• One Love – My First CAC Experience In Jamaica

    CAC volunteer Laura Kane blogs about Jamaica and her first CAC experience with Go Ballaz.

    December 19th 2015. It is natural for us to form an opinion based on the things we see in society, social media, and music.  It isn’t until you travel to different countries that you truly form an understanding and appreciation for other cultures.  Prior to my first CAC trip to Kingston, Jamaica, I thought that Bob Marley and everything he stood for was representative of the majority.  As a fan of reggae music and a belief system of “one love,” I thought for sure my experience in Kingston would confirm this.  After four days in Kingston woring with a group of local coaches, I’ve gained a whole new understanding of the culture.

    First, Rastafarians (Rastas) only make up a small percentage of the population in Jamaica.  Not only are they the minority in terms of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against to this day.  In our coaching group of close to 40 coaches, we had two ‘Rastas’.  I was able to speak with one of the gentleman, Mike, at lunch and he gave me several examples of times when police had verbally discriminated against him because of his dreadlocks.  Mike was one of the kindest, most soft-spoken people in our group of coaches and I feel blessed to have met him.

    Second, Jamaica has been described by some human rights groups as the most homophobic country in the world because of the high level of violent crime directed at LGBT people.  Coming from the U.S. where gay marriage is now widely accepted and legal, it felt like I had jumped in a time machine and was transported back to the 1980’s. The term “battyman” is their racial slur referring to people who are gay.  This term was used freely throughout the week and was typically the catalyst for laughter and jokes.  The glaring contradiction came when we discussed child rights.  They agreed that children should have the right to be who they want to be (freedom of choice).  However, the caveat was that if they choose to be gay, they must not tell anyone.  As long as they remain in the closet and do not “infect” others with their belief, they would not do harm to them.  I must say, it was tough for me to hear but I respectfully listened to their point of view.

    Finally, the most encouraging thing I learned about Jamaica was that musicians, disc jockeys (selectors), and professional footballers have a ton of influence.  At one point, former national team player and head of Ballaz Football Academy, Andre Virtue, jumped on the back of one of his coaches who was only giving piggy back rides to the girls of the group during Circle of Friends.  While we all had a laugh in the moment, it was quite clear that even a small action from a well-respected elder could break major barriers within the culture.  During our child rights game, coaches were blindly following the actions of another former Reggae Boy in the group.  Even when they knew the answer was incorrect, they didn’t have the courage to be different.  While these aspects of the Jamaican culture were eye opening to me, they were also encouraging.  It was clear that even a small group of people who are well-respected can work to affect positive change.  If groups like CAC will continue to work with coaches and educators in leadership positions, we truly can get to a place where we love one another and respect our differences.  Jah Bless!


  • The Jamaican (Video) Farewell

    January 21st 2015. Our last program of 2014 was working with Ballaz International, the Real Madrid School for Social Integration, and the Spanish Jamaica Foundation both in Kingston and Montego Bay. Lyrics to the song “Jamaican Farewell” rung in our heads such as “sounds of laughter everywhere” and “the sun shines daily on the mountaintop”. And among our great two weeks of training were the people of Digicel SportsMax who filmed the event and put together this great video of the difference being made in Jamaica because of this partnership.

    Thanks very much to Digicel SportsMax for showing this on local TV and putting together a great film about Coaches Across Continents and our incredible local partners in Jamaica.

  • Yeah Mon, Part 2

    IMG_8454December 27, 2013. The second leg of our Jamaica trip took us to beautiful Montego Bay, a coastal city upcountry from Kingston. We were greeted by Robbie, a local restaurant owner with ties to the Real Madrid Foundation, our local organizing partner here in Mo Bay. The Real Madrid Foundation is a new and growing organization in Mo Bay that is affiliated with the now-familiar Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and Ballaz International. The leader of the Real Madrid Foundation is Aaron Lawrence, a former national-team goalkeeper who represented Jamaica in the 1998 world cup. Aaron participated in the coaching sessions and also doubled as our gracious chauffeur throughout our stay in Mo Bay.

    IMG_8576When we arrived to the training pitch the first day, we were blown away. The field was located right on the water, and luckily we had time to explore a little while awaiting the arrival of the local coaches. After we dipped our toes in the water, it was time to get down to work. We had sixteen coaches throughout the three-day training, which made for a very intimate but intensive course. The majority of coaches had never been introduced to the concept of football for social impact, so it was inspiring to see them buy into the CAC curriculum over such a short period of time. We were encouraged by the effort given by all the coaches, and were happy to see them teach back several of the games with their own Jamaican flavor.

