• Solving Problems in Tanzania

    November 27, 2014. On-Field Coach Kelly Conheeney writes about our recent program in Njombe, Tanzania, organized by the Njombe Municipal Council. 

    As I was passing a classroom, I wondered why all of the girls’ heads were down. One set of eyes peered up at me as I walked by and I smiled to her before our gaze was interrupted by a sharp smack. Curious to find out where the sound had come from, I looked through the glass window once I made it outside. They were in the principal’s office, otherwise known as detention. This completely unacceptable form of punishment in the USA is common practice here in Tanzania. It’s called corporal punishment. If a child misbehaves, doesn’t finish his/her homework, arrives late to class or does something that the teacher thinks deserves punishment- they are physically hit with a ruler on the fingertips. My first thought – how are children supposed to learn in such a hostile environment? Intimidated to try something new, make a mistake or stand up for what they believe in? My second thought – how will the teachers we will be working with adapt to this new concept they are about to learn called self-directed learning?

    Two of the participants we are working with this week in Njombe, Tanzania are football coaches – the remaining 30 are school teachers. 4 women and 28 men. Every afternoon the coaches played our games with the children that came to the field from surrounding schools. Aside from a few of the coaches that lived more than 50 km from the field, all of the coaches were able to attend the afternoon sessions. It was crucial for them to watch their peers coach as well as experience the coaching themselves. At the last practice of the week, the pitch was filled with 60 children yelling out Messi and Marta skills that could be heard down the dusty Njombe road.

    All week Markus and I had emphasized the importance of letting the children solve their own problems, encouraging them with positive reinforcement, as well as the importance of children using their voices. The biggest challenge the coaches faced was allowing the kids to solve their own problems. In the first afternoon session, the teachers played a game with the children called Messi for Health and Wellness. In this game, there are 2 teams and between the groups there is an area filled with cones, half are right side up, the other half are upside down. One team’s goal is to flip all of the cones so they are faced one way, and the other team’s goal is to flip all of the cones so they are faced the other way. Players take turns flipping the cones and switch every 15 seconds when the coach calls out their number. A simple yet clear example of letting the children solve their own problem would be to tell them to get into 2 equal teams. The coaches however took a very long time to divide the group into 2 equal teams and individually number them one or two.  When the game finally began, it was important for us to stand back and watch instead of intervening; only through your own mistakes do you learn to look within yourself to find the solution to your problems and become a self-directed learner. We used this example when talking with the participants during our daily feedback sessions. If you always step in and give the answer to your students or players, they will never find solutions to their own problems.

    Through thorough feedback sessions and practice throughout the week, the coaches learned plenty of games to add to their coaching folders and their yearly curriculum. The coaches are one step closer to becoming self-directed learners and I am hopeful that they will implement the games they have learned into their “sport for development” segment of learning in their respective schools. Watching the participants coach the kids was the highlight of my week. Every session the children lit up with joy when they played the games. The smiles and laughs shared by both the coaches and children created an atmosphere that every child should have the right to in this world; a safe space to learn, grow, play and fail without fear of what will follow.

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  • CAC Rolls on with Magic Bus

    November 17, 2014.  Off-Field volunteer Gail Buswell joins the team for her first On-Field Program with Coaches Across Continents and Magic Bus in India.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as a volunteer behind the scenes for CAC for a few months and ever since I heard about this groundbreaking organization, I have been itching to find out more and see how they work their magic On-Field. This week I got the chance to see just that in Hyderabad, as I joined Brian and Nora, supported by Pankaj and Prasanna from Slum Soccer, and Ali a fellow volunteer. The team was there for the first year of CAC’s award winning Hat-Trick Initiative with Magic Bus. It was the perfect introduction for me as the partnership between CAC and Magic Bus is a new one and has the potential to impact tens of thousands of children in India through Magic Bus’s extensive network of coaches and volunteers.

    Magic Bus had a bit of a head start on other organizations in that their experienced coaches were already familiar with the concept of using sport and play for education. The focus of the week was therefore to add to this knowledge by introducing CAC’s novel and forward thinking approach to Self-Directed Learning. In contrast to teaching by presenting facts and answers, the CAC strategy is to encourage participants to solve their own problems collectively (whilst at the same time learning new football skills and having a huge amount of fun!). Translated to a community environment, this methodology is immensely powerful as it can be applied to any issue or problem. CAC provides a particular focus on key global issues such as gender equality, conflict resolution, and health and wellness– but the messaging is the same across different countries and cultures: communicate, respect each other, and embrace your choice to make the best decisions for yourself and your community.

