The Hippocratic Oath & Soccer
CAC SDL Coach Turner Humphries writes about our week with Futebol Social in Sao Roque, Brazil.
April 19th 2016. From Rio de Janeiro our team made the journey to Sao Roque, a small town outside of Sao Paulo. In Sao Roque we had around forty participants, all with varied backgrounds and coaching experience. In the group were students, teachers, jiu jitsu coaches, volleyball players, skateboarders and CrossFit enthusiasts. Having such a diverse group allows for many different views on the social messages our games address. Furthermore, it challenges both the CAC team and the participants to think of ways to adapt our games to best suit their discipline.
For this week of training we would be joined by Davi Alexander, a Community Impact Coach from ACER Brasil, a different organization in Sao Paulo. Davi met us for breakfast each morning as we discussed how to best impact the participants and which games we had planned for that day. Over coffee and bananas, we worked with Davi to find games for him to coach that would serve to aid in his development. Davi was able to coach a wide variety of games, including activities that addressed gender equity, conflict prevention and drug and alcohol abuse.
At every CAC training we discuss our child protection policy with the participants. For this week we decided to add in another component to our discussion. With the participants in small groups we gave them three different scenarios. Each scenario required the participants to resolve a complex issue where the rights of the child were not being protected. For example, one of the scenarios was as follows: you are an assistant coach and you witness the head coach verbally abusing a number of the players and embarrassing them in front of the whole team – what do you do? Among the responses were, ‘speak privately with the head coach about his/her behavior,’ ‘speak with a senior club or school official to ensure action is taken regarding the coach,’ ‘give encouraging words to the players to try and improve their self-esteem.’ One thing all these responses have in common is being proactive. It was encouraging to hear so much feedback from the participants and see them working together to discuss child rights issues. An issue a number of the participants raised during the week was the intense focus on winning at the youth level. We heard that because of this results based approach many children were dropping out of their sports teams. ‘Above all else sport should be fun,’ one participant proclaimed. Speaking privately with another participant, he told me that coaches should be required to sign a document similar to the Hippocratic Oath – a document that all those in the medical profession must adhere to. The main tenet of the Hippocratic Oath is that first, do no harm. Now with a fresh cadre of games, I hope that the coaches, jiu jitsu teachers and CrossFitters can bring some of the fun back into sports in Sao Roque.
April 15th 2016. With his final week On-Field with CAC, long-term volunteer CJ Fritz tells us about CAC’s fourth and final week in the country with ACER Brasil.
Diadema, a city just beyond the outer reaches of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has had a troubled past. For a long time it was one of the biggest hot spots for violent crime in Brazil, most notably including murders. But over the last few years, it has undergone a transformation.
Since the city government decided to restrict the time at which bars in the city could close, the murder rate has fallen by 50%, an unprecedented free fall.
Now, changing the closing time of establishments that sell alcohol did not magically reduce violent crime. The change also sprang from a city full of people ready to move forward. They were committed to altering Diadema in a positive way, and they have succeeded.
We could see this mindset in our group on the very first day that we worked with them. We had about 30 participants in all, and they brought a fantastic energy to the sessions. They were enthusiastic and willing to jump right into anything that we threw their way.
They were not the first group ever to be fun-loving; what set them apart was their ability to flip the switch seamlessly between goofy and serious. That is a difficult ability to have, but they exhibited that skill repeatedly throughout the week.
Beyond that still, they continually questioned and disagreed and discussed from Monday to Friday. When asked how many people were in their family, some volleyed back “how do you define family?” When a man stated that women should not be in the role of fireman, hands shot up around the room, eager to present their counterpoint to the statement.
These are the signs of moving forward. How can anything change if we don’t question our traditions? How can we introduce new ideas if we refuse to discuss the problems at hand? In Diadema, the participants showed clear signals of a group not content with current progress. They demand more from themselves and those around them because they are aware of what it takes to change.
By the end of the week, I was extremely impressed by this group, and if they are any indicator of the general mindset in Diadema, I see every hint that there is more positive change to come in their city.
When I asked one of our more experienced participants why her work was so important to her, she responded without missing a beat, “because we must keep moving forward.”
Heart Is Everything
CAC volunteer Niki Herdegen talks about her final week in Brazil with ACER Brazil in Sao Paulo.
