• Star Power in Hawthorne

    February 8th, 2016. The stars came out in force for the launching of the Chevrolet FC pitch in Hawthorne, Los Angeles. The eighth project in our award-winning partnership with Chevrolet brought out Manchester United legend Dennis Irwin, LA Galaxy/USMNT and Hawthorne native Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy player and former England international Steven Gerard, LA Galaxy players A.J. DeLaGarza and Baggio Husidic, and team president and former USMNT player Chris Klein.

    This impressive group of individuals were there to witness the power of play and see the beautiful possibilities that Chevrolet FC creates. Hawthorne, California was where Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) grew up.  As a child, Zardes was forbidden from playing in the park where they new pitches were created as they instituted a “no soccer” policy on park grounds.  However together with the Hawthorne Police Department and the Parks and Recreation Department, Chevrolet FC has helped to change attitudes as they built three new futsal pitches in place of some unused and derelict tennis courts. These futsal courts are now the focal point of the community.

    Coaches Across Continents has been working throughout the project with the LA Galaxy Foundation and the Hawthorne Police department to ensure that this safe space can be used for social impact, and that the local coaches, police officers, and community leaders have the skills to do so.  In future, Hawthorne may see more great players emerge from their community, and tens of thousands of children will be able to enjoy the facility and learn from the sport in their new space.

    DSC00109

    Putting the final touches on a mural of LA Galaxy player and Hawthorne hero Gyasi Zardes

    DSC00182

    Manchester United legend Dennis Irwin shows some boys and girls a few new skills

  • Field Of Dreams

    CAC SDL coach Turner Humphries writes about a great week in Kolkata, India with Slum Soccer.

    December 18th 2015. In Kolkata we were playing on a recently built artificial turf field behind one of the local schools. Before the field was built (by our partners Chevrolet FC in May!) this area was steered clear of by most of the community, as it became a haven for drug and alcohol use and other antisocial behavior. The addition of this new field has seen a transformation in the community, and a once crime ridden area has become the focal point of positive activity.

    Shabaz, a participant from Kolkata, describes what this field has meant to him. “Most of the members of this community enjoy football. Before there was this facility people were practicing in the streets at night, but the police would chase everyone away. That’s how we worked on our fitness – running from the police! Before this field was here this area had lots of problems with drugs, alcohol and other bad things. The people in the community did not feel safe. In a way this field has stabilized the community, you will not see anyone doing bad things around here anymore. Parents now feel comfortable sending their children here at night. Girls have been invited to play too. Everyone should feel safe here; it’s football, not bad-ball. Because of this field I have been able to start my coaching career. Without it I would have nothing.”

    During our training the field would be surrounded by community members coming to hangout, chat with friends and to check out the coaches yelling ‘Boomshakalaka’ and dancing around singing ‘Mingle Mingle!’ The field is equipped with lights so the field is almost in constant use. The participants all took pride in the new facility, cleaning up every piece of trash before leaving. It was the ideal setting to go deeper into some of the issues troubling the community and work together to come up with solutions.

    DSC_0740

  • I Have A Voice, Listen To Me!

    CAC SDL coach Markus Bensch blogs from Kathmandu, Nepal with Go Sports Nepal.

    December 15th 2015. I arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday, November 29th for my last on-field program this year with our partner Go Sports Nepal and its founder Sunil Shrestha. As we started on Monday I was very happy to see almost equally as many women as men who were ready to play. We started off with ‘Circle of Friends’, a warm-up game where players warm-up their bodies, minds and voices. This game is a lot of fun and creates high energy as some players go through the center of the circle doing an exercise (i.e. high knees) and then find a person on the outside to go to. For the exchange both players do a move (i.e. high five) and use their voice by saying something such as their name or favorite football player. As usual on the first day the voices were very low and people didn’t speak up. This was a clear teachable moment and I talked with the participants about the importance of our voice for building confidence, to communicate, express ourselves and many more. It is always amazing how the volume increases as the week progresses. This week was no different. By Thursday the participants led the Circle by themselves and there was a lot of laugher, screaming and shouting.