    I was shocked to learn during the week that 51% of men and 54% of women in India believe that in certain circumstances it can be justifiable to beat your wife. Even amongst the 27 kind and compassionate people in the group, initially only one woman was willing to stand up and publically say that she disagrees with this mentality. This was a sobering reminder of the power of entrenched tradition in a culture. Against this background it is clear to see the potential impact of encouraging the next generation to believe that they have a voice, they have a choice, and that there are alternative solutions to violence. Armed with these life skills they, together with their local community, have the power to question and change their existing culture.

    CAC changes the way people think in subtle and clever ways. The games focus around footballer role models and one of these is Marta (da Silva). Marta plays for the Brazilian women’s national team and is the 5 time winner of FIFA World Player of the Year. Before starting the ‘Marta’ games Brian asked the group which football player had won the World Player of the Year the most times. Hands shot up and cries of ‘Ronaldo’, ‘Messi’ and ‘Cantona’ rung out. When after several minutes no one had made the correct guess Brian asked the group a simple question – ‘Do women play football?”. There was much shaking of heads – a resounding no. It was a big surprise when Brian introduced them to the player Marta and by the end of the week everyone wanted to play football like Marta!

    Throughout the week I was hugely impressed by the energy and enthusiasm and capacity for fun and laughter of all the Magic Bus coaches. They were engaged and creative in all the games and did not shy away from the difficult and impassioned debates that the games provoked. Nora and Brian created a challenging, but safe environment for all the coaches, which allowed them to voice their views and begin to think about things in a different way. They made it look easy, but it’s a tremendously difficult thing to do and it was a privilege to watch them at work. It is this environment that I hope the Magic Bus coaches can help create for their kids. With the passion and potential on display this week, I am sure they can and I am really excited to see where Magic Bus takes what they have learned from CAC. I would love to come back for year 2 of the Hat-Trick program to see how the coaches and the communities in which they are leaders have applied the skills they have learned this week and also to catch up with all the new friends I have made. After all, once you have all ‘cuckoo’ danced like chickens together, you are friends for life!!

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    Gail Buswell enjoys her first week On-Field with Coaches Across Continents

    Gail Buswell enjoys her first week On-Field with Coaches Across Continents

     

  • CAC and TYSA – From a CIC

    May 7, 2014. Charles Otieno Sisia (Oti) from long-time CAC partner, Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP) in Nairobi, joins CAC programs for his second year as a Community Impact Coach. He writes about his week with Trans-Nzoia Youth Sports Association (TYSA) where he joined CAC staff member, Nora Dooley, for a week in Kitale, Kenya.

    Oti leads participants in the ever-favorite Mingle MIngle

    Oti leads participants in the ever-favorite Coaches Across Continents game Mingle Mingle

    Another great year at TYSA. This was the second year that CAC worked with the partner organization based in Trans-Nzoia County, Kenya.

    TYSA organized a one week camp with more than a hundred participants and half of them participated in the CAC training from Monday 28th April to Friday 2nd May at Makutano Secondary School.

    Over the training Nora Dooley, an experienced and motivated CAC coach, led the on-field and off-field sessions assisted by myself, Charles Otieno Sisia, as I was selected for the second year as a CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC). Before the start the participants highlighted the issues they face in Trans-Nzoia and what they would like to learn from CAC. Some of the issues included child labor, neglect, early marriage, lack of education, alcohol and drug abuse, lack of career opportunities, negative peer pressure, and malnutrition. A major part of the week was spent playing games that focused on leadership, voice, education, identifying and creating safe spaces, and complete health and wellness.

    Protect your body from germs - Hygiene Tag!

    Protect your body from germs – Hygiene Tag!

    Off-field sessions were held in the school hall where the participants took notes and asked questions about the sessions that they were now able to teach.

    The participants gained more confidence, voice, and leadership skills after playing the Circle of Friends, doing the skills of Wilshere and Marta, and also they got an opportunity to teach back what they had learned to the younger participants, and clearly deliver social impact messages.

    The participants declared to fight for their rights and child rights, and to protect and never abuse children. This was the bill of rights and child protection session with Coach Nora.

    Gazza Safe Spaces Tag was one of the best games talking about space spaces when home was not a safe space for everyone. Women empowerment activities were superb with girls now having a voice to ask for their rights and room in sporting activities, careers and other opportunities. Health games also worked well for both genders and participants were able to talk about their bodies during Hygiene Tag.