July 8th 2015. My final week spent in Brazil was filled with laughter, creativity, and incredible football while working with ACER Brazil in Diadema. I remember how apprehensive I was when I first drove up to my temporary home for two weeks. The community we were staying in didn’t have the best reputation associated with it and I was very nervous. I didn’t know if my coaching abilities were strong enough to help me really get through to the people of this community. To my dismay, I learned a powerful message about football; football is a universal language with no boundaries. No matter how great or terrible my abilities as a coach were, it wouldn’t matter. My bond with the players at ACER was strictly related to the beautiful game. The people instantly made me feel at home and more importantly part of the community. Our week was spent talking about the problems that people were seeing and experiencing first hand in the community. It truly is a one of a kind experience to be staying right where some of the things we were discussing was going on. Despite all the heartache some of our participants experienced, nothing stopped them from smiling. They were some of the most genuinely nice people I have ever met in my life and their football skills surpassed others from the weeks prior. It was an incredible final week. ACER Brasil is a program that allows safe places for children and teens and I know the games taught by CAC will be implemented in all of their programs.
I experienced some of the social problems we discussed during a game of night football with the local girls in Diadema. They locked us in the facility to keep others from wondering in and to keep the focus on the most important thing, the game. As all of us girls laughed and battled in intense games of 5 vs. 5, you couldn’t help but notice what was going on around us. Right in front of my eyes people were dealing drugs and using. I couldn’t believe it. Although we were locked safely in our facility, it seemed as if we couldn’t escape the drugs of this area. As frightened as I was, the girls really inspired me and picked me up during that time. By just playing soccer they are proving to the drug dealers around them that they are so much stronger than they are. The simple game of football has empowered them and has taken them down a path that doesn’t include drugs. Those girls were truly inspiring and their strength did not go unseen. They continued to play un-phased and working hard as ever, showing the rest of the community that you do have a choice.
As my week with ACER came to an end I couldn’t help but to reflect on the past four weeks I have spent in Brazil. Every city and program I went to offered a different perspective on problem solving in their communities and taught me very valuable lessons that I could take home with me to Los Angeles as well. My dad always taught me to play with heart, and wow do the Brazilians play with it. A simple game of football has enough power to bring a community together. With Coaches Across Continents, we take that unifying nature and help destroy all the social problems in these neighborhoods. Heart really is everything and the people of Brazil showed me first hand what positive impact can look like. Thank you to the people of Diadema for sharing your home with me and all the other incredible friends I have made while staying in Brazil. I will be back!
A Different Side of Brazil
CAC volunteer Ariana Ruela talks about her return to Brazil with CAC one year after the World Cup
June 27th 2015. It was only a year ago that I arrived in Brazil for the first time, on my own, to watch the biggest tournament of futebol in the world—the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Speaking Portuguese (half of my family are from and still reside in Portugal), I quickly found my way around exploring three different cities, attending Portugal’s group matches, making new friends, and spending my afternoons finding peladas, Portuguese for small sided soccer games, that I could join in on. One thing was for sure: futebol in Brazil is a way of life. They live it, breathe it, eat and sleep thinking and dreaming about it.
However, during that time, what I didn’t get to see was the reality of everyday life here in Brazil. A little over 6 months after my adventure for the World Cup, I received the opportunity to return to Brazil with the awesome organization, Coaches Across Continents (CAC), where the power of futebol is used for social impact. This wasn’t just any opportunity for me. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to do something I have dreamed about. You might wonder why? A huge futebol player and lover of the game, I currently just finished my Masters in Global Affairs. Additionally, I have been coaching since I was 14 for various clubs in NJ, VA, as well as for NY Red Bulls Training Programs. As you can imagine, futebol is a way of life for me as well. What better way to fuse my studies in human rights and development with my passion and knowledge for the game of futebol?? And on top of that to do it in the beautiful Brazil where futebol is exactly that—the way of life.
Since arriving in Brazil, it has been amazing to work with the coaches, educators, and mentors here in this country. My first week in Rio de Janeiro was very insightful and inspiring as Niki talked about in her blog last week. One minute it was Monday and before you knew it, Saturday had already arrived and it was time to leave the beautiful beaches and people we had met and worked with in Rio to head to our next city. A 7 hour bus ride later, we arrived in Sao Paulo where we would stay for two weeks. Instantaneously, I discovered Sao Paulo was very different from Rio. With beaches an hour away unlike Rio, my first impression of Sao Paulo was bigness and city-like, sky rises and smog.