    IMG_8504Some of the most interesting learning in Mo Bay (for the CAC coaches and the local coaches) came off the field, during discussions held over water breaks. Major issues in Mo Bay, and all of Jamaica, include gender equity and HIV/sexual health. We had a frank discussion with the coaches about why girls should play sports and were intrigued by the nuances of gender relations in Jamaica as described by the coaches. They ultimately gave many thoughtful responses to the question we posed and overwhelmingly supported the inclusion of girls in sports. We also had an interesting discussion about HIV and sexual health during our day teaching Adebayor games for HIV education. We were delighted to hear the perspective of not only the coaches, but also of Juliet, a Real Madrid Foundation staff member and parent of two boys who participate in the organization. Juliet and the coaches animatedly discussed the unique roles of parents, coaches, and teachers in HIV education. We left the conversation with the understanding that HIV education can be taught in a variety of different venues and that great strides are being made to accommodate such multifaceted education in Jamaica.

    IMG_8600Overall, our time in Jamaica has been extremely rewarding. Though we have completed our first  year here, we are excited to see what the future holds for our partner organizations. Everyone involved in the program is committed to incorporating football for social impact into their coaching curricula, and we expect the number of participating coaches will multiply over the next two years. With the support of Ballaz International, the Real Madrid Foundation, and the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation, we truly believe that football can have a significant social impact in Jamaica.


  • Yeah Mon, Part 1

    IMG_8147December 17, 2013.  Upon our arrival in Kingston, our coaching team was greeted by Ballaz International and fantastic weather. The CAC-Jamaica 2013 team consists of four fabulous coaches: Staci Wilson, Marc-Anthony William, Anna Rodenbough, and Brian Suskiewicz. Staci, originally from New Jersey, won three national titles at UNC and was a gold-medalist for the USA in 1996. She currently coaches in South Florida and volunteers with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Marc-Anthony, originally from Trinidad, played collegiately at Denver University and Huntington University, and is a full-time coach in the New York Metro Area. He also coaches with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Anna, from North Carolina, won two national titles at UNC and currently studies medicine and public health as a UNC graduate student. She previously volunteered with CAC in 2010 in Uganda and Kenya. Brian, as many of you know, is a seasoned CAC vet, having worked in over fifteen countries in the last four years. He is originally from Virginia and played at Boston College before coaching at the collegiate level. Interestingly enough, Staci and Brian were high school classmates at TJHSS&T in Alexandria, VA.

    IMG_8056Soccer clearly permeates Jamaican culture, as evidenced by the presence of the honorable Edward Seaga (former Prime Minister) and the honorable Celsa Nuño, the Spanish ambassador to Jamaica who welcomed us and others to her home during the week.  In addition to that star-studded evening, all four of us had an absolute blast in Kingston. The community coaches were enthusiastic from the beginning and continually gave well-thought-out answers to every question posed.  Our daily contact during the week was the affable Coach Sherrick, who went by the nickname “Shrek.” Many of the coaches were from the Ballaz International organization, but several clubs, schools, and organizations in Kingston were represented. All of the coaches offered valuable social commentary on life in Jamaica so that we could tailor our curriculum to the unique problems facing their communities. Although we have a fairly experienced bunch of coaches on this trip, we were not only teaching, but also constantly learning from the Jamaican coaches.

    IMG_8116The highlight of the week was definitely the discussions held by the coaches during our water breaks.  Their insight into Jamaican cultural norms towards gender equity, violence, and other issues were well-taken, and you can see that there is a passion in the coaches when they discuss progress in their society.  The next generation also got into the act, as two coaches brought their sons to training on the last afternoon.  The messages from our games were immediately picked up by the youngsters, sometimes even faster than their senior counterparts grasped them!

    IMG_8100The connection between Ballaz International and Coaches Across Continents was made possible by the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation and our trip was the support of many sponsors including Scotiabank, Wata, Island Grill, Hi-Lyte, the Spanish Court Hotel, and Riu Hotels. Our coaching team has been treated very kindly by all of these sponsors, who have provided us with delicious meals and wonderful accommodations throughout our program here.  We can’t wait for our second week in Montego Bay!