• The Rose That Grew From Concrete

    December 14th, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Mark Gabriel, writes about his personal reflections from the week on-field in Hpa an, Myanmar with Football United

    The Rose That Grew From Concrete  named accredited to Tupac Amaru Shakur

    My friend’s dad once told me, “You never know the impact you have on people. Something you do now could impact them forever. You won’t know it and maybe even they won’t know it. Just live it, be it, and have faith.” These words have helped me understand my role as a Self-Directed Learning Coach and Process Consultant with CAC. I do this work because I believe that, by empowering community leaders to challenge the status quo and ask themselves, “Why do I believe what I believe?”, they are able to be the master of their ways. To make sure that any changes in mentality and behavior come from within the community, we as CAC only stay in each location for one week (and continue the year-round partnership from afar). I have oftentimes been asked if I really think anything can happen in just one week On-Field. My answer — yes. This approach allows for the community leaders to be the catalysts of change rather than looking at us to be. The only thing is… if there is change, I probably won’t see it. Change takes time, and that goes for anything. If you want to lose weight, or learn how to meditate, it takes time. And those changes only have to do with you! Imagine when it involves an entire community. Or an entire culture and belief system. Yea… it can take a while.
    But we are not here to be the change. We are not here to see the change. We are here to spark the change. As a Self-Directed Learning Coach, we constantly challenge ourselves and our participants to self-reflect. This in and of itself can be life-changing for many (it sure has been for me). Questioning oneself, one’s beliefs, one’s culture, one’s existence, is not a frequented practice, but yet its power is incomparable. Each program is unique in its own right, as are the participants. However, the impact of having them ask themselves the “Why?” behind aspects of their life stays consistent. Many a time, it is a first for participants to do such a practice.

    This week in Hpa-An, it felt much the same. Our participants ranged from players to students to coaches to wannabe coaches, and all were confident in their culture and how life goes in Hpa-An. As they should be! Who knows life in Hpa-An better than them? But once we challenged to think about life itself, and not just in the context of their home, the gears began to spin. Having them question when to award a team a point (do you award the team that finishes first or the team that does it right? Why?), the importance of competition, who can/cannot play sports, what are the differences between man and woman; these questions transcend any cultural norms but find people answer through their own perspective, influenced by their upbringing. Even as a facilitator of these programs, I still find myself falling back to my own culture to paint a picture of the world. Each program I lead, I find myself being challenged more and more to break my tainted perception. This shows us how much our nurture impacts our views on the world. Such realizations and the following inter-personal reflections are what will lead to change.

    As of right now, what will become of Football United in Hpa-An is a bit unclear as it is in the beginning stages. It would be easy to be discouraged by the lack of “impact” when looking at sheer numbers of trainings, numbers of coaches, number of players worked with, etc. But impact is much more than these quantitative measures. If our training led to one participant challenging her or hisself, the potential impact is limitless. Maybe I won’t be the change, or see the change, but maybe I hear of the change. One day.

    Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.”

    — Tupac Amaru Shakur

     

  • Second Week in Freetown

    March 27, 2014. We are just about to wrap up our last session with the coaches in Sierra Leone. This second week has been incredible. You can tell that the coaches have really formed a bond with one another. For instance, the way they interact and goof off yet listen and respect one another during discussions is indicative of a certain level of comfort. I would almost go as far as to say we have formed our own futbol family.P1080670

    Having that extra week has served as an advantage, for we were able to devote a lot of time for the coaches to invent their own games with a social message and then coach it back to the entire group. The coaches did a wonderful job of creating discussions around their social messages and really focused on issues that affect their communities specifically, such as Malaria and HIV awareness.

    Another highlight of having a second week to coach is that we were able to make time for 2 scrimmages; the first, local Freetown coaches vs out-of-area coaches and the second, all of the coaches vs a local deaf team. The coaches have been anticipating both of these scrimmages since the first day of training. Everyone enjoyed playing against one another and for me it was nice to finally play with the coaches. At some point you have to pull a ‘Ronaldo 1’ on a coach in the real game to show them you practice what you preach.

    In all seriousness, I have enjoyed getting to know these coaches. They have been a great group to work with. They greet us with a smile every morning and come with enthusiasm for learning new games. I could not have asked for a better audience on my first coaching trip with CAC. While I do enjoy posing for a hundred pictures a session, our last day is upon us and it is time to say goodbye. I am sad that our time here is coming to an end, but I feel satisfied that we have made a significant impact in the coaching community here in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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  • Self-Directed Learning

     

    P1070332Self-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

    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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  • Street Soccer for Social Impact

    March 5, 2014. From the beach to the city, CAC programs in Mexico moved to the capital for an intensive, three-day training with a great new partner. Street Soccer Mexico is based in Mexico City but has leagues running throughout the country. Coaches traveled great distances to be part of our program, but unfortunately, lack of funds prevented even more from making the trip. This organization’s initiative centers on getting youth off the street, away from negative influences, and onto teams where they are taught life skills and hopefully given hope for their future.2014-02-18 14.38.02

    For these three days we ran a three-hour session each morning and afternoon and had between thirty and forty coaches throughout the program. This group was made up of a truly diverse scope of participants ranging from international freestyle football champions to the president of Street Soccer Mexico himself. Our team was thoroughly impressed with this group, and particular note must be given to Alejandro, a single-leg amputee and excellent footballer who attended our training with his coach. This posed a welcome challenge for our team as we worked to develop a curriculum that could be enjoyed by the group as a whole, and by the final day it was clear how pleased all parties were with the result. We were also joined by One World Futbol (OWF) Chief Operating Officer, Arnold Ambiel, alongside his son, Nick, on break from high school. Valuable partners for both CAC and Street Soccer Mexico, it was wonderful to have OWF representatives on the field with us, playing with their own indestructible footballs and watching them come to life during CAC games.