    The participants graduated and have now joined us to educate more people on football for social impact by teaching the CAC sessions.

    Scary Soccer getting pretty scary! Oti stays cool

    Scary Soccer getting pretty scary! Oti stays cool working with Coaches Across Continents

     

  • Kampala: Intercultural Understanding

    April 15, 2014. In our 2nd week in Uganda Nora and I [Markus] faced totally different circumstances than in Mbarara, on-field and off-field. We arrived in Kampala on Sunday afternoon and got accommodated in a hotel right next to the US embassy, so we felt safe 🙂 The hotel was simple, but very nice. After one week without running water and a “western” toilet the shower we both took immediately after we arrived felt like a Christmas gift.P1030270

    In Kampala we cooperate with “Soccer Without Borders” (SWB), an organization that is serving and educating the refugees who live in Kampala and come from all different countries surrounding Uganda. Uganda functions very much like a melting pot for all the people who try to start a new life far away from their war torn home countries. So we worked with coaches from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and faced a multicultural setting on the field. Due to these circumstances we needed to translate our games always into a French-Swahili mixture to make them understandable to everybody. But differences in ethnicity don’t cause social exclusion. We experienced a very inclusive atmosphere where people are practicing intercultural understanding day by day.

    The coaches responded very well to the Skills for Life games and were excited to practice Ronaldo, Marta and Balotelli skills every day. These activities improve the football skills of the players as well as encourage them to concentrate, communicate and raise awareness for their surroundings. During our sessions we worked also on HIV/AIDS awareness and played “Condom tag”. It’s a simple tag game where the player with the cone represents the HIV-Virus and everybody he/she tags is “infected” with HIV. During the game the rules get adapted and some players represent condoms where the others can rescue themselves from the taggers by standing next to them. That is one of our games that help to start a conversation about good decisions that help us to stay healthy and protect ourselves from getting HIV. After we played some HIV/AIDS education games the participants mentioned the importance of this topic and we had a very fruitful conversation.

    P1030282I coached this week for the first time 95% football. It went very well and the coaches understood my explanation very quickly. This game doesn’t need a ball. The ball is represented by the player who has his/her hand on their head. The ball can be passed on by shouting the name of a teammate and removing the hand off the head. The other player puts his hand on the head and can score by running through the goal. The ball can be taken away from the possessing team by tagging the player with the ball. The coaches enjoyed this game very much and I was impressed by the fairness of the two teams. Usually the rules have to be adapted, because one or both teams are either positioning their strikers or defenders rights in front of the goal line which makes scoring impossible. Not so much with these teams. 95% football is a brilliant tool to make the players understand that football is 95% smart thinking, quick decision making and constant readiness and only 5% skill on the ball.

    On Thursday we had our Child Protection Policy session which caused some very good discussions about different forms of child abuse that are present in this community. For us this time of the week is very important, because children are suffering abuse from their coaches all over the world and children are the most vulnerable members of our society. The awareness of the coaches about the importance of protecting the children rights impressed us. We spoke about one case in particular where one coach asked if it is the girls fault when she got raped after she was dressed up in a mini skirt and sitting with opened legs. In the following discussions we pointed out in the group very clearly that it is never the girl’s fault and that it is the duty of us adults to educate our youth about potential risks and consequences of our behavior.P1030337

    Friday is usually our coach back day. We didn’t have one last week in Mbarara, because we only had four days due to weather. So it was my first time experiencing how coaches that we worked with for a week adapt and teach CAC games. At the same time it gives us coaches the opportunity to slip into the role of a participant. We get the coaches together in groups of two or three and started with a very creative adaption of “Circle of friends”. We experienced some very advanced versions of Skills for Life games as well as a brilliant adaption of “Adebayor Makes Good Choices”. We hope that all the coaches keep up their good work and be as creative in their daily work as they have been when they were adapting CAC games. We thank SWB for their wonderful hospitality and cooperation and wish them all the best for their future work that their devoted service may help many refugees in Nsambya to find hope and develop their future in a foreign country far away from home.

     

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  • Football Skills for Life

    IMG_8762At Coaches Across Continents we recognize the correlation between football and life. Our curriculum harnesses the power of football to teach lessons spanning a broad spectrum of social issues. In order to address these social issues in a productive, forward-thinking manner, there are certain life skills that we believe we all need to tap into. These are the baseline skills, the fundamentals, the abilities that translate naturally from our lives on the football field into our lives in our community. They include verbal and nonverbal communication, concentration, teamwork, confidence, awareness, and other capabilities that can and should manifest in our everyday lives. These also include hygiene, employability, literacy, financial literacy, child rights, among other everyday necessities that we cover in our curriculum.

