• Mexican Teachers Get Creative

    CAC SDL coach Turner Humphries blogs from Hermosillo, Mexico as we begin a partnership with FESAC.

    Admittedly, my Spanish has yet to reach fluent levels, but from what I could gather it seemed like one of the participants was asking me a great deal about the type of football played North of the border. He went on to ask me where all my equipment was? Didn’t I need a helmet and shoulder pads? Attempting to ease his worries, I pointed to the box of One World Futbols. “We only need those,” I said. A look of pure relief swept over his face, surely glad that I hadn’t arrived in Hermosillo to conduct linebacker training.

    For our week in Hermosillo, Mexico we would be working with FESAC, an organization that works to link groups within the community together to create spaces for sustainable development and the Department of Education and Culture. With us on the field were over 100 physical education teachers from primary and secondary schools. While most of the participants were experiencing sport for social impact for the first time, they brought with them a creative spirit that meshed perfectly with Coaches Across Continents’ mantra of ‘solve your problem.’ On our final day together the participants were divided into two groups to conduct coach-backs. As the coaches made their way to field, we saw more than just their customary coffee in their hands. Twenty multi-color hula hoops, a handful of bandanas and two massive exercise balls were all making their way to field. The hula hoops were used in a tag game. With hula hoop in hand, the taggers set off trying to infect free players with a disease by catching the free players inside the hula hoop. Cones were then added which allowed the free players to avoid the wrath of the hula hoop; these cones represented healthy measures that would reduce your chance of disease. The bandanas were used in a problem solving game. The bandanas were used to simulate blindness, those teammates without a blindfold were tasked with getting their blind teammate to dribble through a set of cones. The enormous exercise balls were used in an adaption of the CAC game ‘Pairs Scrimmage.’ The rules were adapted to include a mix of rugby, American football, soccer and basketball, hilarity ensued.

    Thinking back to my physical education classes in secondary school I remember itchy gray t-shirts, deflated soccer balls, teenage angst and a teacher that looked like he would have rather been anywhere else. Clearly the students in Hermosillo never have a dull day when they arrive to physical education class, for that they have this creative bunch of teachers to thank.


  • What Does Your Puzzle Look Like?

    January 25th 2016. CAC Volunteer Emily Kruger, goalkeeper for the NWSL Portland Thorns, blogs about our first On-Field Training of 2016 with the Haitian Initiative in Port-au-Prince. 

    CJ explained the second game of day one in Port-au-Prince to the group of 45 Haitian coaches who are in their third year with CAC. He asked them to get into groups of three and spread out around the field, well, actually Denni our incredible translator asked them. As a first timer, I was just participating in the game myself. I got with two others but as I looked around, I saw some pairs standing together. I thought to myself, “how do we solve this problem?” I decided that I could abstain and my two friends could each join a pair. So with few words and lots of gesturing, I made the groups of three happen. I looked to see if Nora, our lead CAC coach, noticed what I’d done, wondering if she would take note of what a good problem solver I was i.e. good coach, right?! Then, during this game of tag where the chase-ee can save themselves by stopping at the side of any trio thereby sending the opposite-outside player of the three to become the chase-ee, the chaser had been chasing all these rotating chase-ees for a long time. It was so hot and I felt for her so I thought to myself again, “how can we (I) solve this problem?” On an impulse I ran towards her to relieve her of her duty, when CJ stopped the activity (I awkwardly just kept running like I was minding my own business). He asked the group, “does anyone see a problem?” Through Denni, the coaches explained that yes, she had been running forever. He then asked, “what can we as coaches do to fix it?” One coach suggested switching her out, as I had thought, and another coach offered adding another chaser to help her. And then it struck me, CAC is all about Self-Directed Learning…being a good coach means supporting others as they create their own solutions, not telling them what you think the solution is. Woah! It was staring me in the face. This was an awesome moment to say the least, and it kept me thinking for the rest of the day.

