• Social Inclusion Through Sport

    June 23rd 2014. Our first week in Zimbabwe was quite different than what a normal week looks like, but it made it interesting and challenged our adaptation skills. We worked in Mutare, a town with a beautiful landscape, surrounded by mountains. The week was separated into two 2 days workshop and 1 day working with the coaches from S4S, our partner in Mutare. The first two days, we worked with teachers who mostly work with children with disabilities, either physical, mental, hearing, speaking, etc. Being more reserved at first, once on the field, they did not hesitate to let go and have lots of fun. Dance moves and smiles all around were a big part of our warm-up, and of the day in general. With them, we worked a lot on how to adapt our games for the needs of their children with disabilities. With them, we covered Circle of Friends, an warm-up game that involves going to the middle of the circle by doing a certain movement, and then switching with someone on the outside by shouting something, or doing a dance move, or the well liked “Boom-Shakalaka”. Following, we played Ronaldo for Health and Wellness, which we adapted for deaf children (Markus got to successfully practice his non-verbal communication skills!). The game consists of listening, or watching the leader sign 1,2,3 or 4, and then the followers must jump to the appropriate corner. In general, with the help of the teachers, we came up with adaptations for most of the games, which was very good for them, and for us.

    The next two days, we worked with youth and caregivers, focusing on games that involved “solving your problems” and finding solutions. Two of the games that worked especially well were Wilshere for Health and Wellness and THo (Tim Howard) for Conflict Resolution. Wilshere for Health and Wellness involves two teams, in which the teams must find the fastest way for every player to touch the ball. THo for Conflict Resolution has players split in equal teams, put in a line, and the ball must make it to the back of the line and back in front. The fastest team wins. These two games created some minor conflicts, where teams were trying to cheat, and calling each other out, but in general, teams found good solutions and got the message on the importance of teamwork and finding solutions. During the two days at Chancellor School, every time we played Circle of Friends, it was time for the school recess. The hundred of kids who gathered around our circle, started laughing out loud instantly as soon as we did the “Boom-Shakalaka” exchange. The children all had a good time, and were intrigued by what we were doing. In general, it was awesome to see the impact we had on caregivers, but also on the youth. One of the young men even asked us how to get where we are and get involve in what we do. I learned a lot from that group about how to keep a positive attitude and work together as a group no matter what.

    On the last day, we worked with the S4S coaches, where we got to play more soccer-oriented games that still had a powerful social message. From the coaches feedback, they really enjoyed Hope Solo for Health and Wellness, a mirror game where two players facing each other, must copy what corners the other one runs to. From my own perspective of playing the game with them, that game will really get your heart pumping and our muscle hurting. Another game they really enjoyed was the Savings game, a handball game where you get a cone (representing money) every time your team completes ten passes. With the coaches already being very knowledgable about sport for social impact, since it’s the programs third year with Coaches Across Continents, it was good to have them give their input and participate in discussions.

    For me, my first week with Coaches Across Continents was a good experience. Even though when I was home I could not stay awake at all (I guess time change will do that to you), on the field I learned a lot. I learned a lot on how to adapt our different games and how to adapt our plans to changing circumstances, and I am looking forward to the new adventures our week in Bindura will bring.

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  • The Half Year in Review

    June 11, 2014. The FIFA Men’s World Cup is upon us and Coaches Across Continents has teams of coaches working with local partners in Kenya, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and starting shortly in four locations in Brazil. Even with all this activity founder Nick Gates also has found time to speak tomorrow morning for 25 minutes on Sirius radio on the Wharton Business network, channel 111 (Thursday, June 12th, 8:00 AM EST).

    With the world focused on the showcase event of the world’s greatest game, it seems like an opportune time to reflect on the real power of sport and how Coaches Across Continents is using football to create self-directed learners all over the world to educate about conflict resolution including social inclusion, female empowerment including gender equity; health & wellness including HIV/AIDS behavioral change, and life skills.

    One of the biggest stories of the year is our partnership with Chevrolet FC and Manchester United and their “What Do You #PlayFor?” campaign. This will be a two-year, ten-program, multi-country initiative that sees revitalized football pitches and sport for social impact education for local organizations all over the world. The first two “What Do You #PlayFor?” programs of the year were fantastic. Videos have been released detailing the work of Rumah Cemara (Indonesia) and their use of soccer to combat stigma against HIV/AIDS. In total these videos have garnered over 7.3 million views! Within the next month another set of videos will be released regarding our latest training in this campaign with fellow former Beyond Sport Winner Beyond the Ball in Little Village, Chicago, USA.

    This year has also seen our coaches on the ground with our Hat Trick Initiative partners in Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Indonesia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and the USA. Overall CAC is projecting that we will conclude 2014 having worked on field with our partners in 28 countries with an estimated 75 local organizations using sport for social impact. This will educate over 3,000 local leaders who will further impact 250,000 children. Even when CAC is not on the ground with our partners we are thrilled to see their progress and work with them through on-line resources. Recently our curriculum was adopted in schools in Nepal and Tanzania. On March 8th, our female empowerment games were played by our partner programs for International Women’s Day. CAC has also signed on with Peace One Day for their One Day One Goal initiative when our games will be played by organizations in over 130 countries on Peace Day, September 21st. The final global day that we support with our global network will be World AIDS Day on December 1st.

