• He for She with Isha Vidhya

    December 15, 2014. Senior Staff, Nora Dooley, shares her thoughts on our last program in India for 2014 with the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, India.

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “Can men cook and clean?” – “YES!”

    “Can men stay at home while women work?” – Another, resounding, “YES!”

    Thirty men and boys in perfect unison; they chant, “YES” for gender equality. And three women sigh and shake their heads.

    For my final program of 2014, I return to Coimbatore for the third year of our partnership with the Isha Foundation. This year sees some familiar faces from years past, but the majority of the participants are new to CAC. We have a nice mélange of teachers and students, adding depth and energy to every game and discussion.

    We do not have a nice mélange of gender.

    An easy choice by both parties – CAC and Isha – gender equity quickly became this year’s priority. Such a nice term, ‘gender equity’. Equity. Equality. But what does it mean? To you? To me?

    Many cheer for equality, but few take the time to find their personal motive for why we need to empower women and girls.

    So we play. And play and play. Marta Skills for Life. Mia Hamm Skills for Life. Who is Marta? Who is Mia Hamm?

    Powerful. Female. Role Models.

    Marta for Gender Equity: How can we get more girls on the pitch? If you score a goal, use your voice to empower your teammates – “You can do it!”, they shout. Rapinoe for Gender Equity: Four words for the ideal man: “Strong!” “Legend!” “Noble!” “Superior!” The four teams stand in four corners on the pitch, one for each word. When I call two words the groups standing in the corresponding boxes switch places as fast as possible – running, skipping, dancing, like animals, with a ball. Now four words for your ideal woman: “Beautiful!” “Gentle!” “Smart-look!” “Colorful!” We play again.

    Falcao for Gender Equity: One team has three goals to score on; the other team only has one. We play. “Is this game fair?” “No!” Suarez for Gender Equity: Three goals at each end that represent words that empower girls. The participants call out, “education!”, “employment!”, and “choice!”. Everybody must walk and if they score a goal and shout the empowering word, they can run. Perpetua for Gender Equity: What are some traditional roles for men in your community? – Driver, builder, farmer, fisherman, businessman, army, shoemaker, barber. And women? – Beauty parlor, housewife, baby-care, cooking, cleaning, nurse, stitching. When I call out a job – the players assigned that role run onto the field and play 2v2, 4v4, etc. We play.

    I ask:

    “Can men be beautiful?” – “YES!”

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “I see you shaking your head, Lakshmi (a participant for all three years of CAC programs), why?”

    “Because I do not see.”

    And therein lies the rub.

    There is too often an abyss between policy and practice. Between awareness and behavior. I know unprotected sex is the leading cause of HIV, and yet? I know I am not legally allowed to hit this child with a stick when she misbehaves, and yet?

    I know I’m supposed to jump on the #femaleempowerment / #genderequality / #heforshe bandwagon… and?

    How do we bridge this daunting gap? With a ball, perhaps?

    We think so. By the end of the program it felt more like the male-dominated group actually believed in what they were saying, and the women were standing up for themselves. It is a slow, uphill trek, but probably the most important climb in the world.

    So, can men take care of babies? Can women play football?

    YES! … if that is their choice. What is yours?

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  • Football Skills for Life

    IMG_8762At Coaches Across Continents we recognize the correlation between football and life. Our curriculum harnesses the power of football to teach lessons spanning a broad spectrum of social issues. In order to address these social issues in a productive, forward-thinking manner, there are certain life skills that we believe we all need to tap into. These are the baseline skills, the fundamentals, the abilities that translate naturally from our lives on the football field into our lives in our community. They include verbal and nonverbal communication, concentration, teamwork, confidence, awareness, and other capabilities that can and should manifest in our everyday lives. These also include hygiene, employability, literacy, financial literacy, child rights, among other everyday necessities that we cover in our curriculum.

    All social skills can come to the surface on the traditional football pitch, but we bring them to life in all of our games, using our unique coaching methods that stimulate social impact. The first of these games that any CAC partner program will play is Ronaldo Skills for Life. In this game we have three fun skills involving scissors, fakes, and step-overs that the players learn while shouting out at each turn, “Ronaldo 1!” or “Ronaldo 2!” or “Ronaldo 3!”. The same goes for each of our players from Marta and Messi to Rapinoe and Wilshere.

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    When we coach Skills for Life games, one of the most essential aspects of our methodology is the slow progression. We often ask our participants whether we all learn at the same pace, and understanding that we do not, in school, on the field, or elsewhere, is a crucial step in working with children. We start these techniques slowly, without the ball, then we add a touch or two, then we build up to dribbling, and in this manner we not only build muscle memory and improve our footwork, but we work on concentration – for our voice must match our feet – spatial awareness – for we do not dribble or walk or run with our head down – confidence – for we share our voices with our teammates loud and proud – and readiness – for we only work on skills in a circular setting.

    All over the world community leaders have learned these football techniques, so valuable when competing on the pitch, and paired with life techniques, so valuable when taken into the context of our lives.  One of the principal upshots of our Skills for Life module, that then pervades the rest of our curriculum, is the ability to use one’s voice.  Whether calling for the ball or shouting out “Ronaldo 1” every time we do the first Ronaldo skill, the power of the voice transcends the boundaries of the football field. We have taught these games to partners in Northern Uganda, where former child soldiers are being reintegrated into society after facing the horrors of the LRA. Afraid to speak for fear of being physically or sexually abused, their voices were stifled. Our games, our coaches, help them reclaim their voice, their confidence, their ability to make their own choices in life.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation tells us that 98% of our participants can now teach young people through soccer to find creative solutions to their problems rather than asking for the answer, up from 27% before our program.

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