• Homegrown Leadership

    October 5th, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Emily Kruger, writes about her on-field experience working with Uni Papua in Sorong, Indonesia. 

    Now that CAC has existed for almost a decade, we have a handful of implementing partners who have been with us for many years. A few weeks with these coaches and leaders feels much different than time spent with a brand new partner. These humans have met almost every single CAC staff member, they have played almost every game in the CAC curriculum, and they have already made a deep impact on the children in their weekly programs.

    For us, the next progression is to challenge these leaders to do as CAC does and work with other coaches, which is different than coaching their young players. I’ve had this experience now in Haiti with Haitian Initiative, Cambodia with IndoChina Starfish, and again this week with Uni Papua in Sorong, Indonesia.

    Coach Frans grew up in Sorong, on the island of Papua. He moved to Jakarta in 2013 to study at the University Multimedia Nusantara, and soon after became a player on a Uni Papua team­­­. In 2015, he encountered the CAC curriculum and methodology for the first time, at a program in Jakarta with Charlie and Turner. He was convinced of something new: football is a tool with which people can learn off-field skills and knowledge. He was excited at the prospect of teaching about the negative impacts of abusing alcohol and cigarettes (as many of them were doing), about their right to good health and where to access care, about the positive implications of inclusion and equity…all through engaging activities with the ball!

    Shortly after that training, he was hired by Uni Papua as a full-time head coach. Throughout 2016, he began to not only coach his youth team but also to work with coaches. When he is called upon, he leads coach trainings for new Uni Papua chapters, where the coaches do not yet know about using football for social impact. We agreed that he would like to do more of this (for CAC this is what sustainability looks like!!) so for our program in his hometown of Sorong, the foreign CAC team took a major step back so that Frans could step in and be the leader he wants to be. His two younger brothers were at the training, his Uni Papua colleagues were at the training, even some of his former players were in attendance. From the sidelines, it was evident that they all look up to him. While I am not sure what exactly they were discussing (after 3 weeks, my Bahasa is still not where it would need to be to catch the quick on-field conversations), I could see that Frans was asking them thoughtful questions, challenging them to think for themselves and solve their problems as a team.

    At the end of the week, the participants expressed their gratitude for Frans and his passionate leadership, while I expressed my excitement for the future of Uni Papua…with homegrown leadership comes a kind of deeper, sustainable impact that a foreigner cannot replicate.

  • Back To Where It All Began

    October 2nd 2017. Self-Directed Learning coach Mark Gabriel reflects on a return to Cambodia after a year with CAC.

    Heading to Cambodia’s capital for my next On-Field assignment was different than previous assignments. Right about the same time last year, I was heading to Phnom Penh for my first ever CAC assignment with Indochina Starfish. My first time returning to a place and starting the week with, “Good to see you again!” rather than, “Nice to meet you.” My first time leading with an inside joke, or a hug, or a familiar smile. My first time returning to my favorite juice stand, or ordering my favorite local cuisine (in this case, tarantulas). You get the idea — and let me tell you, it felt good. More so than any of that, it felt good because it was my first chance to personally see the change that accumulates over a year during a CAC partnership. Throughout the first two weeks, I was not disappointed. Not only did I immediately see stark differences between this year and last amongst returning participants, but I witnessed immense growth from day-to-day. I looked forward to the opportunity to work alongside three of these coaches for our final week to go even deeper.

    I knew Panha, Ranya, and Nara from before, as all three were Community Impact Coaches the previous year. As coaches, they had grown tremendously. Now, it was Emily and I’s challenge to continue their development. We chose to have them run the program. Part of this was because we saw it as a great opportunity to take the “next step”… and part of it because the participants did not speak English and we had no translator…

    Thanks to their previous experiences through the CIC Initiative, they were well prepared to lead a program on their own. Their ability to build a message throughout the week, to lead discussions after the trainings, to foresee problems and plan to avoid them, and to smoothly co-exist and run a training as a team was sublime. Each day, Emily and I were proud but yet relentless. We gave them daily challenges, constant feedback, questioning the why behind their decisions, and they always rose to the occasion. They began to do the same to themselves and began to not only visualize the game unfolding, but the message unfolding — seeing both its impact in that moment and in five years’ time.

