Self-directed learning is the heart of our work at Coaches Across Continents. Our Hat-Trick Initiative is based on our “Chance to Choice” curriculum. Over the three years of our partnerships, we want local coaches and leaders to develop into self-directed learners. We then know that they will adapt this model to encourage the next generation of self-directed learners.
Self-directed learners possess attitudes such as independence of mind, confidence in their own judgement, a sense of self-esteem leading to self-actualization and the ability to cooperate and collaborate with others. They are independent thinkers who can define and solve problems, reason logically, engage in the imaginative projection of their own ideas and set goals and strategies to achieve them. They reflect upon experience and learn from it.
Over the course of our three year Hat Trick Initiative, we teach a portion of our curriculum each year to the local coaches. They learn using different famous footballers as role models. We teach four main modules through each player, which are Football for Conflict Resolution including Social Inclusion, Football for Female Empowerment including Gender Equity, Football for Health and Wellness including HIV/AIDS behavioral change, and Football Skills for Life. These four modules teach factual information as well as look to develop self-directed learners over the course of our partnerships.
In the first year of our partnership, the coaches learn what sport for social impact entails and how to use sport to educate instead of just creating the best footballers. In the second year we see local coaches beginning to adapt our games to address their own social issues. In the third and final year we see local coaches identifying and recognizing their most pressing local social issues, creating new football-based games to teach about these issues, and implementing these new games with the youth in their programs. If coaches can identify, create, and implement solutions to a problem – they have become self-directed learners. This means that they are capable of solving all manners of problems both on and off-field in their communities. If we are able to help create self-directed learners, they will possess the ability to solve their own locally-relevant problems in a sustainable manner as well as continue this educational model for future generations to follow. This is ultimate success for Coaches Across Continents.
Football Skills for Life
At 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.
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.
Football for Health & Wellness
We can all agree that being active and playing sports is an incredibly healthy decision for our physical well-being. More and more people are beginning to understand how important a role sports can also play in improving our emotional well-being. CAC uses football to teach both of these messages. We also use football games to educate our participants, who then educate the youth they work with, on how to stay healthy, to practice good hygiene, to think about the food and fluids they put into their bodies, and to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.
At the most fundamental level we teach Health & Wellness games in order to get the heart pounding, the lungs gasping for air, the muscles aching, the sweat pouring forth. One such game is Marta for Health & Wellness. In this game there are cones scattered about in a space with about 3-4 yards between each one. We will have two groups in this game – one group will work, the other will rest. Each will go for 30 seconds and in that time they have to get to as many cones as possible doing different movements at each one. For example, the first round they might touch the cone with their hand igniting more of a speed and changing direction challenge. Then they might jump over the cone with two feet – over and back – before they move on to another cone. Then maybe one foot, then the other. There are all sorts of variations to this game, but they all have the same purpose – get to work!
Either after we finish, or between each exercise, we ask the participants how they feel. We see what information we can pull out of them, not as a test, but to help them understand why it is important to think about exercising in ways that extend beyond becoming better footballers. We ask pointed questions, as we do not want to lecture but, rather, to encourage the participants to think for themselves. In this manner our discussions about health and wellness become locally relevant and we learn about the various cultural factors that influence our ability to stay healthy, in body and in mind.
These Health & Wellness games lay a strong foundation for us to build from when going more in-depth with topics such as nutrition and sexual health. One of our long-time partners, Whizzkids United, has the most comprehensive HIV education program that we have encountered in our work. Their new Football for Hope Center is at their office next to the hospital they partner with in Edendale, a community outside of Durban, South Africa. This relationship allows them to not only educate about HIV/AIDS but to also incorporate HIV testing and counseling, and thorough, long-term follow-up care into their programs. It is small-scale, but it is big impact. Our role in this partnership is helping Whizzkids capitalize on their charge of the Football for Hope Center. Their coaches learn all of our games with particular attention paid to our HIV module. These games embody the messages about sexual health meaning whatever happens during the game is what shapes the discussion.
Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows that before our program only 29% of our participants could teach young people how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS using a football game, whereas after a CAC training, that number jumps to 93%.
Football for Conflict Resolution
Solve your problem; CAC words to live by. The underlying message behind such a simple instruction is that you are looking for an answer; I will not give you one, so find it yourself.
Coaches Across Continents works in some of the most conflict-ridden communities in the world. Our Conflict Resolution games work to confront issues in places such as Sierra Leone where many of our participants are amputees as a result of civil war. An integral part of this module is social inclusion as we work to combat discrimination and solve problems in a peaceful, inclusive manner.