    We are so wired to tell others what to do and to do what others tell us to do, as well. Parents, teachers, politicians, bosses, coaches, the media…it is rare that we are encouraged to think for ourselves, to be creative, to challenge all of the spoon-fed ideas. And isn’t that the root of so many of our problems: mass groupthink and brainwashing so that we struggle to break the mold? Or maybe it’s human nature to obey, to try to fit the mold. I don’t know. However, I do believe that Self-Directed Learning is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle! For me, the puzzle is the creation of more just and more equal societies where unnecessary human excess and unnecessary human suffering are not commonplace. Hmmm. What does your puzzle look like? And what do you think some solutions could be?


  • CAC’s Magical Words

    November 28th 2015. SDL Coach Nora Dooley blogs from Tanzania about our fifth year working with our very supportive partners at the Njombe Town Council.

    What role do foreigners have in the development of rural towns in countries like Tanzania? That’s a big question. Let me come back to it.

    At Coaches Across Continents we love to say, “Solve your problem.” Those three magical words are translated into scores of languages around the world. And to all who utter them in the CAC context, they mean much more than finding a single solution to a single problem.

    At our recent training in Njombe, Tanzania the sentiment was expressed in Kiswahili: “Tatua shida zenu.” And, indeed, we had some problems to solve.

    Throughout the first day of training we had several communication difficulties, and in one game at the end of the day the participants struggled to move in our desired rhythm for the game. This was a key moment for self-directed learning – both for us as training leaders, and for the coaches and teachers we were working with. Even though we may have an image in our mind of how a game ‘can’ and ‘should’ look, that image does not play on a CAC field. We present the rules as clearly as we can, we answer any instruction-related questions, but if the group can answer a question themselves, well: Tatua shida zenu.

    This method of educating often presents uncomfortable challenges. When you think you know ‘the’ answer as a coach or teacher you often feel it is your job to help your players or learners come to this/your solution. With self-directed learning your job leans at an opposite angle. It is to create a space where all involved feel comfortable exploring their own visions and come up with different solutions individually and collectively. In this manner, your students will surprise you at every stage – even if you have played a game 100 times and never seen it done just so before.

    It can also be uncomfortable for those who are learning in this space, especially if they are older and have already been through a system of education where learning was entirely directed by everything but the ‘self’. We see this often with CAC participants early on in a week of training. Their upbringing and education background tells them to resist such a radical notion as not being given the exact formula to solve an equation. And most of us at CAC can relate, coming up through education systems influenced by similar autocratic teaching philosophies. We believe the best thing we can do is celebrate the struggle and see what new ideas it bears.

    On the second day of our week in Njombe the participants surprised us. They came up with a solution we had not seen in a game that teaches about making responsible decisions with your money  (money = footballs). We celebrated their triumph just as we celebrated the struggle. And on the final day we were fortunate to witness the ease with which they were solving problems on their own, listening to each other, overcoming disagreements with nonviolent communication, and having fun all the while.

    So what role do foreigners have in the development of places like Njombe? That’s a big question. If I was going to attempt an answer, I’d say it lies somewhere in the realm of creating spaces for Self-Directed Learning.


  • Cliffs, Rains and Rocks


    CAC volunteer Charlie Crawford talks about his last CAC program of the summer of 2015 with Uni Papua in Mulia, Indonesia.

    October 7th 2015. The flight into Mulia is a journey not many make. Our plane slid 5 adults, an infant, a motorcycle, and 8 boxes of One World Futbols deep into a green valley of central Papua.

    Working again with Uni Papua, the Mulia doctor and program leader, Dr. Jepprey, welcomed us to his home that overlooks the southern valley and the one-and-only airstrip. The Doctor’s house was unique in Mulia. Designed by an American, the layout had a strangely familiar feel to it, and we were even in one of the few homes with running water! A bonus we hadn’t anticipated and a privilege we would shortly have to earn.

    Turner and I had the weekend to settle in before the start of the program on Monday. It was an appreciated time to get our bearings in this chilly surreal setting. That weekend, after a particularly harsh rain, we woke up to learn the water hose had been damaged. This naturally meant that the early afternoon turned into a hike following the hose and up the mountain to solve the problem. Some digging and climbing later we rested with our mission a success on a cliff overlooking the lower end of the valley. The steepness of some of these mountains was as close to sheer drops as possible while still being climbable. Somehow though, the soil was rich and in this seeming impossible setting we were surrounded by lines of crops. A misstep would mean a tumble to the bottom, and it was here that much of Mulia grew their food.