    My highlight of the week was seeing each M’lop Tapang staff member, at different times, have an “Aha!” moment. The moment that it all comes together, that Football for Social Impact and Self-Directed Learning begin to mean something. To see that moment passed from Cambodians to Cambodians… now that is a beautiful thing.

  • A New Experience

    September 26th 2017. Michael Johnson Young Leader Jamie Tomkinson wrote about working with CAC and The Door Albania in Shkoder, Albania.

    Our week in Albania was both an experience and a program I learnt a lot from and won’t forget in a hurry. We were living on a farm and were very much back to basics with no internet and being a 45 minute walk from the nearest city. Having grown up in the heart of Edinburgh, a busy capital city, this was a new experience for me entirely. We became accustomed to seeing 6 dogs, 4 cats, geese and even the occasional donkey just wandering past. I didn’t even need an alarm clock for the first time since I was kid, thanks to our friendly but noisy rooster family. And who needs a TV when you’ve got 6 dogs? They were a constant comedy show!

    We also had lots of fun On-Field. As this was a year 3 program, the participants who had been before already had a great understanding and knowledge around the games and knew what types of things to expect. We had a small group who were engaging and wanted to learn. My personal highlight from the week was giving them the time and opportunity to create their own games using their experiences and past knowledge of the previous two years, and then each of them delivering it to the rest of the group. It was encouraging and rewarding to watch them all give positive and constructive feedback to each other after delivering some great games.

    It was evident that this 3 year program has had an impact on these people, they were open-minded about the various social issues we discussed and had a real desire to make a difference in their own communities, using sport as a vehicle to do so.

  • Friendship and Partnership for CAC in NYC

    September 22nd 2017. CAC ASK for Choice Strategist Nora Dooley reflects on our program in New York with South Bronx United.

    I met Eric Saito, the Education Director at South Bronx United, when we were volunteers together in South Africa with Grassroot Soccer. Four years later we both find ourselves still committed to the spaces we chose next: organizations that believe in the potential of sport to be a powerful force of compassion and opportunity. We go about our efforts in different ways, holding onto the belief that collaboration and partnership can launch us into new and improved realities.

    So in 2017 Coaches Across Continents and South Bronx United launched a new partnership, spearheaded by that friendship forged across oceans years ago. We held the first On-Field training in August with leaders from the ranks of SBU as well as other organizations around the boroughs of New York City.

    Over the course of this week we played over 40 CAC sport for social impact games and covered a range of topics including immigration, racism, income inequality, gender, bullying, sexual health and stereotypes. We discussed different strategies of coaching in order to stimulate dialogue around relevant social issues in participants’ lives and communities. We also recognize that some players come to a soccer field to escape some of these issues – so we dug into methodology that allows coaches to create opportunities for players to solve their own problems on the field, developing skills that will transfer into other social spheres.

    The players in SBU sport and education programs are from marginalized and vulnerable populations in the South Bronx. Many come from families of immigrants if they are not immigrants themselves. At a time in the US and the world when finding innovative and collaborative solutions to addressing serious issues of discrimination feels urgent, it is an honor to be able to do so with an inspiring group of New Yorkers, in a city I have called home, and with a dear friend.

    Coming away from this week begs a few questions: How can we build more coalitions in the US – cross-community, cross-issue, cross-sector? How can sport for development programs hold more space in the conversations at the intersections of social justice, education and politics? How can we leverage sport as an artistic tool for activism, like so many already use visual arts, music, and literature?

    Lots to think about, lots to do… back to work!

  • Driving Social Impact Through Sport

    September 20th 2017. CAC program participant and coach JohnPaul McTheophilus wrote about experiencing CAC for the first time in Bali, Indonesia with Uni Papua.

    I had never heard of ‘Coaches Across Continents (CAC)’ until last week when my friend (Bationo) invited me to take part in a 5 day Coaching Clinic by CAC. So, I looked up on the internet and a quick glance at their website raised my curiosity.

