• Soccer As A Vehicle For Learning

    November 22nd 2016. Discussing our first ever program with the Parikrma Foundation in Bangalore, India.

    This is my second week with Coaches Across Continents and we were in Bangalore, Karnataka, India with the Parikrma Foundation. It is an awesome foundation that takes marginalized children and puts them in a school in order to give them more opportunities when they get older. They have four different schools. Their program runs from kindergarten to twelfth grade and is much more than just schooling. They feed the children breakfast, lunch, and a protein shake and they have an awesome physical education program at all four of the schools. Then after school they have great sports programs for football, taekwondo, and athletics. Both in the classroom and out of the classroom they teach the children about the social issues they face and how to overcome them through Self-Directed Learning. The Parikrma Foundation gives these marginalized children a platform to fully express themselves both in the classroom and out of the classroom.

    We started the week off with Mark, Brian, and I. When we got to the volunteer house that we were staying at on Saturday, 12 November, we met up with Jamie Tomkinson, a talented coach based in Scotland from Michael Johnson’s Young Leaders Program. Monday and Tuesday a Community Impact Coach named Tejas from his own organization, Sparky Football, came to the training session to add a local presence to our staff. Then Wednesday night Fatma Ahmed came who is based in Tanzania and is also from Michael Johnson’s Young Leaders Programme. She was a woman of few words during the camp but conveyed some of the most impactful messages during the week. Finally, Nora from CAC joined us on Wednesday night and added another female presence amongst an entirely male dominated camp. It was a very diverse group from different cultures and different backgrounds that came together to make an awesome staff for the week with the Parikrma Foundation. It was also very nice to spend some time and learn from Brian who is a very seasoned teacher/coach and is also a Boston College Soccer Alumni like myself. It was a tremendous group to be apart of where I learned something from each person.

    This week I did a little bit more coaching than the past week in Rurka Kalan. It was easier to coach with the CAC staff giving me feedback and especially with the coaches from Parikrma that we coached being so in tune with the curriculum we wanted to teach. The Parikrma Foundation teaches a curriculum that is very similar to ours, which is Self-Directed Learning inside and outside the classroom. The only reason I saw that Parikrma needed our help was with their coaches implementing the Self-Directed Learning of social issues on the field. That was so easy though because they already understood the social issues but just needed our assistance in showing how to apply the social issues through sport. It also helped that they were talented soccer players themselves so it made the training sessions run very smoothly. Overall, it was a very good week because we were able to get Parikrma to understand the CAC curriculum and I was able to further better my coaching through the feedback I got from the players, the Michael Johnson Young Leaders, and CAC staff.

    During the week there was an exact moment where the participants realized that they could use the curriculum not only to raise awareness about social issues to their kids but to also produce a good football training session. It was on Wednesday during the Child Rights game. It is a keep away game with two teams but there is a box in each corner of the grid that you play the game in. Each corner represents any different right that children should have. Examples are right to education, right to healthcare, right to security, right to health and wellness, and many more. When your team passes to a recipient in one of the boxes they must yell a right that children should have. When you enter each square your team gets a point. When we played the game it started very slow. When we made the soccer points of spreading out, using the whole field, and switching the point of attack quickly, that is when the game started to flow and the ball was zipping around. Now each team was hitting each square a couple of times and yelling a right that children should have. They were having fun and when we brought them in to talk about the social learning you could see that they now understood the CAC curriculum. They were answering the Self-Directed Learning questions about child rights with ease and understood what they needed to do to convey this to their own children. We know that this is the moment they got the message because when we had a participant coach it back to us they hit each and every point they needed to while having the game flow. They now understood that soccer is just the vehicle in which to make their own players understand the social issues that surround them in their communities.

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  • Armenia Joins The CAC Family

    September 9th 2016. Andrea Montalbano writes about the start of our partnership with Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS). Andrea is a member of the CAC Business Advisory Team and the ASK For Choice Advisory Team.  She is also the author of the Soccer Sisters book series.

    The feel of fall is in the in New York air, but all we can talk about at our dinner table is our family’s recent trip to Armenia with Coaches Across Continents. We worked with CAC staff and Board Members Judith and Bill Gates in several different locations throughout the former Soviet Republic.

    In the capital Yerevan, we trained with fantastic coaches and learned how powerful and fun sport for social change and education can be.  We were based at the Football Federation of Armenia, the country’s governing body, and thrilled to work with their girl players and see the future leaders come alive on the field covering topics such as health and wellness, life skills, gender equality, problem-solving, and team building. Boys and girls were playing together, which was amazing because we learned that it doesn’t happen very often.

    In the small village of Tumanyan, we worked with a variety of educators and community leaders in partnership with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF).  One of the most moving moments for me was to see men and women of all ages, debating and collaborating on policy toward the equitable role of women in society. The conversations were held in COAF “Smart Rooms” and using CAC technology – evidence to my eyes that conversations started on the field have impact off the field.

    Our family’s last stop (CAC would continue on to Gyumri) was at the beautiful UWC School in Dilijan, where the student body is from over 70 different nations! Talk about a worldview. It was truly inspiring to see so many young leaders from all over the world working together and getting excited to bring CAC into their community.

    One of the most impactful things I learned on the trip was to listen to the ideas of others, particularly the ideas of children.  So I thought it only appropriate to do a brief Q&A with the rest of my family and start with the kids.

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    William Jebejian, 9

    Q: Did you have a favorite game, William?

    A: My favorite game was when you had to make the animal sounds (an adaptation of Mingle Mingle) and you had to switch. I liked how you kind of made a fool out of yourself, but it was really hard, because you were like, I think that was a lion, no it’s a cat! It’s really confusing. Meow! And it was so loud. And you don’t understand anything.  You were just running around. It was so fun.

    Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned through Coaches Across Continents?

    A: That you should not rely on people to solve your problems and you should try and solve your own problems without asking someone to do them for you.

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    Lily Jebejian, 12

    Q: Did you meet anyone who inspired you?

    A: Sofik was an awesome leader and role model for all girls and even though I didn’t speak Armenian, I could understand by the way she coached.  One night, we got to go to her house and it was cool to see where she was from and the rest of her family.  They were welcoming and very sweet.

    Q: You play a lot of sports here in New York.  Were you surprised to see the differences in opportunities there?

    A: Seeing all the girls show up to the field in dresses and sandals and fancy shoes, I thought, they have never played soccer before and it seemed kind of bizarre to me because basically everyone I know has played soccer before and would never have shown up to a soccer practice like that.  It made me appreciate my town and the opportunities that I have more because I got to see how girls are not encouraged to play.

    Diron Jebejian, who is of Armenian descent.

    A: What surprised you the most about the curriculum?

    Q: That it actually has very little to do with soccer.  It was better than my expectations, because I learned a lot. They have a very unique way of getting people to come together to find a common way to communicate to ultimately work out some of their problems, collaborate, and have much better opportunity to solve problems, so it was much different than I thought.

    Q: Do you think that sport for social change can help Armenia?

    A: I do. I didn’t really understand what it meant until I spent time with CAC. But, I think the common interest of sport is a very good way to bring people together.

    Q: We introduced the ASK For Choice curriculum to Armenia. What do you think the biggest challenge is facing the women of the country?

    A: The biggest challenge for the country is economic opportunity.  Without more opportunity the country will continue to have people leave to find better jobs and better ways to support themselves.  So that’s clearly the challenge, and so the investment in education and investment in girls is one of the principle ways to change that equation so I think it’s all tied together.

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