• “What is the Biggest Obstacle to Equality?”

    May 11, 2014. The best first-day question ever asked by a CAC participant: FACT – Well, it may be, it may not be, but to be asked, “In all the countries you have visited, what do you think is the biggest obstacle in the way of equality?” on the very first day of training says a great deal about the wonderful people we work with.

    Oti leads the coaches in a fun game of Head-Catch, think fast!

    Oti leads the coaches in a fun game of Head-Catch, think fast!

    CAC continues its journey through Kenya, planting the seeds of social impact across this beautiful country. Last week found us in the city of Eldoret, known for its consistent success in athletics, but with a passion for the beautiful game that feeds right into the CAC fire.

    Senior staff member, Nora Dooley, leading our programs in Kenya this year, was joined by Community Impact Coach, Charles Otieno Sisia (Oti), from one of our most valued partners, Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP), as they trained the coaches in the sports network created by KESOFO (Kenya Community Sports Foundation).

    The group of participants this week included a wide range of characters, all with big smiles and big personalities. Our team, as always, had the welcome challenge of designing a curriculum that accommodated everyone, from very little football experience to lifetimes of playing and coaching the game, from referees to players to teachers, and even some journalists thrown in the mix, there was a wonderful mélange of culture and experience.

    Coaches work together during the Pairs Scrimmage

    Coaches work together during the Pairs Scrimmage

    All in all, the games this week went fantastically well as the participants were always ready to have fun and truly grasped the notion of using the power of football as a means of education. There were the usual favorites such as 95% Football, Adebayor Uses a Condom Tag, and Scary Soccer, but there were also some new standouts, the rising stars of the CAC curriculum. One of these games we are calling the Pairs Scrimmage – self-explanatory and unbelievably fun! Players must not let go of their partner’s hand while playing a regular game of football. This simple adjustment begs next-level teamwork and communication and the participants were seldom without a smile while they played.

    Another new game is part of our Child Rights module. After an enlightening Child Rights Protection discussion where equality was the prevailing issue, we played our Right of Children with Disabilities Game. This is another game that is, seemingly, a simple game of football. Then we add changes to trigger the desired social impact, and in this case that meant restrictions. One player on each team could only play 1-touch. One player on each team could only play with one of their feet. One player on one team had to play with one foot by jumping on that foot, while one player on the other team had to play with their arms behind their back. Two players could only walk, while the rest were without restrictions and could play as they pleased. We discussed the game afterwards and when asked why we play this game, participants responded with answers like, “challenging us to solve our problem!” – which we love – or “punishments if we make a mistake.” The latter response played perfectly into the matter at hand – were they punishments? Did you do anything to deserve them? The participant in question realized they had not, and then we transitioned into the discussion about whether people with physical and mental disabilities ask for those circumstances at birth. Of course not, so why should they be treated any differently from anybody else? This game provides a striking visual of the realities of having disabilities, the importance of understanding the difficulties that so many people struggle with every day, and the overwhelming need for social inclusion.

    Chalk it up to another terrific week in Kenya. These now CAC-certified coaches are some of the strongest, most assertive leaders we have worked with. From what our team saw during coaching sessions with children in the community, and from what we heard during discussions and closing remarks, these men and women get it – and they will undoubtedly be spreading the love, continuing to work together to harness the power of football in the greater Eldoret region in the name of youth development, female empowerment, and above all, equality.

    Students learn how to take care of their bodies during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    Students learn how to take care of their bodies during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

     

    To learn how our Staff responded to that wonderfully biting question, comment below or email

  • Buwaya: By Foot, Matatu, Boda-Boda, and a Boat

    April 22, 2014. Our third week in Uganda brings us back for a third year to a remote community on the shores of Lake Victoria. CAC staff members Nora Dooley and Markus Bensch join long-time CAC partner and friend, Godfrey Mugisha (Moogy) for a week-long training in Buwaya.