    As a football player I’ve had the opportunity to work with different coaches at training grounds and listen to all kinds of tactical instructions,  and motivational speeches on the sidelines as well as in the dressing rooms. I’m always fascinated at how these coaches create their programs and plans that keep players physically and mentally fit to perform at the highest level. So, my view of football has always been on the professional level. I’ve never looked at football as an important tool to drive a social impact movement.

    First, I was happy and motivated to work and learn from people who are genuinely happy in what they do and are committed to helping others especially young people. From Emily’s enthusiasm and excitement, and Tejas’ creativity, the atmosphere was positive and there was never a dull moment. I witnessed the essence of using football as a tool to develop coaches and kids to become critical thinkers.

    Innovative ideas were shared through drills and games like:
    – Circle of Friends
    – Mingle-Mingle
    – Marta for Conflict Resolution
    – Messi For Healthy and Awareness
    – Gaza Support System
    – Stamford Bridge Tag,
    – Games For Children,
    – Scary Soccer, etc

    I was impressed at how each of these football drills and games presented us with several options to tackle social challenges like drugs, alcohol, smoking, sexual molestation or harassment, bullying etc. Information about health related problems like malnutrition and diseases (e.g HIV/AIDS) can be passed and made accessible to children and communities using sport. The games not only revealed social problems and their causes but they also proffered solutions as well as preventive measures.

    At the end, It was the most rewarding experience I have ever had, and I realized that empowering people with knowledge and skills is the key to driving social impact, and we can comfortably inculcate this message through sports. I’m grateful to CAC, especially the coaches Emily Kruger and Tejas, for their positive energy, time and patience throughout the program. I’m very keen to use this experience as a guide to creating social impact anywhere I go.

  • Tbilisi – City of Culture, Poets and Passionate Coaches

    September 18th 2017. CAC Community Impact Coach Lorik Hartoun, from our partners GOALS Armenia, discusses her experiences during our work with Georgia Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs in Tbilisi. We want to thank the Games 4 Good Foundation for supporting Lorik’s trip to Georgia. 

    Almost every Armenian poet, author and intellectual has studied and been educated in Tbilisi in the 19th century and earlier. I have always wanted to visit this city and feel the culture and passion hidden within. I was lucky enough to be able to travel with Coaches Across Continents as a Community Impact Coach (CIC).

    As we were on our journey from Yerevan-Armenia to Tbilisi-Georgia, I had my list of places to visit and some information about the people and country. We entered the city and drove through the city center Avlabari, which is home to an Armenian community. We passed through cobbled streets and saw churches with different architectural styles. We also passed by Rustaveli street which was my favorite, because of its mixture of old stoned and column buildings and modern glass towers. Finally we reached our hotel.

    Our program was held and organized by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia. Almost 80 coaches representing 23 different disciplines registered for the program. It was very interesting to get to know people who are very similar to my ethnicity. Everything except the language was common and similar to Armenians. Even their comments, jokes, their love towards poets, culture and patriotism were similar.

    During the week-long seminar, I learned about the rules of different sports and exercises such as American Football, Frisbee, Baseball, Kudo, Judo and more. It was very inspiring to get to know female judo and other martial arts coaches. During the program we had a discussion about gender equality and their opinions towards it. It was a challenging topic and it was mostly the women who were aware of the positive consequences of implementing gender equality. I also learned that in Georgian the word for ‘mother’ is ‘Deda’, which means mother of Earth. The word for ‘father’ is ‘Mama’. It was very interesting to me that in Georgian the symbol of earth and empowerment is associated with the mother of the family.

    On the last day of the seminar we closed the program with a discussion about children’s rights and the characteristics of a good coach. I received positive feedback from the participants and they showed their willingness to attend the CAC seminar next year. I gained invaluable experience as a CIC during this program; I met coaches and made new friends and partners who would like to organize programs focusing on Female Empowerment. I want to thank CAC for giving me this opportunity.

    On the last night I had some very tasty Georgian wine, combined with lots of toasts and celebrations towards the connection of sport and peace. I want to make a toast towards this program of CAC and its growth and I hope it continues its efforts around the world. Puchka Puchka (Cheers in Georgian)!