    But the change of voice does not only happen during Circle of Friends. People also speak up more and more during the social impact talks that are related to each of our games and I see this change particularly with female participants. In many communities I work, girls and women are not supposed to raise their voice in front of their male counterparts and they are not encouraged to speak up publicly. We addressed this issue through our games. One of them is a version of Circle of Friends where the players say things that are empowering girls and women, i.e. “I have a voice, listen to me!” or “I am woman/man, I want to play!” As a coach I also create a safe space and a platform where female participants can speak up and to be listened to.

    On Tuesday I introduced our female role model Marta who is a Brazilian footballer and five times Ballon d’Or Award winner. Many male players got confused and assumed that I was talking about Juan Mata, Manchester United’s midfielder and Spanish national team player. Finally one of the women raised her voice and said: “No, she is a female player and comes from Brazil.” During the game reviews I realized how powerful Marta was for the female participants. A group of women prepared the game Marta Skills for Life and in the Social Impact section they wrote down all the details about Marta’s story and how women can do everything that men can do. It’s amazing to see how smart and intelligent these young women are and how much they absorb everything that gives them the vision of a different life with more freedom and more choices. At the same time it makes me wonder how hard it must be for them to always hold back their thoughts and creativity, because society doesn’t believe that they have any valuable contribution to important matters.

    On Friday we ran our coach-back session and we included the children from SJ Primary School, who allowed us to use their sport court for the whole week. We started again with ‘Circle of Friends’ and I was surprised that the children were not shy at all, but rather had strong voices and there was a lot of laughter and excitement. I was happy to see these young girls and boys play together so blithely. My last On-Field week this year was truly inspiring and these amazing participants will remain in my memory. In future every time I witness how girls are held down and have to keep quiet I will remember these girls and women in Kathmandu who realized that they “can also change the world when they get the opportunity”.

    P1100019_modified

  • Unleashing Joy

    CAC continue our #PlayItForward partnership with Chevrolet FC and Manchester United in Yunnan Province, China.

    December 14, 2015.  Do you remember where you were the first time you ever played football?  For many of the kids at the Huo Shan School in Yunnan Province, China, they can answer positively that their first footballing experience came this past week.  As part of our continuing award-winning relationship with Chevrolet FC and their #PlayItForward initiative, we have been working at the Huo Shan school.

    As experienced as Coaches Across Continents has become in our past 8 years of sport for social impact education, it is extremely rare that we come across a community that has little background in football.  Towards the end of the first day after playing Circle of Friends and teaching passing skills, we set up small-sided scrimmages.  For the first three minutes, not one player moved from their starting position, as they kicked the ball back and forth.  Then, a light bulb went off – and a few players began chasing the ball, screaming with delight as they did so.  It wasn’t long before we had a critical mass surrounding the ball, wherever it went on the school grounds, during their first-ever game of football.

    Day 2 brought new revelations.  As we walked inside the school gate, we could see kids practicing without their teachers the passing techniques they had learned the day before, smiling all the time, as they got better.  When it came time to scrimmage, many of them came up with their own strategies on how to win the game.  The most effective were the teams that elected to field three goalkeepers and two outfield players.  Slowly and surely throughout the week, we continued to teach them more football skills and fill them in on a few rules – but making sure not to over-regulate their nascent love of the game.

    Friday was the highlight of the week.  In front of over five hundred community members, dance troops, a Chinese dragon, and the watchful eye of Manchester United legend Dwight Yorke and other dignitaries, the kids got a chance to play for the first time on their brand-new world-class field.  The handover from Chevrolet FC to the Huo Shan School provided a platform for them to show everyone how much fun they were having, and learning, by playing.  With this new facility, these students will have a place to pursue their love of the game.