These messages comes to life in many of our games, but they is especially magnified in the Conflict Resolution aspect of our curriculum. In these games more than any others we separate the football for social impact coaches from the football coaches. The best way to explain is with an example. In the game Wilshere for Conflict Resolution there are five cones creating a pentagon. Behind each cone is a line of anywhere from 1 to 4 players but should not be more than 4. The only rule in this game is that players must pass the ball to one line and run to a different line, or in other words, they cannot follow their pass. What usually happens next is a moment of calm, and then many mistakes. Passes will be sloppy, players will take multiple touches before making their mind up, they will forget the only rule, and once they stop doing that, they will pass to the line with only one person in it, meaning it will then become empty. This is what we want.
This one rule forces players to think before they make decisions, and the conflict is inevitable. Our goal in this type of game is to provoke that conflict, and then we say, solve your problem! The players will often look first to the coach for answers because so many societies have ingrained that sense of dependency on authority figures such as teachers and coaches – but not here. They look to us, we say solve your problem, and then what? Magic happens. The players strategize, they start communicating – verbally and non-verbally – they get into a rhythm, quality of passing improves, fewer touches are needed, and they are working as a team. To make it more difficult we can add another ball, we can limit touches to 2 or even 1, and we can give them an objective to reach a certain number of passes without a mistake, or to play for one minute without a mistake. If there is a mistake, we ask, who suffers in football if a player gets a red card? The same goes for this game, if one player makes a mistake, we all pay the price.
At our level in coaching football for social impact these types of games are invaluable. They enable players to think for themselves and find solutions to their own problems, individually and as a team. These skills are important for all of us, and this manner of coaching is crucial for coaches to adopt if we want the next generation to be one of free-thinking self-directed learners. Ultimately these self-directed learners will be able to apply their critical thinking skills to all aspects of their lives. The local coaches and young players will be able to create solutions to whatever problems exist in their communities, the countries, and the world. They will not look to outsiders or to the West for solutions, they will look to themselves. When given the opportunity, when given the chance, children will surprise us all – in a game that has one problem, they will find infinite solutions, and in life when faced with important choices, they will make the right ones.
Extensive Monitoring & Evaluation has given our team some insight into the work we do regarding conflict resolution and social inclusion. Before our program only 19% of participants knew how to use football to teach young people how best to resolve conflict, and afterward, 99% have the skill set to do just that.
Football for Female Empowerment
Why is it important for girls to play sports? This is a question we ask all of our participants, all over the world. Our female empowerment initiative here at CAC is all-inclusive… meaning we hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold the rest of the world. Our team is made up of at least 60% female coaches, and we do not accept partner programs that do not include women in their activities. It is important to understand, however, that gender equity is the ultimate goal. Yet, so often we hear the phrase, “she doesn’t play like a girl.” What does this mean? How do we move away from this type of mentality that so generalizes and devalues female potential?
The need for female empowerment on a global scale is urgent. We recognize that need and in response, allow it to permeate throughout our organization on and off the field. On-field, aside from leading programs with female senior staff and the most female-empowering men you’ve ever met, we have injected it into our curriculum. Every player has a Gender Equity game. An example of one of these games is Messi for Gender Equity. This game addresses violence with particular attention to violence against women and girls.
In order to bring these issues to the forefront we play a game with variations that point to specific topics. In the first round there are the taggers that represent different forms of violence – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual – that chase the others around a box that represents their community. If tagged, the player has to freeze with one hand covering their mouth, signifying the inability to speak. We will stop and have a brief discussion about that round and how difficult it was for the players being chased. We will ask who in their community can help put an end to violence against females and those answers will elicit a ball. The footballs can be passed among the players being chased, representing members of the community that can help prevent violence and also assist those that have been victims of violence. The players in possession of a ball are safe, and those that are frozen can be freed if a ball passes through their legs. The final round of this game allows the frozen players to call for help, demonstrating that an act of violence did not take away their voice.
Messi for Gender Equity is a terrific game of tag that incorporates the ball and captures the essence of violence – the affects, how to stop it, how to help each other, how to help ourselves. The game embodies the message, and the details come through in the discussions, which, as always, vary as the culture varies. A group of sixty middle-aged men in the toughest neighborhood of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Cité Soleil, Haiti, is going to have a different discussion from a group of twenty teenage girls in downtown Mumbai, India.
With this game, and many others, an obvious target is the voice. A massive part in all that we do, the voice is the most powerful tool that we can use to make our own decisions in life, to make our own choices. Every person, young or old, female or male, is entitled to a voice and a choice, and we work to empower them to claim those rights.
Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows us that participants who know how to use football to give young girls a voice and to have confidence to make personal choices jumps from 17% before to 96% after a CAC training.
December 8, 2013. CAC has on volunteer on field coaching positions available. This could involve a trip to South America, Africa or Asia to experience the power of soccer with some of the most inspiring people on the planet. Opportunities from two weeks to two months, depending on your availability. You will be given extensive support on fundraising for CAC both before you go and on your return.