• Impacting Individuals: Interactions From our Past

    December 19, 2014. It’s a week away from Christmas, and we are at our penultimate program of the year. This is the second year partnering with Ballaz International and the Spanish Jamaica Foundation in Kingston, Jamaica. We were impressed with the expansion of and advances made within the Kingston program. There are a greater number of coaches this year with the amount of female coaches up from zero to over twenty percent. It is apparent that Ballaz coaches have made a concerted effort to be the change that they would like to see in their community. With that, this week instead of telling of the larger social impact of our work, we will focus on two Jamaican coaches whose have been influenced by our past interactions and are carrying forward the good work.

    Tashana Vincent, who plays for Jamaica Women’s National Team attended our training with three other members of the Reggae Girlz. Staci Wilson, a CAC coach and a former USWNT player was delighted to work with such high quality. Staci has connected with various organizations in attempts to advance the Jamaican WNT, which was disbanded from 2007-2014 for various reaons. Without their existence, role models for young girls faltered and Jamaica’s lack of female participation and gender equity issues snowballed. The team was reactivated this past year.

    Staci thought that she had originally met Tashana during a recruiting opportunity in 2012. However Tashana insisted it was earlier than that. On the third day of training, everything clicked. Tashana walked up to Staci and declared that she had played against her over a decade earlier, in 2000 in Kingston. Skeptical at first, Tashana pressed on and told Staci that she wore #27 and played wing-defense, and that she remembered Staci out-working and out-running everyone during the match. At the time the Jamaican national team organization was a relatively haphazard. Fast-forward to today and things are still not equal, however the JWNT now has the support of Cedella Marley (daughter of Bob Marley), the JFF, and the country. Our staff was excited to see such progress and Staci was moved by Tashana’s kind words of recognition. Everything adds up to gender equity and progress to where we are today. Because of Tashana’s comments, it is clear that playing against Staci and her team made a lasting influence and encouraged her to continue to play and improve, even when the National team did not exist. She persisted and now is proud to represent her country. She is still involved in the game as a player and is studying to be a teacher. Tashana will become a coach for the next generation of girls and boys as both a teacher and coach – a true pioneer when things seemed bleakest.

    The second coach with a great story is Maximillian McTaggart. He was ‘discovered’ by Ballaz program coordinator Sherrick “Shrek” Williams while working in his home community of Stadium Gardens. Sherrick asked Max why he wanted to coach the kids – and he answered that he wanted to make a change in their lives. Formerly a track athlete and working as a customer service representative, Max’s first soccer training came last year at the inaugural Coaches Across Continents partnership. Although his real job prohibited him from coaching during the week, he found a way to volunteer every Saturday. When his contract expired, he reached out to Ballaz to see if he could work for them full-time. His new and more enjoyable job allows him to coach at three schools and on Saturdays with kids ranging from pre-school through 18. In Max’s own words:

    Working with Ballaz means a lot to me. I now have the ability to reach and impact a child and it’s important because in my community I see a lot wrong with they way the children are being socialized. There is a level of selfishness across all Jamaica. With people being very disrespectful, so I saw coming to coaching as an opportunity to change that. That’s one of my coaching mantras, the idea of respect – not just for the adults, but for each other. I really want to thank Sherrick for giving me the opportunity. If all of us as coaches see ourselves as people that can make that change, then Jamaica can be better.

    Tashana with Ballaz Founder and JFF Grassroots coordinator Andre Virtue

    Tashana with Ballaz International Founder and JFF Grassroots program coordinator Andre Virtue

    Max and Staci share some stories

    Max and Staci share some stories during the CAC training

  • 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.