• Beautiful On The Inside And Out

    November 6th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson writes about her first CAC experience with YFC Rurka Kalan in Punjab, India.

    This is my first trip with Coaches Across Continents and the first week has already delivered as promised; thought provoking, inspiring, fulfilling, rewarding, fun, and full of firsts for me, the CAC team and the YFC Rurka Kalan partner participants. On the list of firsts, CAC & YFC announced a formal ASK for Choice partnership addressing gender equity, YFC hosted the first Workshop on Community Gender Policy in the community, and the coach mentors designed their own games to bring this policy to life. I also survived my first of many harrowing Indian driving escapades (apparently rules of the road and licenses are optional) realized for the first time just how important tea time is to all and also how the Punjabi are amazingly hospitable, generous, enjoyable and funny- talk about a quick wit.

    The YFC/CAC Workshop on Community Gender Policy was led by Judith Gates who did an amazing job addressing and engaging women and men from the local community. It was particularly inspiring to watch the YFC mentor coaches lead the breakout groups and encourage participants who would not normally speak out, to do so. An eye-opening first: one of the male attendees commented to CAC leader Charlie Crawford that he had never seen a female speak “like that” i.e. with a strong voice at a public gathering.

    On the field, we played 36 games over 5 days with a specific focus on the ASK for Choice curriculum that addresses gender equity and girls’ and womens’ rights. On a personal note, while this was something important to me from the get go, it became even more urgent as a goal based upon my first hand experience. Long story short: it’s not always awesome being a girl in India.

    Highlights on and off the field include:

    1. The success of the game Indonesia for Attitudes which addresses language and stereotypes. End result: girls voicing “I am strong!” and voicing “I am beautiful on the inside and the outside.
    2. In the words of one of the full time program coaches as we watched Scary Soccer, “All these coach mentors, and especially the girls, have become more expressive; compared to even the beginning of this week with CAC you can see they now want to take the lead and actively participate in the games and discussions. You can hear their voices right now.”
    3. The sense of community among the coach mentors and staff at YFC – including sing alongs after session, the dance off post awarding of certificates, selfies at tea time, and so, so many laughs.
    4. The post week visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh temple, with Charlie from CAC and Pradeep from Naz Foundation. A must see if you make it to the area; busy yet tranquil at the same time and amazingly beautiful at night all lit up.

    I look forward to following the progress and expansion of YFC Rurka Kalan in partnership with CAC and to all my new friends at YFC: stay strong and beautiful, on the inside and the outside!

    – Cheers, Action

  • Experiencing Self-Directed Learning

    November 14th 2016. CAC Global Citizen Dylan Pritchard wrote about his first experience with CAC and Self-Directed Learning in Punjab, India during our partnership with YFC Rurka Kalan.

    This was my first week being a Global Citizen with CAC and it could not have gone better. This week we were in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India working with the Youth Football Club (YFC). During my preparation for the first week I had no idea what to expect but with YFC in their third year of the Hat-Trick Initiative, it gave me a perfect introduction to what CAC is all about.

    At about 1 a.m. Sunday morning, amidst all the smoke and pollution, we pulled up to the YFC facility. The building was equipped with a classroom, a dinning hall, offices, and some rooming for guests. I came to find out later that they also provide room and board for twenty-four football players to play for the YFC competitive teams. We were served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I got a taste for the culture because the food was traditional Punjab food, which is not as spicy as I thought it would be. The rooms we stayed in were great and we had nothing to complain about. Then the next day we walked out to an awesome grass pitch with big concrete stands, goals, and all the other equipment we needed. Now it was time to coach.

    I’ve done some coaching before but I’ve never done it for social impact or to incorporate Self-Directed Learning. To sit back and watch Markus and Mark my first week was a great experience because I got a feel for what the coaching style was. I grew up believing sports are like life so it was awesome to see Markus and Mark introduce a game and then relate it to the social issues specific to their community and culture. The topics that were discussed this week were gender equity, conflict prevention, drugs and alcohol, and having your own voice paired with communication. They would not just introduce a game and then say this game is for this social issue but they would ask the participants what they think this game is for and walk through it step-by-step on how they think this correlates with a certain social issue. By doing this they were able to introduce the questioning of social and cultural issues through Self-Directed Learning.

    The coolest experience this week was on Thursday when we went to visit schools and after school programs to see the coaches that Markus and Mark coached and see how they did with their players. It was great to see that all the coaches did a good job but it was even better to see them have room for improvement, which is very promising. That was not the coolest part though. The most satisfying part was after each visit; every single kid and player would come and shake our hands with a huge smile on their faces. It showed the respect that the coaches had for the CAC curriculum to have their kids come and shake our hands but it also showed the fun the kids were having while participating in the curriculum. It was awesome to see in the first week the effect that CAC has on a community and see coaching for a social impact accompanied with Self-Directed Learning is working.

