I Will Be Strong!
July 28, 2018. Board member Dr. Judith Gates is with our team, back in Kigoma, Tanzania where we held our first-ever program ten years ago. #CAC10. #WhatsYourLegacy?
“I Will Be Strong!”
These were the final words I heard amidst all of the goodbyes, exchange of email addresses and chatter about selfie photo ops that invariably mark the end of a Coaches Across Continents programme. Teachers and coaches were jostling with each other and sharing plans as to how they were going to put all they had learned that week into practice. The group of students, identifiable by their green uniforms, were talking enthusiastically about new insights gained.
She came up to me. Tall and athletically built, she unexpectedly hugged me, kissed my cheek and said, “Thank you. I will be strong!”
My spirits soared. I understood what she was saying. I knew what she meant.
This week’s programme was to mark the 10th anniversary of Coaches Across Continents. Ten years ago the very first CAC programme was held in Kigoma, Tanzania. CAC had returned to mark this important anniversary. It all began here. From one programme in one country in 2008, CAC is now working in over 50 countries around the world.
All week, with Nick working alongside Nico as leader, the group had focussed on the challenging issue of Child Rights and Child Protection. Curriculum activities had included games in which participants had identified sources of potential harm, recognised the varying forms of abuse, identified who could be of help and which places could be considered safe. They had explored attitudes and expectations relevant to their local community. Teachers and students had shared ideas together during the games, but also worked separately to discuss factors which were specifically relevant to their age group or profession. They had then talked with each and demonstrated their capacity for understanding differing points of view.
I had led a discussion on abuse. I asked which form of abuse, physical, emotional, verbal or sexual, was most prevalent in their community. Hesitation was minimal. The vast majority of both teachers and students cited sexual abuse. Teenage pregnancies were high. Girls were forced to marry at an early age. Hunger and poverty led to girls being sold, or selling themselves, sometimes for only a bag of rice. The boundary between Child Rights and Women’s Rights blurred as they explored the reality of life for young girls in their community.
I asked teachers and students, each in their separate group, to think about what could be done, how things could improve. Acknowledging the problem openly was seen as key. The students suggested media reporting, government intervention. Their message was clear. We deserve support and help. Children should not have to experience these things. Teachers suggested education and parental involvement. Both groups wanted answers and action. The aspiration of the girl students was to complete their education and find a job, so that their subsequent life decisions were made from a position of relative strength.
The final words I shared with them were about personal responsibility. We can turn to others to make the changes we want, but we each have the capacity to influence in some way the context in which we live. I asked them to be strong. I asked them to contribute to the changes they hoped for.
I told them they each could be part of the solution, they each could contribute to making Kigoma an even better community.
And she had heard me. Her final words were of latent power, of commitment, of hope. “I will be strong!” That is the message CAC endeavours to leave behind, hoping that it will take root and contribute to locally desired community changes around the world. Another first for Kigoma!
~ Dr. Judith Gates
CAC Shortlisted For Beyond Sport Awards
August 10th 2015. Coaches Across Continents is delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted at the illustrious Beyond Sport Awards 2015 in the UNICEF Safeguarding Children in Sport category. The nomination is CAC’s fourth at the Beyond Sport awards. Of these nominations we have two wins; ‘Best New Project‘ for the Hat-Trick Initiative in 2009 and ‘Corporate of the Year‘ for our partnership with Chevrolet in 2014.
Since 2012 CAC has been part of the International Safeguarding Children in Sport Working group alongside organizations such as UNICEF UK, UK Sport, Beyond Sport and Comic Relief. This group spent two years developing The International Safeguards for Children In Sport, a set of global standards to safeguard all children participating in sport. In 2014 CAC piloted our Child Rights policy which has since been used at every partner program we have run in the last 18 months.
Dr. Judith Gates, CAC Board Member and co-coordinator of this policy stated, ‘Through education and training in child protection strategies, Coaches Across Continents’ Safeguarding Children in Sport Initiative protects children, empowers coaches and changes cultural and community attitudes towards child abuse. The single biggest practical insight from CAC’s safeguarding initiative is the need to “bring policy to life.” This requires a pragmatic approach in which safeguarding policies are founded on local realities, but where there is knowledge of the pathway to be traveled and a clear understanding of the hallmarks of the optimal destination.’
