• Sedikwe Sa Bagwera (Circle of Friends) in Mokopane

    July 17, 2014.  Traveling from Zimbabwe overnight on Friday night, we were suppose to get to Polokwane, South Africa Saturday morning at 7:20am. TIA – This is Africa (as one of the locals taught us) was very clear during that bus ride. As we were entering our 4th hour at the Beit Bridge border, I could do nothing but laugh at the fact that we had been in and out of the bus 3 times, they went through our bag twice, and at the time we were suppose to arrive in the Limpopo province of South Africa, we were still in line at the border. Finally, after hitting the road again around 9am, I started to realize why patience is a virtue. The 17 hours traveling made me appreciate what was to come next way more. A Red Cross representative (our partner in Mokopane) picked us up from Polokwane and drove us the 50km to Mokopane. Right away, we knew it was going to be something special. We were staying at the hotel with all the participants, a shuttle was driving us to and from the facility (so “Africa time” was not a factor), we were getting fed three times a day, the sessions were on a turf field at the FIFA For Hope Center Mogalakwena, and we had more than 40 participants. What else could you ask for?

    Once we got to the hotel, I opened the door and saw three double beds, a TV, air conditioning, a big bath, a shower (with hot water) a tea/coffee machine (which is comfort food for me) and there even was wi-fi available! It is crazy the difference that two weeks can make (see Connection Not Found: Please Try Again blog). We, as Coaches Across Continents, welcome all circumstances and enjoy both also! After meeting with George Mamabolo, the South Africa Red Cross manager of the Limpopo Province, it was clear why the program was so well organized. The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture was sponsoring the whole program. That way, it was possible for coaches from all over the Limpopo province to come and be a part of the program.

    Finally, Monday morning came, and it was time to start with the program. Over the next two weeks, we played over 50 games from our curriculum, had two sessions of coach backs (where the coaches coach either our games or new games), had two tournaments with the community, our compulsory child’s rights discussion, a discussion on characteristics of a good coach, but most importantly, had tons of fun and smiles. During the first week, we focused on identity building and HIV/AIDS, as requested by the coaches. The coaches were all really eager to learn, and it made the sessions very interesting and very impactful. During the second week, we focused on child’s rights, drug and alcohol abuse and on environmental education. During all the games, it was awesome to see them recognize what needed to be done and how they could work together as a community to improve. With all the games we played, I think my personal favorite was 95% football (invisible soccer).The teams came up with different strategies that made the game really interesting. One of the teams even called their players by different names so the other team would not know who they are passing the ball to. The game was filled with smiles, conflicts, solutions and laughs; making it a really successful game.

    The two weeks in South Africa were awesome, as we had a good program, but so much more. It helped me learn a lot about the impact we coaches can have in coaching for social impact and it helped me learn about myself a lot, as I was sometimes push to surpass my limits. Not to forget about the different words I learned, my favorites being Yebo (yes) and Laduma (goal). My dance move repertoire was also expanded, and my coordination improved greatly, thanks to Circle of Friends (Sedikwe Sa Bagwera) dancing exercises. After having a nice celebration last night with the participants, it is now time for me to head home. My adventure with CAC has been really enriching and I could not have asked for a better way to spend my summer – beside maybe being in Brazil to see Germany in the Final. One thing for sure, no where would I have learned as much! Now, time for 40 hours of traveling!

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  • Social Inclusion Through Sport

    June 23rd 2014. Our first week in Zimbabwe was quite different than what a normal week looks like, but it made it interesting and challenged our adaptation skills. We worked in Mutare, a town with a beautiful landscape, surrounded by mountains. The week was separated into two 2 days workshop and 1 day working with the coaches from S4S, our partner in Mutare. The first two days, we worked with teachers who mostly work with children with disabilities, either physical, mental, hearing, speaking, etc. Being more reserved at first, once on the field, they did not hesitate to let go and have lots of fun. Dance moves and smiles all around were a big part of our warm-up, and of the day in general. With them, we worked a lot on how to adapt our games for the needs of their children with disabilities. With them, we covered Circle of Friends, an warm-up game that involves going to the middle of the circle by doing a certain movement, and then switching with someone on the outside by shouting something, or doing a dance move, or the well liked “Boom-Shakalaka”. Following, we played Ronaldo for Health and Wellness, which we adapted for deaf children (Markus got to successfully practice his non-verbal communication skills!). The game consists of listening, or watching the leader sign 1,2,3 or 4, and then the followers must jump to the appropriate corner. In general, with the help of the teachers, we came up with adaptations for most of the games, which was very good for them, and for us.

    The next two days, we worked with youth and caregivers, focusing on games that involved “solving your problems” and finding solutions. Two of the games that worked especially well were Wilshere for Health and Wellness and THo (Tim Howard) for Conflict Resolution. Wilshere for Health and Wellness involves two teams, in which the teams must find the fastest way for every player to touch the ball. THo for Conflict Resolution has players split in equal teams, put in a line, and the ball must make it to the back of the line and back in front. The fastest team wins. These two games created some minor conflicts, where teams were trying to cheat, and calling each other out, but in general, teams found good solutions and got the message on the importance of teamwork and finding solutions. During the two days at Chancellor School, every time we played Circle of Friends, it was time for the school recess. The hundred of kids who gathered around our circle, started laughing out loud instantly as soon as we did the “Boom-Shakalaka” exchange. The children all had a good time, and were intrigued by what we were doing. In general, it was awesome to see the impact we had on caregivers, but also on the youth. One of the young men even asked us how to get where we are and get involve in what we do. I learned a lot from that group about how to keep a positive attitude and work together as a group no matter what.

    On the last day, we worked with the S4S coaches, where we got to play more soccer-oriented games that still had a powerful social message. From the coaches feedback, they really enjoyed Hope Solo for Health and Wellness, a mirror game where two players facing each other, must copy what corners the other one runs to. From my own perspective of playing the game with them, that game will really get your heart pumping and our muscle hurting. Another game they really enjoyed was the Savings game, a handball game where you get a cone (representing money) every time your team completes ten passes. With the coaches already being very knowledgable about sport for social impact, since it’s the programs third year with Coaches Across Continents, it was good to have them give their input and participate in discussions.

    For me, my first week with Coaches Across Continents was a good experience. Even though when I was home I could not stay awake at all (I guess time change will do that to you), on the field I learned a lot. I learned a lot on how to adapt our different games and how to adapt our plans to changing circumstances, and I am looking forward to the new adventures our week in Bindura will bring.

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