• Commitment and Creativity – Pemba coaches are becoming Self-Directed Learners

    May 21, 2014.   A long way from Germany, CAC Coach Markus Bensch describes our work this past week on Pemba Island (Zanzibar, Tanzania).  When Sophie and I arrived on Sunday morning in Pemba we went straight from the airport on an island tour. The whole vegetation was lush green and everything flowered. It felt a bit like paradise and our accommodation was right next to the ocean which gave us a very nice rest in the afternoon, before we started with the program the next day.

    On Monday morning we would welcome 41 coaches to our training of which were 32 returners which means they had participated in our training last year. That made us very happy, because it is exactly what we want, coaches that take part all three years in our Hat-Trick Training and change things in their community step by step for better. We were also very impressed by their commitment during the week. Some of the coaches came earlier to the venue to write up the games we played before the training started, most of the coaches were on time so we could start punctually and the number of participants stayed constant over the week and could work with more than 40 coaches every day.

    Throughout the week we played games that focused on different topics, i.e. how to resolve conflict without using violence, how to find solutions for problems without asking for the answer and how communication and cooperation can help to overcome challenges, both individually and as a group. We also addressed different social issues like environment pollution, gender inequality, violence against children, HIV/AIDS and early pregnancy. The group did a great job when they adapted our “Adebayor makes good choices” game which is about HIV/AIDS prevention into a game that teaches about prevention of early pregnancies.

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    Playing football in pairs needs a lot of coordination and communication

    On Friday we had our coach-back day as usual. For us coaches it is always a lot of fun because we can act like participants and even take part in the games and leave the stage to participant coaches to practice the games they invented. We saw great coach-backs from nine different groups and it showed us that each of them made a big step during the last year and throughout the week towards the goal of becoming a self-directed learner. We’re very curious to follow up and hear about their progress throughout the year and we are looking forward to come back in 2015 for the final year of our Hat-Trick Curriculum to support the coaches in developing a more open community that respects and supports the rights of children and woman and that addresses existing issues openly to discuss them and find ways to solve them.

    The two successful weeks on Zanzibar would not be possible without the excellent cooperation with all the implementing partners. We’re happy to say ‘Thank you!’ to Save the Children, The National Sports Council, The Zanzibar Football Association and The Ministry of Education for two wonderful weeks with more than 100 coaches in total that surely will make a difference in the community and in young people’s live that are in their care. We hope that this partnership last for a very long time and we are happy to come back on Zanzibar next year.

    We left Pemba on Friday afternoon to land after a wonderful half an hour flight on Unguja again, because we wanted to go swimming with dolphins on Saturday early morning. We left the hotel at 6am and one hour later we sat on a boat to reach out to the dolphins. The beaches and the water are so beautiful that it felt again like paradise. After a while we spotted the first dolphins. After our driver brought us in position we could even jump into the water and marveled them swimming right next to us. It was wonderful to see the elegance with which these creatures ride the waves and swim through the ocean. Compare to them our movements in the water seem like clumsy movements just to save us from drowning. This experience was a great finish of our two weeks on Zanzibar and I already want to submit a request to Brian our Chief Executive Strategist that I want to come back next year.

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    Coaches Across Continents “Lines Game” always causes a lot of confusion and conflict resolution opportunities

  • Do You Know Your Rights?

    May 15, 2014. What an exciting and fun week it has been! Although it started raining heavily from the very moment the shores of Stone Town were in sight and it has not stopped since (I guess that is why they call it the rainy season), it did not discourage the 55 coaches and teachers to show up on Monday, ready to participate in their second annual training with Coaches Across Continents.

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    Local coaches invent a game to raise awareness about blind people’s challenges

    The program in Unguja and Pemba, Zanzibar’s two largest islands, stems from an interesting and dynamic partnership between the Zanzibar Football Association, the Zanzibar Coaches Association, the Zanzibar National Sports Council, the Ministry of Education, and Save The Children. All partners were represented at the opening ceremony where the importance of protecting children from abuses was emphasized (violence against children is still the norm). This was perfect since CAC has recently finalized a brand new child rights curriculum and has started to incorporate child protection training as a core part of every CAC program.

    We had the chance to run the training at Amaan stadium, playing games in the mornings on the beautiful turf field with some of Zanzibar’s 20,000 One World Futbols and reviewing games in the classroom in the afternoons. After a quick refresher course of Messi games and Mingle Mingle we gave participants the opportunity to decide what they would be learning during the training, selecting to focus on nutrition, drug abuse, including children with disabilities, and the importance of education and child rights which then became our focus for the week.

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    What a great stadium for Coaches Across Continents to work!