I quickly learned that Sao Paulo is a city where you get all four seasons in one day. When we wake up it is sunny and warm, by the time the afternoon rolls in it is cloudy and drizzling, and by night time you are shivering wondering why the heck you didn’t bring pants to Brazil. With that said, before you knew it, it was Monday again and time to meet a new group of coaches, educators and mentors that we would work with for the first week in Sao Paulo along with Futebol Social. These new participants brought a lot of energy to the sessions, were eager to learn, and quickly grasped what CAC is all about. Sessions were fun, insightful, and informing. It wasn’t long before we started learning about the problems and issues the coaches and mentors try and tackle day in and day out in their work.
What made this week special was the chance to work with kids. The participants were able to see first-hand how kids responded to the activities. Smiles were big. Laughter could be heard all around. And when it came time to chat, kids were clever and witty. Participants were also then able to try and run an activity themselves with the kids. It was wonderful to see the amount of learning occurring on the futebol pitch. What was even more exciting were the mornings when participants would arrive eager to tell us they had tried the activities with their kids and has a lot of success showing us pictures and videos. The week hadn’t even ended yet and the work CAC is doing was already having an impact.
One particular day stood out to me, being a coach myself and someone highly interested in the use of futebol for social impact. A huge discussion between coaches who are training kids in futebol clubs and mentors/educators who are working with children in social projects had erupted. The coaches wondered how they could use such activities when the parents are looking for them to teach their kid the game and develop them into the “next Neymar.” A valid point, but the others in the group didn’t see eye to eye which created some great discussion. In the end, whether it be working with kids in a top futebol club or working with kids in a social project or at school, we are responsible for guiding them as they are the future generation. We can teach them how to work in groups, how to be responsible, to be confident, to work hard, to dream big, to understand the importance of education and gender equality, and to not cheat, lie and steal through futebol. At the end of the day, not every child trained in these futebol clubs will be “the next Neymar,” but they will be the next generation of adults and it is important as coaches, educators, and mentors we guide them in the right direction regardless if we are working with them as a futebol coach or as a mentor in a social program.
This week was really inspiring to me. It showed that the participants were really taking in all that we were giving them. They understood that the game their country is so passionate about can be one of the many solutions to help ease the problems they face in their communities. Only two weeks in and I could already see the difference CAC was making in the lives of these leaders. Not only did participants now understand what sport for social impact is, but they also started to apply it immediately. At the end of the day, that little ball in this big country represents life. A futebol something so small, yet so big in the hearts of Brazilians can be used to create change and improve communities one small step at a time.
To Sao Paulo and Futebol Social, obrigado!!
Beauty Inside And Out
CAC volunteer Niki Herdegen talks about her week in Rio de Janeiro with Futebol Social.
June 22nd 2015. We began our second week in Brazil by transitioning from the quiet city of Brasilia to the city that never sleeps, Rio de Janeiro. Adjusting to city life was difficult at first, but the people proved to be extremely welcoming, helpful, and kind. The breathtaking views of Copacabana beach provided an easy escape from the buzzing of the city, giving us truly the best of both worlds during our stay in Rio.
For our sessions during the week we once again partnered with Futebol Social. We had a huge turn out with the program the week before in Brasilia, so I had come in with huge expectations. To my surprise our group was quite small with no more than 15 participants per day ranging in all different ages and backgrounds. The group was small but mighty, and the intimacy of small numbers allowed us to discuss in depth the social problems in Rio. Our conversations got individuals excited and sometimes even heated, but it was incredible to see that all these discussions can be lead through our curriculum with Coaches Across Continents. It became evident that drugs, alcohol, child rights, gender equity and violence were all ugly problems in the beautiful city. We specifically selected games that highlighted these problems to help educate the local leaders and pass down to their children they train. The games put smiles across everyone’s faces and it was hilarious how much fun grown adults were having playing games designed for children. However, the serious undertones at the end of each game showed the coaches that the social message is key to solving the problems we discussed before.
During my week coaching in Rio, the hardest part for me was hearing about the lack of equal opportunities for girls both on and off the field. It made me realize how much I take for granted and how easy it is for me to go out and simply play the sport I love. Women are expected to stay home and take care of housework, not participate in activities like the other men and boys. Our female members payed an important role in not only sharing their inspiring stories but also inspiring other male members to take a stand against the problem. The problem is diminishing slowly, but I know if these coaches pass down the games we teach to their children we can create a generation that lives without discrimination.