    P1030476Every morning our coaches embarked on the journey across the lake from Entebbe, which involved walking, chasing down a matatu (large group taxi), clambering into a wooden motor-boat, and hopping on a boda-boda (motorbike taxi). Upon finally reaching their destination, our team was met by a bumpy, yet beautiful grass pitch set above a sprawling green backcountry. As the program participants trickled in from all directions, One World Futbols were scattered about, completing the perfect CAC picture.

    The coaches who joined the training this week are not of the typical CAC breed, but represent everything that CAC stands for – the desire to make an impact in your community. They are not from an existing NGO, they do not have a formal football academy, they are not government or municipal workers, but they are people, passionate people who love a game and want to learn. We cannot possibly ask for more.

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    We had previously visited this community for two years and a few of this year’s participants were part of those trainings as well. Once we got a feel for the dynamic of the group – knowledge, experience, social issues, and the realities of the resources in Buwaya – we were able to steer the focus of the curriculum in the direction of maximum social impact for this particular group, during this particular week, in this particular community.

    Aside from the usual, worldwide favorites like Mingle Mingle and Condom Tag, this group learned tons of football skills during Ronaldo, Wilshere, Xavi, and Wambach Skills for Life, and had an absolute blast with Touré for Health & Wellness and Falcao for Fun. Touré for Health & Wellness is one of our new games that is quickly becoming a CAC fixture. During this game there are two teams lined up in front of identical grids. The grids are made up of four or five cones – in Buwaya we used four bricks (solve your problem!) – and each cone is assigned a number. The coach yells out a sequence of numbers, maybe starting with two and increasing to four or even five at once, and one player from each team has to touch the cones in that exact order as fast as possible, racing the other player to either an additional cone on the other side of the grid or to one football that they race to shoot. This is a brilliant game for agility and quickness of body and mind – a perfect union of football and social impact, not to mention it’s incredibly fun to play as well as to coach.

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    Falcao for Fun is another terrific new game that we ended up playing for an hour with this group… and our CAC staff jumped in – we couldn’t let the participants have that much fun without us! In this game there are two teams lined up by the “posts” or bricks of two goals that are close together. This was a smaller group so we played 2 v. 2 but it can be played 3 v. 3 or 4 v. 4. If one of the teams scores or if the ball crosses the other team’s end-line, then the shooting team stays and two new players come on with the ball from the side that was shot on. This game is FAST and rewards shooting and quick decisions, as the next two players have to be ready with a ball pending a shot from the opposing team. And the group in Buwaya absolutely ate it up – maybe it’s the answer to African football… stop passing/dancing and SHOOT. Who knows?

    After the program our team stayed the night in tents across the lake instead of returning to Entebbe. A fun experience for our staff, but moreover it was a gesture of friendship and gratitude that was deeply appreciated by the entire community. Although this is a third-year program, CAC will be returning to Uganda and will hopefully be able to fit in a quick matatu/boat/boda-boda adventure to pay a visit to our friends in Buwaya.

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  • 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.

     

     

     

  • Allea Allea Comes To Sierra Leone

    IMG_1743March 24, 2014. It has been just over a week since we first arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In one week we have accomplished so much. Every session we average 30-40 coaches who attend and/or participate in our training sessions. The coaches come from near and far in order to participate and they represent teams of polio, amputee, deaf, blind and female players. The coaches greet us every morning with smiling faces and really embrace the different skills and social messages that we teach. They also actively participate in our daily discussions and have helped us identify social messages that are important in their own communities.

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    Off the pitch, we have had the opportunity to explore the city with the assistance of our gracious and very welcoming hosts, Greatest Goal Ministries. We have had the opportunity to visit the beach, go to a Chimpanzee Sanctuary, tour the slums, and view the city from the tops of the rolling hills. After our training sessions we have also had the opportunity to observe a few of the coaches at their own practice sessions with their players.

    We have witnessed first hand the transcendence of our games at these practices with children from 6 to 16 years old and both male and female teams.  The children seem to really enjoy the games as the coaches have done a great job of adapting the games to fit their coaching styles. When we visit the coaches, most of the community comes out to the sessions and all the children call out to us “Allea Allea”, which means white person. Both Sophie and I have grown accustomed to this greeting and return the calls with waves and smiles.

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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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