    Although all days were comparable to one another in terms of the liveliness, engaging discussions and participants’ good-natured spirit, Wednesday was my favorite day of the week: it was entirely dedicated to child rights and child protection. The morning session games teaching about different child rights preceded an engaging hour and a half long discussion in the afternoon about how we could work together to protect children from suffering abuses on the sports field. The games played in the morning certainly helped fuel the discussion and one teacher even remarked that playing those games with the children could be a solution to protecting their rights.

    The child rights game that is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites is ‘Know Your Rights’.  Players from opposing teams in the center circle have to run to cones representing different child rights. The coach yells out two rights and players from the first team run to the first cone, the others to the second one. The game requires speed but also quick thinking and reaction. For some reason, this game seems to trigger the competitive spirit of even the most reserved players. After a couple of rounds, there was shouting, yelling, encouraging and cheering from all sides. It is hard to describe the exuberance and feeling of pure joy that emanated from the game, but I can easily say that this was one of the most euphoric and energy-filled 30 minutes that I have experienced with Coaches Across Continents. I think that everyone would have been happy to continue on for three more hours. It was a close contest between Belgium and Germany but I have to admit that Germany might have come in victorious.

    Another one of my favorite aspects’ of the week was the presence of strong female leaders who also happened to be excellent football players. Many of them come from the ‘Women’s Fighters’ team and they have been working hard to make female football more popular in Zanzibar: it is now a usual occurrence to see boys and girls playing together around Stone Town. They explained that today, when a girl decides to play football, “it feels normal to her, she does not question it.

    The training came to an end on Friday afternoon, after participants coached games they had invented about nutrition, what makes a healthy life, making good choices, including blind people, and safe spaces in the community. TV, radio and newspaper journalists were present to show the Zanzibar community what wonderful work these local educators are aspiring to. We leave for Pemba, our heads filled with countless memories of laughter and joy, and energized by the motivation and passion of these inspiring coaches; but also convinced that this next week of the partnership will be just as rewarding!

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    Unguja (Zanzibar) coaches celebrating after a great week working with Coaches Across Continents!

  • The CAC Staff Zenith

    January 15, 2014. Coaches Across Continents is always on the move – Fact. Our team meetings mostly consist of deftly planned Skype sessions connecting us from Hawaii to England to somewhere in the depths of Africa. But, for the first time, the majority of our staff members came together in one place: the newly founded CAC Global Headquarters in Orlando, Florida (thanks to our wonderful partners XL Soccer World). Over the course of these three jam-packed 10-hour days, senior staff members from England, Scotland, Belgium, and the USA put our game-faces on and effectively mapped our future.

    Welcome to the Zenith. 1461455_552087681540649_2024566814_n

    When planning for what lies ahead, it is imperative to reflect on the past, our history, where we came from. It’s hard to believe that in 2008 CAC was running just one program in one country – Kigoma, Tanzania. In 2013 we had programs in 20 countries, 51 partner programs, over 2,100 trained coaches, thousands upon thousands of ‘Ronaldos’ and ‘Martas’ and ‘Messis’, and an inconceivable number of air miles later, here we have the CAC envisioned by our fearless leader, Nick Gates.

    But what we have realized is that the world of CAC is, in one word, unique. That is to say, it is rather difficult to understand what we do from the outside looking in. After your first day on the field in northern Uganda, or southern India, or rural Haiti, however, and all of a sudden it clicks – you have one of those “Ohhh!” moments and no longer think your crazy friend who works for CAC is “running around Africa playing soccer” or “holding soccer camps for little African children”.

    There had to be a better way to tell our story.

    IMG_8732There was, and is, and thanks to the hard work of one of our staff members – Adam Burgess – with help from the Taiji Group, our story has become very clear. With refortified mission, vision, objective, beliefs, principles, approach, personality, and promise, CAC is ready to launch into 2014, sharing our story off-field, while living it every day on-field.

    The Zenith now marks this turning point in CAC history; the moment when our founder unveiled the final product in our collaborative effort towards establishing the CAC brand. It would have been a proud moment for a stranger walking in off the street. So imagine a room filled with about ten people who are so invested in what Nick has created (including his contributing and immensely supportive parents, Judith and Bill), to the point of no return. It was a great moment.

    The importance of telling our story encompasses all the work put in to making this organization what it is today. From Tanzania to Sierra Leone, to Indonesia, Nepal, Jamaica, and Colombia. From all the coaches of past, to all the coaches of present, and all the coaches to come. From Skills by Ronaldo, Marta, and Messi to Skills by Mia Hamm, Sawa, Neymar, Xavi, and Nkwocha. From Sport for Social Impact to Self-Directed Learning. From Chance to Choice.

    CAC_BoxLogoCoaches Across Continents believes in the possibility of a better world. We trust in the capacity for humans to change. We thrive on cooperation and respect. We are inspired by the promise of equality.  And we live and die on the all-mighty power of the beautiful game of football.

    Now, back on the field!

    “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.“ – Plato