I liked how you kind of made a fool out of yourself, but it was really hard, because you were like, I think that was a lion, no it’s a cat! It’s really confusing. Meow! And it was so loud. And you don’t understand anything.  You were just running around. It was so fun.

    Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned through Coaches Across Continents?

    A: That you should not rely on people to solve your problems and you should try and solve your own problems without asking someone to do them for you.

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    Lily Jebejian, 12

    Q: Did you meet anyone who inspired you?

    A: Sofik was an awesome leader and role model for all girls and even though I didn’t speak Armenian, I could understand by the way she coached.  One night, we got to go to her house and it was cool to see where she was from and the rest of her family.  They were welcoming and very sweet.

    Q: You play a lot of sports here in New York.  Were you surprised to see the differences in opportunities there?

    A: Seeing all the girls show up to the field in dresses and sandals and fancy shoes, I thought, they have never played soccer before and it seemed kind of bizarre to me because basically everyone I know has played soccer before and would never have shown up to a soccer practice like that.  It made me appreciate my town and the opportunities that I have more because I got to see how girls are not encouraged to play.

    Diron Jebejian, who is of Armenian descent.

    A: What surprised you the most about the curriculum?

    Q: That it actually has very little to do with soccer.  It was better than my expectations, because I learned a lot. They have a very unique way of getting people to come together to find a common way to communicate to ultimately work out some of their problems, collaborate, and have much better opportunity to solve problems, so it was much different than I thought.

    Q: Do you think that sport for social change can help Armenia?

    A: I do. I didn’t really understand what it meant until I spent time with CAC. But, I think the common interest of sport is a very good way to bring people together.

    Q: We introduced the ASK For Choice curriculum to Armenia. What do you think the biggest challenge is facing the women of the country?

    A: The biggest challenge for the country is economic opportunity.  Without more opportunity the country will continue to have people leave to find better jobs and better ways to support themselves.  So that’s clearly the challenge, and so the investment in education and investment in girls is one of the principle ways to change that equation so I think it’s all tied together.

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