• The Universal Language

    April 5th 2016. CAC Community Impact Coach Charles Otieno blogs about his second week On-Field with CAC in Mbarara, Uganda with Mbarara Sports Academy.

    It was a four hour bus ride from the capital city of Kampala to Mbarara, a beautiful town located in the west of Uganda. I liked the environment that the Mbarara Sports Academy created there. Being the second town I visited in Uganda, it was another good experience. I met new people and the fun of it was people speaking a different language from what I speak in Kenya, but we had one thing in common, and that was soccer. Soccer plays a vital role and it made the communication easier, as we all know soccer is a universal language.

    The turnout of the five-day training was high and fairly well gender balanced. The active coaches were very interested in playing soccer so we got to play some of our more competitive games this week. It took a while for some of the coaches to realize that you can use soccer to teach on how to combat social issues, but it was impressive to see once they did. The highlight of the week was playing ASK for Choice games with female coaches for two days consecutively. The women were really committed. They arrived early in the morning at a different training field and then continued on with the rest of the coaches in the original site for extra hours of CAC games. The majority of the girls were students in college and were studying in different fields so that they can have as many opportunities as men. They believe that women should have equal opportunities as men and through that, the community will grow economically and socially. They want to be more independent, have more freedom to play sport, to education, to employment, to property ownership, and to make personal choices.

    The One World Futbols have played a big role in the On-Field sessions. I have been able use them to train and create a learning environment for young men and women. Having soccer balls is one of the challenges communities face and these ultra-durable balls have been the answer because they last longer and can be played in any type of pitch be it grass field, turf field or dusty field. With the One World Futbol’s being all over the world, it tells us how soccer speaks to people in a language they can all understand.

    They say “play with the best and be the best”. I take this opportunity to thank CAC for the great opportunity and also the gentlemen that have been my backbone for the two weeks here in Uganda. It has been great working with David Neaverth, Markus Bensch and Charlie Crawford and I’m happy I managed to grasp some On-Field and Off-Field skills from the team.

    One Football…. One Game….One Goal…. One language…. One World.

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  • Community Impact Coaches Collide in Mbarara

    April 6th 2015. Our bus stops frequently on our 4-hour journey west to Mbarara, and every time it does, local vendors holding baskets of sodas and snacks above their head, flock towards us and sprint to keep up before jumping aboard the slowing vehicle, in hopes of finding some hungry travelers. On a bus full of Ugandans and clucking chickens, I’m an obvious target for the vendors. I’ll take a water please. I’ll pass on the fried fish…

    We are off to our second training site in Uganda with a program called Mbarara Sports Academy run by Salim Blanden. Salim is paving the way for future coaches and future leaders through his academy and it wont be long before more leaders in Mbarara emerge in the football for social impact world. Salim founded Mbarara Sports Academy in 2010 and ever since he was introduced to CAC two years ago at our training in Kampala with an NGO called, Soccer Without Borders, he has been using our curriculum. He has become a special part of our Coaches Across Continents family as one of our Community Impact Coaches. Last year he travelled to South Africa with Coaches Across Continents for 2 weeks, and later this year he will travel with CAC to another country. But the work Salim does with CAC in other countries doesn’t tell enough of his story.

    Upon arrival we are welcomed into Salim’s home with open arms by “Momma Salim” who takes extra good care of us in her humble abode all week; cooking us hearty meals to start and end our days. Salim’s office is in his garage at the end of his home. The cement walls are plastered with pictures of the 200 youth he coaches in his community among the line of CAC certificates that he proudly displays. You can tell by the hanging “Football for Social Impact” Posters that fill the white spaces on the walls, where Salim’s vision lies. Children lounge around in his office daily; sometimes just hanging around while Salim does his work, other times working away on a pair of sandals or string bracelets. Most of the revenue for Mbarara Sports Academy comes out of Salim’s pocket, the other percentage comes from donations to the academy and the shoes and bracelets the kids make and sell to locals. Salim works as a University coach on the side to make some extra money to run his youth development academy. He coaches 200 boys and girls through his academy, boasting some of the top talent in the area, but that is not what Salim is most proud of. Through football young boys and girls have received scholarships to primary and secondary schools, which Salim values above everything else. All 200 of Salim’s players attend school, and he fully funds roughly 67 kids who aren’t able to pay school fees on their own. His passion for helping the children of Mbarara is unusual to see in a 29-year-old male footballer in Uganda. Salim was one of the greatest players Mbarara has ever seen in his playing days as a goalkeeper. Unlike many of the top players in Uganda however, Salim recognizes that using football as a tool to send social messages to his players goes much further than coaching just football alone. There is life after football and Salim makes sure his players are prepared for that.