On the nomination CAC’s Founder and Global Strategist Nick Gates said, ‘It is an honor to be shortlisted for a Beyond Sport award, the leader in global sport for development awards, for the 2nd year in a row. Safeguarding children is at the forefront of everything we have done over the past few years so to be recognized for this work is a testament to the passion and ability of our incredible staff, volunteers, board, community partners, program participants and supporters.’
In addition to our nomination, our global partners CREATA Kenya, Horn of Africa Development Initiative, Moving the Goalposts Kilifi and Football 4 Life Tacloban were also shortlisted for awards! Congratulations to all of them- the recognition is well deserved.
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.
An Unleashing- International Women’s Day 2015
Staff member, Nora Dooley, writes about our continued support for International Women’s Day.
March 6, 2015. Can a bird fly with only one wing?
A CAC icon and personal role model oft refers to this metaphor. The most recent reference was during her speech discussing the global war on women. Dr. Judith Gates, the mother of our founder, and thousands of women like her, like my own mother, are huge parts of the equation that has enabled me to be an empowered woman. But they are only half of this equation.
When we talk about female empowerment, what do we mean? This word empowerment, so grand, so profound, it even sounds empowered! But too few take the time to question what this term means to their own lives. I had a conversation recently with one of our participants from Mexico – he believes it should rather be an unleashing of potential, of ability that exists but is denied the freedom to fly.
And he is a he!
And, in other news, our founder… also a he!
There is much talk of this #HeforShe campaign and I think we are all excited about it. But in order to properly support this movement, we have to acknowledge all the past ‘Hes’ that supported the ‘Shes’ in their lives. My father was one. My football coaches as well.
As an organization we are supporting this campaign with all our might, as we have been working for the same cause since CAC’s inception. Football: a male-dominated sport. Sport: a male-dominated field. The world: overwhelmed by male-dominated societies. For these reasons we have been striving to work with more women but men have also dominated our fields for the past 8 years. One might think we have never prioritized female empowerment, because, well, no females in football. But, of course, the exact opposite is the reality of CAC – encouraging men to empower women, men to empower girls, boys to empower their sisters and look up to their mothers, HeforShe – this has forever been integral to our identity.
And guess what? It’s working.
More women are participating in our programs each year, an expectation of our partner programs, but also an objective that they believe in and work towards. In fact, we had 25.43% female participation in 2014, an incredible number in this arena. More girls are also participating in our partners’ teams and activities. And more CAC participants believe in equal opportunities for boys and girls. More. More. More.
Sport, football, men, and women are giving more and more girls voices, so their choices can be heard. They are unleashing the capacity that has lain dormant for too long.
Our amazing partners with the help of our curriculum and philosophy, with the help of incredible leaders in their local communities and in the worldwide sphere, are replacing the image of a falling, one-winged bird with something else, something fierce, something truly empowered.
Happy International Women’s Day from CAC to all the members of our family, past, present, and future. We honor the women speaking out for themselves and their fellows, we honor the men stepping up for those who cannot, and we most of all honor those who have yet the opportunity to raise their voice, and ASK for Choice*.
*Stay tuned in the coming days to learn all about our new female empowerment curriculum: ASK for Choice. You have also recently learnt of an incredible opportunity to win a 1999 US Women’s World Cup shirt signed by the entire squad with all proceeds going to our new female empowerment curriculum and our gender equity efforts worldwide. Do you know when the next World Cup is?
This short film highlights our female empowerment module.
CAC Attends Trust Women Conference, 2014
November 18, 2014. Dr. Judith Gates, CAC Board Member, attends the 2014 Trust Women Conference in London over the next two days. Trust Women is an opportunity for leaders from different sectors around the world to unite around a shared commitment to empowering women.
Coaches Across Continents, global leaders in sport for social impact, puts commitment to action every day on fields around the world with our football for female empowerment curriculum. This is a great event for CAC to be a part of, networking with like-minded organizations to take strides in the quest for gender equality, but also for a range of outlets, from government to foundations to corporations and media, to learn about what CAC is doing from a women’s rights pioneer.
Dr. Judith Gates has been an integral part of Coaches Across Continents from the organization’s inception. She is not only a key member of the Board but also the mind behind our ‘Chance to Choice’ curriculum and Self-Directed Learning philosophy. There is no better person to be representing CAC and all that we stand for in the name of female empowerment at such an international event.
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.