• Tap Dancing Across Chingola

    August 8th 2015. CAC staff member Turner Humphries talks about our partnership with Malalo Sports in Chingola, Zambia.

    For our final week in Zambia we were working in a town called Chingola. The main source of income for the town and its population comes from the copper mines. Almost everyone in Chingola either works in some part of the mining process or provides a service for those who do. All over town you could see young men strolling around in the ubiquitous mining uniform, a navy blue jumpsuit with metallic reflective strips around the knees and elbows. Around every street corner merchants carrying bracelets and other jewelry made of copper could be found hoping to cash in on what the final products of the mine offered.

    On Wednesday afternoon we visited a local school where Maureen, one of our participants, coaches a boy’s team. As we pulled up to the school Maureen already had a game of soccer tennis in full swing. From the onset it was impressive to see Maureen command respect from a group of boys aged 16-18. During her practice she conducted an energized Circle of Friends, a game showcasing the destructive effects of alcohol and a game demonstrating what happens to a community when you exclude women from participating in most aspects of the economy. Maureen had clearly put some thought into the design and schedule of her practice. The games she chose not only delivered excellent social messages but were well suited for the skillful players she had. Maureen was one of the first female coaches I have seen coaching a group of older boys. Her players benefit not only from her superb coaching skill but also from having such a strong female role model in their life. Maureen serves as a great example for other women in the community who want to become football coaches.

    As the week progressed and we got to know our participants better we began talking about some of the traditional gender roles commonplace in Chingola. It became evident that generally the mining jobs are reserved for men, with the women creating income from either washing clothes, cleaning or cooking. Majori, one of our female participants spoke up to say how she wants to work in the mine one day. Despite her father’s misgivings she is determined to stand up to the traditional gender roles established in her hometown. For me this was a powerful moment, both for the courage this young women showed in her willingness to challenge the status quo, but also understanding what it might be like to have your own father disagree with your career choice. Growing up I was always told I could be whatever I wanted to be; an astronaut, a police officer, a chef or a sport for social impact coach. It becomes easy to take this kind of support for granted as I, and many others, have grown to expect it.

    Our week in Chingola also marked the third week with one of our volunteers, Sarah Thompson. She progressed each week, slowly coming out of her shell becoming a great coach with a calm demeanor. One of my favorite quotes from Sarah happened each time the CAC team introduced themselves to the participants, “Hey I’m Sarah and I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin. I’m really close to Chicago if you know where that is.” I thought of following with, ‘Hey I’m Turner and I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m really close to New York City if you know where that is.’ Another favorite Sarah moment came when she was leading Circle of Friends – Obstacle Course. This is our standard Circle of Friends warm-up game but various obstacles are placed in the middle of the circle that required the player to perform certain exercises. During our time together the CAC team learned that once upon a time Sarah was an esteemed tap dancer. Naturally we wanted to see her display her unique skillset. As Sarah placed her final cone down in the circle she informed the group that at this cone you must do any dance of your choice. To demonstrate Sarah proudly stepped up and performed a tap rendition to a confused but equally impressed Zambian audience.

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  • Beautiful Mountains, Beautiful People, Beautiful Game

    July 15th 2015. Volunteer coach Mike Mazzullo, from New York City, joins fellow Columbia University ’12 alum Nora Dooley on-field in South Africa and Malawi. He writes here about our recent training near Cape Town:

    The first sign that I’m a visitor to South Africa: it’s hard to stop looking out the window. There is no shortage of natural beauty. Landscapes of mountain and vineyards and ocean surprise the eyes at every turn. People buzz alongside highways, walking to work, selling wares, looking for a hitch-hike, and perilously crossing major roads. Different communities pass by, some idyllic, some not.

    Each morning I’m sobered by the disparity between living conditions for the wealthy and the poor. It is hard to overestimate the gap between townships and suburban enclaves. I think of the homeless on Park Ave. Such inequality just doesn’t feel right.

    We arrive in Khayelitsha, the location of CAC’s 2nd-year program for the Western Cape. Cars full of participants arrive and filter into the gym that is our home for the week. Good-bye to any sadness from the morning ride’s sights. Five minutes with the participants fill that space with hope and laughter.

    The participants are a mixture of local community leaders and coaches. training4changeS, the implementing partner, brings their crew of seven coaches. Girls and Football SA brings four, all female. Dumi represents City Mission. There are many others, each with his or her own story and sense of purpose.

    Every day a participant’s story floors me. Take Keke’s. His experience is all too common.

    We are united by the idea that soccer can be a force for positive change in the world around us.

    And the participants brought, along with their enthusiasm and football skills and jokes, problems from their communities. Let me talk about one.
    …………………………..
    Gang violence recurred throughout the week. People spoke of the allure of gangs in offering economic opportunity, how gangs can become a family for those who have none, and how gangs entrap children at a young age. These conversations carried glazed looks, suggesting firsthand exposure. It didn’t take me long to notice graffiti of “28” and “26” – prominent local gangs – marking some buildings and traffic signs.

    …How can soccer deal with such an issue?

    I forgot to mention Nora Dooley. She’s CAC staff leading the program, and happens to be awesome. Nora coached the game called “Say No to Gang Violence”. CAC had originally designed the game to confront human trafficking in Indonesia.

    The set-up is simple. Each corner of the field (or gym) has a coned square box. These will represent what happens when you are “stuck” in gangs. Group discussion identifies the effects of gangsterism. It could be violence, theft, drug abuse, whatever the group thinks.

    Next, the discussion moves to how gangs attract youth in the first place. Three “taggers”-people holding cones- represent the methods of entrapment. It could be involving kids in petty crime, the legacy of an older sibling’s involvement, financial reward and social status, whatever the group thinks.

    The game is for the “taggers” to catch everyone else and send them to the boxes, which represent the harmful effects of gangsterism. It’s a pretty powerful image.

    Next we talk solutions. Are there safe spaces, ways out of gangs, strategies for avoiding them in the first place? Lots of conversation and ideas.

    Nora introduces cones and soccer balls as symbols of safe spaces/deterrents/escape routes – you can’t get tagged if you have the ball. Share the round thing and help others! It’s another powerful image, that football can save youth.

    The game continues with more progressions, further confronting the main question of: What can we do about it? Ultimately the coaches and local organizations will decide.
    ………………

    One of the t4c coaches, Sylvester, imparted an African proverb:”If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

    I think the mingling of various groups will have a long-term return. In any field – business, education, sport or whatever – ideas stale. One benefit of a CAC program is the ability to bring diverse people together.

    Even nonprofits can succumb to one-mindedness, but these organizations of the Western Cape saw each other as partners and allies. The biggest divisions in Khayelitsha emerged over Man Utd vs Arsenal, Kaizer Chiefs vs. Orlando Pirates, Ronaldo vs. Messi.

    And on the car ride back to Stellenbosch, again seeing the gamut of natural beauty and human experience, I thought less about passing strangers and more about the CAC participants.

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  • A busy day for Tim.

    Tim with Bulldogs, Zimbabwe

    Nov 9th, 2012:  Coaches Across Continents Board member and Coach, Tim Wheaton will be busy in New York City on November 13th.

    During the day he will be an invited speaker at Beyond Sport United at Yankee Stadium where he will be on a panel discussing “Gender Equality’ and then running a discussion group on what steps Coaches Across Continents have taken to build the role for females in Sport for Social Impact.  .

    In the evening, Tim will be talking at The Harvard Club of New York City on “Crimson Impact’ and how Harvard Alums can get involved with Coaches Across Continents.

    For more information go to:  http://www.beyondsport.org/united/