    Training in Mbarara this year attracted many of the same participants as last year. In seeing the impact that Salim has made on the community, it is apparent that many others have been positively affected and inspired by his presence. This year we chose games to address Female Empowerment, HIV education and Child Rights, which Salim felt were especially important to address. With Nico being with us this week, the participants were able to speak and learn from two of our most top level Community Impact Coaches. Nico comes from Kigoma, Tanzania; the first-ever training site in which Coaches Across Continents worked, in 2008. Nico is now the District of Sport Officer in Chamwino, Tanzania and has been using our games over the past 6 years to educate youth in his community. Nico’s energy is felt through every community he enters. It was a special week in Mbarara working with two leaders who have shown their passion and leadership through the work they have done for their communities, for their countries, and for the world through Coaches Across Continents. Our last day of training we were able to watch the players coach their peers the different games they learned last year, and throughout the week this year. It is always impressive to see the players transform from player to coach within a day. When they were put to the task, they certainly put on a show!

    Our last day in Mbarara, Momma Salim invited us to her farmhouse, which was about a 20-minute drive from the city. She cooked us lunch and toured us around the farmland which was owned by her mother and father before they passed away. The farm is now home to her workers, and her livestock. Among the 400-acre plantation, she grows corn, potatoes, plantains, cassava, peanuts, beans, fruit and sunflowers. She sells some of the crops to town along with milk from her cows and honey from her beehives. On over 500 acres of land, Momma Salim’s home sit halfway up a mountain, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of rumbling “boda-boda”(motorbike) engines and screeching tires; an escape from our normal daily encounters in Mbarara. It was sitting in the calmness of nature; listening to the sounds of the birds and the thunder rolling over the mountains that made our week spent on the field in Mbarara feel so far away.

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  • Mubangyizi’s First Week With CAC

    Markus Bensch, from nearby Dresden, Germany, joins CAC in April, 2014 – beginning his on-field training in Uganda with senior staff member Nora Dooley.

    IMG_0881Let me say this first: It was a brilliant first week with Coaches Across Continents and our partner Mbarara Soccer Academy (MSA) in Uganda. Nora gave me a very good first introduction into the work of an On‑Field‑Coach and we were hosted by the very welcoming and warm-hearted family of Salim Blanden who is one of our Community Impact Coaches (CIC).

    I left Germany on Saturday 29th March and when I said “Good Bye” to my parents and my brother George at the Berlin airport my new adventure started. I was excited, but after my arrival I felt for the first few days quickly pitchforked into a survival modus. My body and my psyche were not used anymore to the African heat, food and living conditions. My stomach rebelled, my body felt weak and I wanted to sleep a lot. After 2 months in Germany I had to get used to using holes for toilets and taking a bucket shower. But my physical condition quickly got better as soon we moved on the football pitch.

    After a very rainy Tuesday including a thunderstorm, we finally could start with our first-year program on Wednesday. We welcomed over 30 coaches and they get very quickly into it. After we did the baseline questionnaire we started with Circle of Friends and trained the Ronaldo Skills. The two main aims for the week were to let the coaches experience the idea of self-directed learning and to let them understand what it means to solve their own problems. All our games are based on these two principles so the coaches had many chances to learn how to put them into practice.

    As with most of the groups they liked our “Mingle Mingle” game very much. The coaches are dancing in the “Mingle Mingle” rhythm and have to get together in different numeric groups depending on which number the coach shouts. After the first few rounds when there was pushing and pulling we discussed this behavior and agreed that it is important to make our own decisions and let others decide too if they want to join a group or not. We even took this game further and didn’t allow the coaches to speak anymore so they experienced and practiced different ways of (non-verbal) communication like hand signs, eye contact and body language. It was a very fun way of learning different solutions and the importance of communication and to respect the freedom and independence of the other person. P1030072

    One of the most successful games in this week was “Adebayor Makes Good Choices”. This game focuses on good choices that can protect from getting HIV. Many good decisions like being faithful, using a condom when having sex, getting tested and getting educated protects from the HI-Virus. The more good choices somebody makes the better he/she is protected. After we brainstormed many good choices we played the game “Keep away” where the players in the outside circle try to keep the ball away from the one or two players in the middle who represented the HI-Virus. Every player on the outside who touched the ball yelled out one good choice that protects from getting HIV. Later during the review the coaches came up with the idea to modify this game and address the problem of corruption. On Saturday morning one group developed ideas about good choices that can be made to prevent corruption. Again the players on the outside yelled out phrases like honesty, don’t take and don’t pay bribes, education or transparency. The players in the circle represented corrupt lawyers, policemen or politicians. That was a perfect example of self-directed learning and solving your own problems. We as coaches were impressed from the creativity of the coaches and it was the best reward we could get from the group. If groups develop their own games we know we’ve done a good job.

    We’re sure that our training has an impact in the daily work of the coaches and we already look forward to next year so we can see the development in the coaching skills of our participants. By the end of the week I got baptized on the name Mubangyizi which is in the local language Lunyankole and means ‘supportive person’. That was a huge reward and a big compliment for me. I look forward to next week in Kampala and I’m excited to get more involved and lead my first games.