    As we rested with our new friends from Uni Papua, some half dozen kids joined us with a smile and disappeared into the cliffs only to return some time later with freshly picked pineapples clenched in each hand. It was a proper welcome to a new world. A welcome continued by the daily bunt cakes and casseroles from the Vice-Regent’s thoroughly hospitable and generous wife.

    As the week went on, we fell into a familiar cycle of coaching in the afternoon and working at local schools in the morning. Each morning would involve a couple of our participant coaches and a couple hundred school kids. The fields themselves were something of an experience. Between mountains, most would be at some degree of slant. Between daily rains, the grassy patches would turn to mud. But most impressively, the ground of Mulia is mainly made up of various sized shale rocks which meant navigating a playing field required an entirely other skill than most players have to deal with. Regardless of conditions, when the rains came and the rocks hurt, our coaches would smile and insist on 1 more game.

    I’ll remember the crops that came from the cliffs. I’ll remember the Vice-Regent’s wife bringing cake. I’ll remember being thankful for slipping and not hitting a rock. Most of all I’ll remember working with a wonderful group of people for my last program with CAC this summer.


  • Working with the Army in Papua

    29th September 2014. General Eduard greets us at the field at the Kodam XVII jayapura army base overlooking the serene landscape of Cenderiwasih Bay. Down below the stadium seats, a training drill field holds army men, civilian coaches, a marching band and 2 local football youth teams that are suited up and ready to play a short game of futbol following the ceremony. We are treated to cake and pastries, a common Papuan snack during and after training sessions, and we are accompanied by several army chiefs. After joining the men on the field for the opening ceremony, Cenderawasih, a club team coached by some of the coaches we will be working with, played against another local club team.

    This year was CAC’s first time holding a clinic at the Jayapura army base. Thirty nine participants attended; a mix of army and civilians. I was curious to see how they would respond to the self-directed learning approach to coaching as it is a different way of learning than they are accustomed to in their structured lives. The coaches adapted well and were quick to take in information and respond. Although the clinic only ran for 3 days, we were impressed to see their willingness to run the morning school sessions on their own by the third day. I am confident that the coaches have learned enough of the curriculum to start implementing change where they see fit in their communities.

    An area of focus for us in Papua has been smoking and the high rates of HIV/AIDS. Chain smoking in Papua is very common, especially in the military. The smell of burning plastic and cigarette smoke is almost impossible to escape here. One thing I have particularly noticed while traveling through Indonesia is how uninformed people are when it comes to their health. One man told me he smokes to concentrate better, another told me he smokes so he doesn’t fall asleep when driving. Although uninformed about the actual effects of smoking, it is still clear on every cigarette package that smoking kills. Our discussions about smoking always seem to end with Brian and I encouraging them to be good role models by never smoking in front of their players. The message seemed to reach them as many applauded at the end of several discussions. The Adebayor against HIV/AIDS games raised many questions as well. Many of the coaches were parents as well as coaches, which explained why there were a lot of concerns. Our Adebayor games were created to demonstrate how healthy educated decisions can stop the spread of HIV. After a question and answer filled Adebayor session, I am confident that the majority of these coaches will use our Adebayor and health and wellness games with their teams. Since talking about HIV is stigmatized, playing these games are a great way to start the discussion and create a safe space to talk about it.

    The Conflict Resolution games seemed to have a great impact on this group as well. Mingle Mingle and Marta for Conflict Resolution are both energy filled games that they all loved. Both games require quick thinking and problem solving, with incentive not to lose. Marta for Conflict Resolution is a game where 6 teams line up facing each other in a circle. Each player on the team has a different number from 1-6. When your number is called, you run around the front cone, continue around your team and around the circle until you reach your starting position. There are several variations where you can add a ball, call out two numbers at the same time, and give instruction to pick up the ball at the same time. A lot of cheating arises in the game which calls for teachable moments. Coaches learn the significance of teaching their players the difference between cheating and making a mistake and they also learn that in order to solve problems in life, we must communicate and work together.

    It was great to see collaboration between the army, Uni Papua and the local communities. Huge steps can be taken before CAC comes back to Jayapura next year if the army coaches implement the 24 week curriculum into their practice plans and push their players to think independently and solve their own problems. The future of Jayapura looks promising as the coaches have already started to understand self-directed learning after three practice sessions with us and were determined to show us what they learned at the sessions at the schools every morning.