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  • Excitement, Passion and Learning in Punjab

    CAC Community Impact Coach (CIC) Guru Singh discusses his work with CAC and YFC Rurka Kalan in Punjab, India.

    December 2nd 2015. It was my second year working with CAC as a CIC which makes me very happy. I still remember the 14th of November, 2013 when I participated in a CAC workshop for the first time. The workshop gave me a new way to use football for social impact. This experience changed many things for me. I had been coaching for one and a half years, but I had never used football to address social issues.

    In November this year I joined CAC for the 2nd time as a CIC and I went back to Rurka Kalan, which is a village in the state of Punjab. I assisted Markus Bensch who is one CAC’s Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Coaches. Markus is a great mentor, coach, motivator and a friend. I learned many new games during the one week coaching course with coaches from YFC which stands for Youth Football Clubs as well as Youth For Change. YFC have run a football academy in Rurka Kalan for the past 13 years. From the very beginning they have focused on the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse among the youth and have encouraged them to invest in their education by being involved in sport.

    I am fond of all the CAC games but two of my favorites are ‘Head-Catch’ and ‘95% Football’. 95% Football is a football game but without a ball which is the best part of the game. The rules are almost the same as normal football. You can pass, dribble and score but the only difference is the player who has the ball has to have his or her hand on their head. You can pass the ball by shouting the name of your teammate and you can score by simply crossing the goal line with the hand on your head. The other team can steal the ball by tagging the player that has the ball. This game causes a lot of conflict and cheating. The players need to discuss the rules of the game and also stick to them in order to make the game flow. The participants from YFC had a great time when we played this game and it was impressive to see how teams improved their strategies in order to score more often and win the game.

    YFC is a professional football academy with different disciplines and various other development programs for the town youth to help them change their lives. It was CAC’s second time to teach and learn together with the coaches from YFC and I was happy to be a part of it. It was amazing to see the coaches participate with the same interest and passion as last year. They were eager to learn and gain knowledge from the program. I was particularly impressed by the women who participated in the program. How they raised their voice, spoke up in front of the group and got very competitive during the games.

    I observed that CAC has an impact on everyone who participates in their program. CAC has given me a better understanding of other communities, because I was able to learn about their lifestyle and their culture. It was interesting for me to realize that many social issues are the same in different parts of India. Women and children are the most vulnerable and therefore child abuse and gender inequality are two big issues that CAC always addresses.

    My journey as a CIC with CAC has been wonderful so far, full of excitement, passion and great learning. It’s always football but never the same. I am always excited about the new skills, games and social messages I learn. I feel very privileged to be part of such a great organization and I promise to not keep my knowledge and skills for myself, but share it with coaches from my home community and wherever people are eager to change the society for better.

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  • New Punjab

    December 3, 2014. Volunteer Coach Billy Hawkey tells us about his time with CAC On-Field in Punjab, India working with YFC Rurka Kalan. Billy first joined us in October for two weeks in Lima working with Unicef Peru.

    After two weeks in Delhi, arriving in Punjab was literally a breath of fresh air. Vast fields of potatoes, corn, wheat, sugar cane, kinnos groves, and farms in all directions. Shining stars and cool, crisp nights, the agriculturally rich state of Punjab provided a stark contrast to the country’s buzzing and beeping capital.

    When we arrived at the YFC Rurka Kalan headquarters we were taken out to walk the field and get a lay of the land for where we would be for the week. The stadium was pristine, and the well kept natural grass pitch was flat, wide, and green. We all sensed that it was going to be a good week.

    After walking the field we met inside the office with Prateek, a member of YFC, over a cup of chai to discuss the expectations and goals for the week, as well as familiarize ourselves with the local social issues. The main problems that were identified were substance abuse and gender equality (or lack there of). We assured Prateek that these issues would be addressed during the week with various games from our curriculum.

    We learned that 60% of Punjab’s youth are believed to be using medical or synthetic drugs and that 1 in 3 households in Punjab have a drug addict living in their home. It is easy for Punjabi children to succumb to drug and alcohol abuse simply because they have nothing else to do. That is why at YFC, the players have structured training 320 of the 365 days of the year.

    Gender equality is also a major issue in Punjab. Girls are confined by tradition which views sport as a male hobby. Society’s dominant stance on women in the community is that they belong in the home. For this weeks’ training we were going to be working with a group of predominantly young female leaders in the morning from 9-1, and a boys team in the afternoon from 2-6. One of the reasons for this was because from 2-6, women in Punjab are supposed to be in the home working.

    Our days began with a half mile walk to the YFC center from our guest house down the road. We had breakfast at8:00 a.m. in the YFC kitchen. Breakfast consisted of omelets, bananas, cereal with hot milk, juice, toast, stuffed chapatti, and of course, chai. Chai is like water in India; at the end of a game during the week, kneeling over at the knees and out of breath, a man exclaimed “I need, chai!”. The kitchen always smelled amazing. Hot chapatti being turned out every minute, and local organic vegetables being seasoned and prepared the Punjabi way.