    All social skills can come to the surface on the traditional football pitch, but we bring them to life in all of our games, using our unique coaching methods that stimulate social impact. The first of these games that any CAC partner program will play is Ronaldo Skills for Life. In this game we have three fun skills involving scissors, fakes, and step-overs that the players learn while shouting out at each turn, “Ronaldo 1!” or “Ronaldo 2!” or “Ronaldo 3!”. The same goes for each of our players from Marta and Messi to Rapinoe and Wilshere.

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    When we coach Skills for Life games, one of the most essential aspects of our methodology is the slow progression. We often ask our participants whether we all learn at the same pace, and understanding that we do not, in school, on the field, or elsewhere, is a crucial step in working with children. We start these techniques slowly, without the ball, then we add a touch or two, then we build up to dribbling, and in this manner we not only build muscle memory and improve our footwork, but we work on concentration – for our voice must match our feet – spatial awareness – for we do not dribble or walk or run with our head down – confidence – for we share our voices with our teammates loud and proud – and readiness – for we only work on skills in a circular setting.

    All over the world community leaders have learned these football techniques, so valuable when competing on the pitch, and paired with life techniques, so valuable when taken into the context of our lives.  One of the principal upshots of our Skills for Life module, that then pervades the rest of our curriculum, is the ability to use one’s voice.  Whether calling for the ball or shouting out “Ronaldo 1” every time we do the first Ronaldo skill, the power of the voice transcends the boundaries of the football field. We have taught these games to partners in Northern Uganda, where former child soldiers are being reintegrated into society after facing the horrors of the LRA. Afraid to speak for fear of being physically or sexually abused, their voices were stifled. Our games, our coaches, help them reclaim their voice, their confidence, their ability to make their own choices in life.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation tells us that 98% of our participants can now teach young people through soccer to find creative solutions to their problems rather than asking for the answer, up from 27% before our program.

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  • Football for Health & Wellness

    We can all agree that being active and playing sports is an incredibly healthy decision for our physical well-being. More and more people are beginning to understand how important a role sports can also play in improving our emotional well-being. CAC uses football to teach both of these messages. We also use football games to educate our participants, who then educate the youth they work with, on how to stay healthy, to practice good hygiene, to think about the food and fluids they put into their bodies, and to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

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    At the most fundamental level we teach Health & Wellness games in order to get the heart pounding, the lungs gasping for air, the muscles aching, the sweat pouring forth. One such game is Marta for Health & Wellness. In this game there are cones scattered about in a space with about 3-4 yards between each one. We will have two groups in this game – one group will work, the other will rest. Each will go for 30 seconds and in that time they have to get to as many cones as possible doing different movements at each one. For example, the first round they might touch the cone with their hand igniting more of a speed and changing direction challenge. Then they might jump over the cone with two feet – over and back – before they move on to another cone. Then maybe one foot, then the other. There are all sorts of variations to this game, but they all have the same purpose – get to work!

    Either after we finish, or between each exercise, we ask the participants how they feel. We see what information we can pull out of them, not as a test, but to help them understand why it is important to think about exercising in ways that extend beyond becoming better footballers. We ask pointed questions, as we do not want to lecture but, rather, to encourage the participants to think for themselves. In this manner our discussions about health and wellness become locally relevant and we learn about the various cultural factors that influence our ability to stay healthy, in body and in mind.

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    These Health & Wellness games lay a strong foundation for us to build from when going more in-depth with topics such as nutrition and sexual health. One of our long-time partners, Whizzkids United, has the most comprehensive HIV education program that we have encountered in our work. Their new Football for Hope Center is at their office next to the hospital they partner with in Edendale, a community outside of Durban, South Africa. This relationship allows them to not only educate about HIV/AIDS but to also incorporate HIV testing and counseling, and thorough, long-term follow-up care into their programs. It is small-scale, but it is big impact. Our role in this partnership is helping Whizzkids capitalize on their charge of the Football for Hope Center. Their coaches learn all of our games with particular attention paid to our HIV module. These games embody the messages about sexual health meaning whatever happens during the game is what shapes the discussion.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows that before our program only 29% of our participants could teach young people how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS using a football game, whereas after a CAC training, that number jumps to 93%.

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