    As I continue to learn about the Papuan culture my appreciation for the people of this country grows. Uni Papua have been so generous and absolutely lovely to work with. Yanti and Kalin in Sentani treated us like family during our 10 short days working with them, and after sharing our last meal with Eduard’s family the night before our departure from Jayapura, we were taken to a karaoke bar. Brian and I sang “Ironic” by Alanis Morisette which was a highlight of my night; but a close second was the the dan-dout traditional Papuan dance performed by Eduard’s wife and daughter.

    Although we only had three days in Jayapura, our work on the field was extremely productive. We worked with a group of bright individuals who are great role models for Papua and I believe they will have a strong influence on Papuas future leaders.

  • Rwanda – Solve Your Problem

    August 14, 2014. Four incredible weeks in Rwanda working with Football for Hope, Peace & Unity (FHPU) were capped off in the capital city of Le Pays des Mille Collines. The finale of the program, Play for Hope: Rwanda20, took place at Dream Team Football Academy with coaches from teams and organizations around Kigali.

    All four of our trainings in Rwanda were centered on introducing the various groups of participants to our methods of using football as a tool for education and social impact. But as we do in all of the countries and communities where we work, we had to ensure that the curricula for each program were suited to the needs of the community and our partners. And in the case of Rwanda, this meant connecting our games to the country’s history and the ongoing reconciliation process.

    As we mentioned in our first blog about our programs in Rwanda, the people of this country have a hunger. And it is not the type of hunger we encounter in many other African countries where we work, which is often a hunger for aid and a dependency on western influence. In Rwanda, it is a hunger, a yearning, for development, for progress that comes from within. Twenty years ago, the West failed this country, and Rwanda is not about to let that happen again. They – the government and the people together – are taking steps to build local capacity, to develop local resources and create an identity for Rwandans separate from outside influence. And it is working.

    Our experiences traveling the country with FHPU directors, working with over 300 coaches and teachers from all over the small nation, allowed us a unique lens into the field of development that is absolutely sweeping over the thousand hills. As part of our program we played our Peace Day games with each group and had a special focus on the topics of peace and reconciliation during our final week in Kigali. When we played Peace Day – What to Do When Faced With a Problem, some incredible discussions came from conflicts that arose during the game. At one point (as always) somebody made a mistake and another team accused him of cheating. Our coach stopped the game and asked, what’s the problem? It was clearly a misunderstanding of the rules which was a great teachable moment because it showed us how quickly a situation can escalate to conflict without stopping to understand the cause of the problem in the first place. We talked through the issue and the participants involved were laughing and hugging by the end. This event led right into a fruitful discussion about the causes of the genocide, how to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and how to solve our problems peacefully. Another noteworthy aspect of Rwandan society today is that many of the perpetrators of the genocide are living amongst the people, working, living, and eating with families whose relatives they murdered. As outsiders we cannot pretend to understand the complexity of that relationship, but we can respect the strength and resilience, and work with these coaches to further their peace-building efforts. And with us that means a football is in play.

    We also learned during this time that the widespread understanding of what went wrong in 1994 points to corrupt internal leadership as well as the failings of the West – specifically the influence before and the absence during the genocide. Having knowledge of these factors we were able to provoke situations in games that led to discussions about these important issues. It is known throughout that CAC lives by the words – solve your problem. This simple statement is so much more than three words suggest, and this is especially true in Rwanda. “Solve your problem” means don’t wait for me – your coach/teacher/parent/adult – to solve it for you because you – the player/team – can solve it yourself(ves). Rwanda has already adopted this notion largely because of what happened in 1994, when they looked to the countries who were supposed to help, and those countries turned their backs. Never again. Rwanda will now solve their problem the Rwandan way, and they are doing it every day.

    We are proud to be even a small part of this exciting movement in this beautiful country working with the wonderful FHPU, and we can’t wait to see what the newly trained social impact coaches do next. The Peace Day games discussed in this article are part of a bigger initiative for the International Day of Peace on September 21st – look out to see what happens in Rwanda next month!