    IND_2527AG

  • Award-Winning Partnership Continues in Thailand

    April 24, 2015. It is another exciting day with Chevrolet FC, this time in Bangkok, Thailand. Our award-winning partnership continues in 2015 with #PlayItForward. Today was the unveiling of a refurbished soccer pitch at Bang Bua School. Manchester United legend Louis Saha helped with the ribbon cutting ceremony, as well as Senior Manager of Chevrolet Global Marketing Strategy John Gasloli, President of GM Southeast Asia Operations Tim Zimmerman, The Director of the Bang Bua School Mrs. Aonrumpa Phodaeng, and the National Director of World Vision Thailand Mrs. Chitra Thumborisuth.

    The highlight of the day was watching the children take ownership of the field, engaging with local World Vision coaches who underwent CAC training this past week on issues including Child Rights. World Vision is our local implementing community partner here in Bangkok.  The children played several CAC games and then had the opportunity to play small-sided games with Louis Saha. Fun fact – CAC Monitoring & Evaluation strategist Sophie Legros went to the same soccer academy as Louis Saha – Clairefontaine.

    DSC00436

    Former Manchester United Player Louis Saha and Sophie Legros (CAC Monitoring & Evaluation Strategist)

     

    DSC00343

    Sophie Dance!

     

    DSC00127

    (L to R): Nick Gates (CAC Founder), John Gasloli (Senior Manager of Chevrolet Global Marketing Strategy), and Brian Suskiewicz (CAC Chief Executive Strategist)

     

  • “Time To Play” with Colombianitos

    February 17th 2015. Just over the towering hills of tiled brick and wooden homes that framed our practice field, a sad reality of gangs and child soldier recruitment exists.  But there was a feeling of security and closeness as I stepped on the futbol pitch in Barrio Paraiso, and it looked as though I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

    At an elevation of at least 8,000 feet, north of the capital city Bogotá, Barrio Paraiso was home to unbelievable views, steep city streets lined with street vendors, stray dogs and wind-burnt faces. For the second week in a row we were working with Colombianitos, a sport for development NGO that functions in several different communities in Colombia. The week before this we worked at their Cartagena location. An organization where Manchester United’s Falcao played growing up, Colombianitos is a special place for the children to learn, play, and grow because of the atmosphere the coaches, mentors and teachers at this foundation have created. It is apparent when the children come by throughout the day and wrap their arms around the teachers/coaches, that this is a place they feel cared for and loved. Living conditions aren’t the easiest in Barrio Paraiso but for the 29 mentors/participants who make sport and education a priority, and the further 1,429 children in the Colombianitos family who reap the benefits of it, they are all given something to look forward to every day.

    This week we coached games in the morning with Colombianitos and every afternoon an organization called Tiempo de Juego travelled an hour by bus to join in on the training. 10 participants between the ages of 14 and 40; young leaders and older leaders; arrived after lunch everyday with beaming smiles on their faces. It was fulfilling to watch the two communities come together over CAC games and form a bond within the short week of knowing each other.

    One morning we gave the Colombianitos coaches time to create a fútbol for social impact game to train back to their peers. I was so impressed to see how creative they got when we put them to work. My favorite of the games was a game addressing the need to clean up the environment. In the game there was a soccer field with two trash bins on both sidelines. Team A was given cones to sporadically drop throughout the game to represent trash or polution in the community. Team B could only score after they picked up all of the cones that were dropped and put them in the trash bins on the sideline. The simple message of this game is shown in that the team can only succeed when they figure out a good strategy to clean up the environment. The team who throws the trash on the ground will win more often than the team that has to pick it up because they have no trash to pick up. It is a valuable message in communities like Barrio Paraiso where trash fills the streets and pollutes the land and water sources.

    Seeing the coaches create and coach their own games is encouraging for CAC because it is evidence that our partnership is aiding in the process of creating self-directed learners. But more than anything it is encouraging for the community itself. The people to best deal with social issues in a community are the people who live there. Once they are able to adapt our games to fit their society’s needs, create games on their own, and fully embody the self-directed learning methodology, CAC’s physical presence in the community will be felt through the game of fútbol, but no longer needed.

    2015-02-02 00.51.31