    YFC has a residential facility that houses an elite u-14 boys team comprised of high level players from all over India. The boys live here for several years training and attending school which overlooks the main field. At 9:00 a.m. we began classroom sessions with our first group, approximately 40 individuals, 30 of whom were females. These sessions included “What makes a good coach?”, review of the games that we played from the previous day, group presentations, and a child rights discussion/training. By 10:00 a.m. we were on the field ready to play.

    On the first day the majority of women arrived in their saris and sandals. Despite the fact that we suggested they wear athletic clothes, the group was comfortable in their outfits and continued to sport their colorful silks for the rest of the week (but with a few more sneakers). The group was new to futbol, but eager to learn. An older woman revealed that this was the first time she’d ever played a sport. Being 50 years old, she explained that old tradition had kept her away from sports, and that her parents and society saw no value in it, especially for girls; an idea that is still held by many in India. However she was ready to break away from the restrictions of traditional society, and proved to be a symbol of change and courage for everyone. Her story sparked an applause from the group; and she demonstrated first hand a core belief of CAC, that is to challenge and question tradition.

    At this point Community Impact Coach, Guru, asked the group to look around and notice something. All of the women were standing shoulder to shoulder in the front, and all the men were standing together in the back. “That’s old Punjab” Guru exclaimed, “we want New Punjab”, and with a slight hesitation, the group intermixed the genders. Boys and girls don’t play sports together in Punjab. At least until now.

    A game that brought this message to life was Marta for Gender Equity. In this game two teams play a game of futbol to goals. However, one team plays with all of their players and the other team plays with only half. This creates an 8v4 situation. The four players sitting out represent women and their team represents only the men participating in society. The other team with all eight players represents a cohesive community in which both men and women are utilized. After about 10 minutes we brought the group together to discuss. The excluded players said it wasn’t fun or fair to have to sit and watch. It was noticed how much better the full team did in this game, just as a society functioning with all of its resources similarly is more successful. Teams reversed roles so the other group could experience how it feels to be excluded from participating in sports. Finally, the third progression starts with both teams playing 4v4. When a team scores a goal they get to bring another player on; representing empowering a female to play. This must be done by verbally communicating an empowering message to the women on the sidelines. The energy and excitement on the faces of the players, especially the men, when they had the chance to bring on a female, was amazing. I watched a man sprint to the sideline with a huge smile on his face, screaming in Punjabi and lift a woman to her feet to play. This was not just a product of the competitiveness of the game; these powerful sentiments for equal opportunity for women in sport was expressed genuinely and proudly by the men in the discussions. It was acknowledged that if women had the same opportunities to train and develop starting at the same age as men, then they would be just as skillful. YFC is hoping to achieve this by training their female youth leaders and starting women’s teams this season.

    At the end of a midweek session we drank more chai, sang and danced on the field and a small talent show was conducted as well. Definitely a new way of cooling down.

    After a delicious lunch, we switched gears and began our afternoon session with the YFC boys team. These boys, all dressed in their light blue training kits, were ready to play. The pace was quicker with the afternoon group; the ball zipped around the field in one and two touch, and players were sliding into their tackles.

    An impactful day was our Gazza day, with four games centered around substance abuse. Discussion questions included why people engage in anti-social behaviors, the effects of abuse on the individual and the community, safe spaces, support systems, and good decisions. One game in particular that held a strong impact was Gazza scrimmage. Two teams play a scrimmage to goals, one tem must walk at all times and the other team has no limitations. The walking team represents alcohol/drug addicts, who have clearly had their athletic abilities hindered by sustained substance abuse. This game followed Gazza dizzy tag, in which taggers must first spin around 10 times (or 20 if Guru is leading) before chasing players, exhibiting the immediate effects of intoxication. Gazza scrimmage shifts the message to an addiction and the effects it has on your life over time, and the effect it has on the community. The walking team got smacked, and the game bridged a discussion of alcohol and substance abuse and how it’s bad for relationships, school, functioning in society, and sports. It was clear by the discussion that these boys have chosen futbol as an alternative to drugs and alcohol.

    The two groups we had this week were unique and equally enjoyable. The week flew by and both groups understood the objective of the training as evidence of the coach back sessions on the final day in which participants are put in small groups and have the opportunity to lead games on their own that we did over the course of the week, adapt them how they would like, and even invent new games if they please. The coaches demonstrated confidence in their coaching and incorporated the social messages fluently.

    Until this training, YFC had focused mainly on player development in their sessions, without integrating social messages in games. But they are ready for change. They are ready for New Punjab.

     

    Side note: In the nights I played with people from town under the lights on the YFC pitch. Guru and I combined for a few nice goals. On our day off we traveled to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and visited the India/Pakistan border for a closing ceremony between the two country’s army officials.

     

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