• Pure Play

    CAC SDL coach Rubén Alvarado blogs from Kigoma, Tanzania as we return to the site of our first ever program!

    December 11th 2015. One of my beloved friends (who probably doesn’t remember my name) drank his meals for 21 days. Only juices, nothing solid, nothing processed, everything vegan-raw. He drank his meals because he believes in the power of symbolism. In this journey he saw  a chance to return to Earth, to the Origin, and “become flow”, while outstripping the inconsistency of foolish “magical belief” by having a testimony based on his direct experience. He made a movie of it, of the objective, scientifically measurable effects, and the subjective, non visible ones. Hundreds of thousands of people have watched it now, including me, a couple of weeks before I became an official CAC staff member. “Returning to the Origin”. It once more (because the message has just kept showing up over and over again) seems fascinating, but I get that type of fascination that comes with a hole in the middle, of not really rationally grasping what you talk about, maybe because words can’t contain it. However I do not abandon it, mainly because it sounds so cool…

    When I knew that I would be coming to Africa the idea gained strength and size. Where it all began for this exceptionally complex and funny creature, for this metaphor of the Universe, where it all began for mankind and womankind. I feel so excited just to remember the excitement that I felt in those moments. In our first days I told Nora, outstanding SDL coach, that I would spend my afternoon saluting the rocks of a mountain nearby our hotel in Iringa. I made it to the top of her list of lovable weird people. I had this major hope that everything would untangle, that clarity and epiphanies would flow like rivers to the ocean of my Mind, that my geographical movement should have allowed some invisible things to move and unlock for me to understand this “Returning to the Origin” thing.

    Well, it didn’t. I don’t know if the excess of the local delicacy Ugali blocked the path of the Wisdom or what, but it didn’t. Every experience had amazing value and color, every game played, every person met, participants’ “Aha! moments”, listening to beautiful unknown language, the books I read, resilient communities creating a voice for themselves, the taste of ancient foods, deep passed-bed-time-conversations, bare feet on the grass, everything contained a hint, a possibility, a trace of the ultimate understanding, but it didn’t reveal. Every new answer brought two new questions. This overwhelming (sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter)  learning process didn’t generate the spark of desired clarity, however, it delivered a treasurable gift: the humbleness derived of realizing that I know so little, acknowledging all the things that I don’t know and wondering about all  those that I don’t know that I don’t know (thanks Dr. J). I joyfully surrendered. “Not my time” I thought…

    We arrived to the green and peaceful Kigoma, our last city on the adventurous schedule. Warmly welcomed by our partner and “rafiki” Peter Kilalo. Before we met this year’s participants we honored the municipality’s support by visiting some of its members. “We are very happy to be back in Kigoma, where it all started 8 years ago” said Nora to one of them, my heart bounced a little. I didn’t know that we would finish this journey in the precise origin of Coaches Across Continents, but you know, now that I’d given up with the frenetic quest, the magnetism of symbolism didn’t trigger hope, although it felt cool to add one to the list of serendipities.

    The legendary Sports Court, blue as Lake Tanganyika, hosted the session. Children from various ages had just started their holiday season, so, we had guests of honor every day of the week. Laughter available for every Kuku dance, expression of silliness, fall, goal or mistake in Kiswahili (I said Kiwicha, the name of amaranth in Peru, instead of Kichwa, that means head in their language). Things moved forward, Nora, CJ and me danced to the rhythm of the music of the group. Listening, designing, playing, correcting, asking questions, praising, confronting, I felt immersed in the high beat-melodious flow of coaching.