    2014-02-19 13.44.22One of the priorities for the week, stressed by the participants, was to teach games that addressed the issue of discrimination, and the many forms it can take in our community. One of the games we chose to play in order to tackle this issue on the football field was Falcao for Gender Equity.  In this game one team is attacking one goal and defending three goals, while the other team is defending one goal and attacking three goals… That is so not fair!  Yes, yes, we know. The idea is to provoke that sense of unfairness to demonstrate the absence of equal opportunities in our society. So, what’s not fair? Can you give me an example of a time when you or someone you know did not have the same opportunity as others? Why? Because of how they look, the color of their skin, their ability to play football, how fast they can solve a math problem, whether they have all their body parts, how much they weigh, what organ they have between their legs? With this game we use a really fun – and I mean really fun, our coaches always have to jump in and play – football game to emphasize the reality of discrimination in the world. We always pose the questions to the group, however, in order to learn from them about their community, the different types of discrimination they face in their schools, on their teams.

    Our three coaches for this program, Sophie, Nora, and Tomas, the Latin American team, were extremely impressed with this group session after session, day after day. They showed up with smiles, enthusiasm, an eagerness to learn, and above all, a passion for their work and a commitment to the social impact side of coaching football. The future of this partnership with Street Soccer Mexico is booming with potential, and we cannot wait to hear about what they do throughout the year.

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  • New Country, New Experiences, Big Impact

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    February 28, 2014. It is safe to say that our coaches experienced a true CAC first upon their arrival at their weeklong home on the Yucatán Peninsula. After two flights and a quick 14-hour layover in between, staff members Nora Dooley and Sophie Legros alongside volunteer and all-star translator Tomas Torres-Tarver of the One World Futbol family, arrived safely in Mérida, albeit exhausted, excited, and a bit delirious. Our gracious hosts, FEYAC (Fundación del Empresariado Yucateco A.C.), gathered us from the airport late at night and brought us to our temporary oasis… and when I say oasis, I mean… oasis. Eyes watering from laughing so hard, our coaches could do little else as they soaked in the reality of living directly on a beach, in a gorgeous house with more space than our two seasoned staff knew what to do with. Suffice it to say we are not used to such luxury, but when it comes our way we certainly are not shy in seizing the moment.

    Other than the VIP accommodation, this week in Mérida stands as our first program in Mexico, and this group of coaches definitely delivered. A band of about 50 men and women from all over the Yucatán state, these participants proved each and every day how much they not only care about the children in their care as teachers and coaches, but also how passionate they are about finding innovative ways to educate. They unequivocally latched on to the social messages of every game we played with them, making our jobs incredibly easy, fun, and rewarding.

    1502va108As we do with all programs, in all cultural contexts, in so many communities around the world, we asked this group about the social issues most relevant to their society, to their culture, to the people, young and old, that they encounter in their everyday lives. The feedback we received was integral in planning the training schedule, as our priority is always to give our participants exactly what they ask for as we help them on the path to self-directed learning.

    The collective voice of this assembly of coaches emphasized the reality of bullying and discrimination facing children throughout the communities they live and work in. In response to this we played a game called Lupita Against Bullying. We named this game after a participant in this training who has been playing for the Mexican Women’s National Team for 15 years – Lupita Worbis – a true role model who cares deeply about community development and using her celebrity to pay it forward.

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    In this game there are players who represent different forms of bullying such as insults or violence. These players must chase the others around the grid – which represents their community – and try to tag them. If they tag them they yell out what type of bullying they represent and the player they tag must crouch down on the ground, making it clear that they have been caught. Once all the players are tagged we play the game again, but this time we introduce a way for the tagged players to be freed. This can happen when a free player approaches a crouching, frozen player and empowers them with a complement, raising them back up and giving them the power to run once more. Following this game was a great discussion about how we can combat the issue of bullying, addressing specific circumstances raised by some of the participants as well as in a more general context.

    This dynamic and fruitful week of training left our CAC team in high spirits. Yes, the beach house played a slight factor, but even more inspiring was the passion exuded by the participants and members of the FEYAC team day in and day out. To say we are excited about the future of this partnership is an understatement, but when I say our staff will be fighting over running this program in the coming years… I’m talking rumpus!

    Thank you FEYAC and all the coaches and teachers for the incredible welcome, hospitality, energy and commitment to social impact – ¡Muchas gracias!

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