• Social Inclusion Through Sport

    June 23rd 2014. Our first week in Zimbabwe was quite different than what a normal week looks like, but it made it interesting and challenged our adaptation skills. We worked in Mutare, a town with a beautiful landscape, surrounded by mountains. The week was separated into two 2 days workshop and 1 day working with the coaches from S4S, our partner in Mutare. The first two days, we worked with teachers who mostly work with children with disabilities, either physical, mental, hearing, speaking, etc. Being more reserved at first, once on the field, they did not hesitate to let go and have lots of fun. Dance moves and smiles all around were a big part of our warm-up, and of the day in general. With them, we worked a lot on how to adapt our games for the needs of their children with disabilities. With them, we covered Circle of Friends, an warm-up game that involves going to the middle of the circle by doing a certain movement, and then switching with someone on the outside by shouting something, or doing a dance move, or the well liked “Boom-Shakalaka”. Following, we played Ronaldo for Health and Wellness, which we adapted for deaf children (Markus got to successfully practice his non-verbal communication skills!). The game consists of listening, or watching the leader sign 1,2,3 or 4, and then the followers must jump to the appropriate corner. In general, with the help of the teachers, we came up with adaptations for most of the games, which was very good for them, and for us.

    The next two days, we worked with youth and caregivers, focusing on games that involved “solving your problems” and finding solutions. Two of the games that worked especially well were Wilshere for Health and Wellness and THo (Tim Howard) for Conflict Resolution. Wilshere for Health and Wellness involves two teams, in which the teams must find the fastest way for every player to touch the ball. THo for Conflict Resolution has players split in equal teams, put in a line, and the ball must make it to the back of the line and back in front. The fastest team wins. These two games created some minor conflicts, where teams were trying to cheat, and calling each other out, but in general, teams found good solutions and got the message on the importance of teamwork and finding solutions. During the two days at Chancellor School, every time we played Circle of Friends, it was time for the school recess. The hundred of kids who gathered around our circle, started laughing out loud instantly as soon as we did the “Boom-Shakalaka” exchange. The children all had a good time, and were intrigued by what we were doing. In general, it was awesome to see the impact we had on caregivers, but also on the youth. One of the young men even asked us how to get where we are and get involve in what we do. I learned a lot from that group about how to keep a positive attitude and work together as a group no matter what.

    On the last day, we worked with the S4S coaches, where we got to play more soccer-oriented games that still had a powerful social message. From the coaches feedback, they really enjoyed Hope Solo for Health and Wellness, a mirror game where two players facing each other, must copy what corners the other one runs to. From my own perspective of playing the game with them, that game will really get your heart pumping and our muscle hurting. Another game they really enjoyed was the Savings game, a handball game where you get a cone (representing money) every time your team completes ten passes. With the coaches already being very knowledgable about sport for social impact, since it’s the programs third year with Coaches Across Continents, it was good to have them give their input and participate in discussions.

    For me, my first week with Coaches Across Continents was a good experience. Even though when I was home I could not stay awake at all (I guess time change will do that to you), on the field I learned a lot. I learned a lot on how to adapt our different games and how to adapt our plans to changing circumstances, and I am looking forward to the new adventures our week in Bindura will bring.


  • Mingle Mingle with Sport 4 Socialisation, Zimbabwe

    July 31st, 2012: 30 kids and coaches, moving randomly in a tight space, giggling and eagerly getting into groups of 2,3 7- whatever number the coach calls. This is what Coaches Across Continents call the Numbers game and what here in Mutare is called Mingle Mingle. That is not the only difference. Here the group includes able-bodied kids, plus those in wheelchairs, deaf children, and some severely mentally challenged, all playing together. For the past two weeks a team of six volunteers from Coaches Across Continents (CAC) have been working in Mutare, Zimbabwe partnered with Sport 4 Socialisation. Sport 4 Socialisation (S4S) is a program dedicated to promoting the growth and development of mentally and physically challenged children within the realms of mainstream society. S4S’s focus on the socialization of disabled children is unique in comparison to the missions and purposes of the majority of programs that CAC partners with in Africa.

    Coaches Across Continents was able to collaborate with S4S, with CAC bringing its expertise in both soccer and games for socialization and S4S providing their extensive experience in working with disabled children. Working together, we were able to select a number of CAC games that were suitable to the needs of their children, in addition to providing them with the tools to build their own curriculum going forward. We were truly amazed by the adaptability and passion to improve that was inherent within all of the S4S coaches and office staff. The Mingle Mingle game is a perfect example of S4S and CAC working together, tweeking a CAC game in order to make it appropriate for the S4S kids. Playing a simple game like “Mingle Mingle” is challenging when you can only communicate with some of the participants through sign language, when a child in a wheelchair takes a little more time to maneuver to a group, or when some of the children take a couple of extra moments to process the number being called. However, it is through a game like this that one can see the true importance of promoting the growth in socialization of the S4S children with able-bodied children and everyday life in society.

    The mission that S4S strives to achieve may seem unattainable to many; however, after working with S4S and interacting with the children for two weeks, we are very confident that S4S’s approach of promoting socialization through fun games and sport will be an overall success and allow many of the S4S children, who have been neglected by many aspects of society, to one day “Mingle Mingle” as equals in everyday social situations.

    Sport 4 Socialisation was the Best New Project at beyond Sport 2010.