    Kids came one afternoon, the coaches experimented with the new knowledge. We didn’t intervene. In between games I saw 2 kids seriously playing, with no identifiable purpose, just kicking a ball and making a tire roll with a stick. Their full self given to the game, no distractions, absolute presence, for a few seconds at least. I raised my head and found Adebayor’s condom tag happening among a flood of laughter. “Yaya one”, “Yaya two”, “Yaya three”, carrying the unmistakable sound emergent from the shape of a smiling mouth, I could hear. Suddenly I remember having read somewhere: “The Universe is made of play”. In 8 years, I can’t imagine how many times a person felt the grace of fun playing one of our games. Coaches, kids, teachers, parents, ourselves. I effortlessly start to feel the Giggle in my heart, it started making sense. We must play, not intermittently, to rest from hard work, but constantly, like breathing, as a natural expression of human nature. In pure play, not the one conditioned by competition, we experiment countless manifestation of boundary dissolution, the fundamental requirement for equity and peace. Even in opposition, we become a unity, acknowledging the value of the presence of the other, without whom the game would not exist, or myself as a player. When purely playing we defy a culture that says we must surrender to all the misery that it creates and thoughtfully displays.

    We all know the places where our society and the world need great healing. And by highlighting playing as an urgent human need to rescue, I don’t mean we should only play and not address those other things that hurt us. We want peace, but how can we find peace if we carry the war within? I risk myself to say that fight and play cannot co-exist within the same human being at the same time, not in the heart, not in the body, not in the neural space. Creating spaces for people to play has the same power and value as any other action that aims for social development.

    I did not get the answers that I expected, but the ones that serve the most, as usual. They came in the form of a ball, once again. I see it clearly, to have enough ink to write that most wanted story of equity, peace, harmony and happiness, we must return to that origin from where unity, bliss and Love emerge.

    Punto y seguimos.

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  • Court Storming in Kigoma!

    August 2, 2013.  Kigoma, Tanzania holds a special place for Coaches Across Continents.  It is the site of our first-ever program in 2008, the start of the Hat Trick Initiative in 2009, and the recipient of a Beyond Sport award which donated and installed a multi-purpose sports court in 2011.  Maybe it is the water in Lake Tanganyika but something keeps CAC coming back to this rural community on the western edge of Tanzania.  This is our sixth consecutive year here, making it a Double Hat Trick Initiative.

    Everyone celebrates when CAC is in town!

    Everyone celebrates when CAC is in town!

    Community Impact Coach Nico Achimpota (the former Sports Officer in Kigoma/Ujiji) and Coach Brian spent five days training teachers and children on the sport court on the grounds of Katubuka Primary School.  Each morning 36 teachers arrived early to learn this year’s games.  The CAC curriculum is so vast that we taught almost all new games to this year’s group.  Some of the teachers were in their first training session while others were reunited with Brian who was here last in 2010.  Even a mutatu conductor leaned out his window when he saw Nico and Brian and shouted “Coaches!, Karibu! (welcome).” The enthusiasm for Coaches Across Continents is great once again with private meetings with the Honorable Mayor, Sports Officer, and numerous other dignitaries to see how we can continue progressing forward in this District.

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    Mingle, Mingle, MINGLE!

    However the highlight of the week were the afternoon training sessions where 100+ boys and girls chanted “Mingle, Mingle, Mingle!” as we strolled up.  If you don’t know, Mingle Mingle is one of our catchier problem solving games that we teach at each location.  With such a large group of children, Brian and Nico spent some afternoons teaching Marta (dribbling) and Ronaldo (moves) with the benefit of 20 One World Futbols.  It was one of the first times that the children had quality individual time on the ball to practice their skills and work on finding their voice and confidence.  Hopefully this lack of equipment will change in the near future as One World Futbol has committed to donating over 15,000 balls to the CAC Districts in Tanzania which will benefit over 1300 schools.  Before we left, Coaches Across left the group of One World Futbols to be used by any group who is using the sport court.  This combination of equipment and CAC curriculum training is the best way at ensuring a potential social impact.

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    Thanks One World Futbol!

    On the last afternoon we held a 6v6 tournament.  The passion at the World Cup could not match what we saw after each goal.  Little children, big children, and even Nico stormed the court every time there was a goal scored.  This might have delayed the ensuing kickoff but it made for a memorable afternoon and some great pictures.  At the end of a tough three weeks for Nico and Brian (who have trained 200 teachers and coaches in four locations) it was the perfect way to put huge smiles on our faces to see such unbridled joy.  Maybe that is the reason CAC keeps coming back here.

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    Community Impact Coach Nico show the kids how to properly storm the court after a goal!