Our 2nd year curriculum in Rio came to an end and I couldn’t be more thankful to have met our participants. All of them have a passion for soccer and more importantly the social programs they are involved in. If they can continue to pass down the messages to the children they coach, the positive impact will create a domino effect of lasting change. Our participants allowed us to share with them their beautiful city, whose heart triumphs the beauty on the outside. I’m looking forward to my next two weeks in Sao Paulo as we continue our journey in Brazil.
A Tale of Two Brazils
July 28, 2014. Volunteer Tiffany Fonseca (Harvard, ’15) compares her time with CAC in Brazil to her semester abroad in Rio de Janiero. Before I talk more about the final week, I should begin by saying that Brazil was not new to me at the start of the CAC program. I studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro for seven months last year, immersing myself in Brazilian culture and brushing up on my Portuguese. But even though I technically lived here, many aspects of my experience were lived through a tourist’s point of view. I hung out with the international kids. I heeded the university’s advice to stay out of the favelas, with the exception of one or two particularly pacified and gentrified ones. I stayed within the confines of Rio’s wealthy South Zone, home of the Rio postcard pictures, scenic beaches and nice houses- relatively absent of the abject poverty of the north. Even though poverty and wealth exist in such close proximity in this country, I managed to block out the poorer 80%, not because the Brazilian inequality issue didn’t appall me, but because for the time being I wanted to enjoy my quintessential study abroad experience. However, regardless of what I thought I knew, or what white Brazilians told me about how the other (more than) half lived, I was naïve and admittedly a little paranoid when we drove into Diadema on that first day, and needless to say I was seeing a Brazil I was completely unfamiliar with, a Brazil I had been warned against.
A week later that paranoia was out the window. In fact I don’t even think it’s possible to nicely encapsulate right here the wonderful experience that was my four weeks with CAC. Especially in these last two weeks in Diadema and Campo Limpo, I’ve met the most genuine Brazilians I’ve met all year. Their communities may not be perfect but they don’t deserve some of the labels they are given. These people are truly invested in the future of their community. They’re thoughtful, determined, and selfless. They have amazingly positive attitudes. They inspire me to do better.
As I was saying, words can’t do this experience justice. But here goes anyway: Our final week in Brazil went above and beyond expectations. I don’t think I could have asked for a better end to our time here. It was our second week in São Paulo, this time with our partners at Futebol Social in Campo Limpo. After an hour-long drive to the field on the first dreary, cloudy morning, we were greeted with a familiar sight: new faces, some smiling and some timid, many young men and women, and a few older guys as well. It didn’t take long after introductions and Circle of Friends for the skies to clear up. Feeling the sun shine through the clouds and watching everyone open up as they ran around, smiling and laughing like carefree children, I could tell this week would not disappoint.
The level of engagement we received this week was phenomenal. Wanting to tailor to the community’s specific needs, we asked what the biggest social problems were. Overwhelmingly the response was drugs and violence, among other things. As we tackled various issues throughout the week, I experienced some of the most rewarding moments of my CAC experience.
One coach came up to me right after a gender equity game to talk about the boys team and girls team he coached. Unfortunately, though the discouragement of parents due to cultural norms, the girls slowly stopped coming to the point where he didn’t have a team anymore. We had a great conversation along with Brian about the importance of getting the message of equality to parents in order to prevent sexist tradition from keeping girls off the field.
In another instance, after a game of “Can Adebayor see HIV?” one man stepped forward and talked about losing his uncle to AIDS. The dialogue this started was amazing. We stood there and witnessed the coaches educating each other about facts and myths of HIV without having to say a word ourselves.
These moments for me are so encouraging because they prove that the coaches are really taking the issues to heart and see the games as real solutions they can apply in their community. It took me 4 weeks to slowly understand the difference we were making. It’s one thing to know what sport for social impact is. It’s a completely different thing to see it taking hold in the minds of community and youth leaders on the field. That is the real reason the last day was so definitive for me. Not simply because it was the last day, but because I have never received more genuine thank-yous and hugs and handshakes before!
Thank you too, Campo Limpo. Obrigada!