    Off field in 2014 Coaches Across Continents has spoken at top events including the Next Step Conference in India, the NSCAA Convention in Philadelphia, Reach Out to Asia’s “Empower” Conference in Qatar, and the Hofstra Soccer Conference in New York where our Chief Executive Strategist, Brian Suskiewicz, had the great privilege of speaking with Pelé.

    Furthermore CAC is one of six organizations selected by UNICEF to develop a global child rights policy concerning children in sport. We are proud that in 2014 every participant of our coaching courses has had a practical and locally relevant Child Rights education session. Off field has also seen the launch of a new website, new branding and logos with the phenomenal work of the Taiji Group, and a more focused mission towards creating self-directed learners over the course of our Hat Trick Initiative.

    It is for all these reasons that Coaches Across Continents is the global leader in sport for social impact. Coaches Across Continents will continue to push forward as the global leader in sport for social impact as we continue our mission of enabling communities to create lasting social change through sport. As we move forward, we are working towards our vision of realizing the day when all governments, municipalities, schools and communities have the skills to use sport as a social impact tool and make the choice to do so.

    If you or your organization want to get involved or support Coaches Across Continents, please contact us at or find the information you are looking for on our new-look website, built by the Taiji Group!

     

    Pelé gets a chance to meet Coaches Across Continents Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz. (photo credit Zack Lane, Hofstra University)

    Pelé gets a chance to meet Coaches Across Continents Chief Executive Brian Suskiewicz. (photo credit Zack Lane, Hofstra University)

    Coaches Across Continents Communications Strategist Nora Dooley makes a friend in Haiti

    Coaches Across Continents Communications Strategist Nora Dooley makes a friend in Haiti

    Ginan (center) is the star of the new Chevrolet FC video highlighting the partnership with Coaches Across Continents

    Ginan (center) is the star of the new Chevrolet FC video highlighting the partnership with Coaches Across Continents

     

  • “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

  • 7th Year in Kigoma

    May 5, 2014. CAC returns home to the birthplace of our organization – Kigoma, Tanzania. Markus Bensch writes about his experience in Kigoma as he continues his training with Staff member, Sophie Legros. 

    After we finished with our programs in Uganda Sophie and I had one week time to complete the 850 km from Entebbe, Uganda to Kigoma, Tanzania. After we reached Bukoba on Tuesday we went on a 12 hour bus ride to Kigoma on Friday at 6am. It was one of the roughest bus rides for me due to bumpy, gravel roads which even left a bruise on my coccyx as a memory for the following week.

    Coaches having fun during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    Coaches having fun during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    But the very warm welcome by Mr. Peter Kilalo, the Sports officer, and Mr. Sombwe, the Cultural officer, of the Kigoma Municipality at the bus stop made me quickly forget about it. On Saturday we went to meet all the district school officials and introduce our program to them. Everybody was very excited about our program and a lot of people recognized us as CAC due to our 6 years of lasting cooperation with Kigoma.

    After we had time to rest over the weekend we started on Monday afternoon with 28 coaches and teachers for our first session. The training conditions were very good, because we could use the new pitch which was built in 2011 initiated by CAC. We had a good mix of returning coaches and newcomers. Some of the returning coaches remembered games they learned in the previous years like “Mingle Mingle” or “Ronaldo Skills”.

    Due to the fact that it was our 7th year in Kigoma we could teach them any game from our three year Hat-Trick curriculum. Games like “Tim Howard for Gender Equity” and “Know Your Rights” they enjoyed the most and got very competitive. The first one is a handball game of two teams where they are only allowed to run with the ball at most three steps and the players can score by throwing the ball into the goal. It turned out to be a brilliant problem solving game where the players set up new rules to make the game more enjoyable. The 2nd game is a child rights game where you need fast thinking and quick feet, because the coach is yelling out different child rights which are associated to different corners of the pitch and two team members of each team have to run to the child right that is yelled out first or second respectively. The participants got again very competitive and had a lot of fun and the game caused a lot of confusion which gave us the opportunity to engage them to discuss strategies to solve their problems.

    Coach-backs initiated discussion amongst participants

    Coach-backs initiated discussion amongst participants

    We were positively surprised by the coach-backs on Friday. During the week we weren’t sure if they always understood the games and the social impact of them. During the coach-backs we could see that they really did understand and they even choose the more difficult games like “Can Adebayor see HIV” or “Know your rights” to practice coaching.

    Over all it was a successful week although we faced quite a big fluctuation in the numbers of participants, due to the fact that the teachers had an important meeting on Tuesday afternoon and on Thursday they celebrated the 1st May (Workers’ Day) which caused a reduced numbers of participants on both days. In total we welcomed 39 coaches during the week and we’re looking forward to hear from them about their successes in implementing and adapting the games in their weekly sports classes and football trainings. As mentioned earlier we saw in the coach-backs some very promising examples which make us excited about the future of the partnership with the coaches and teachers in Kigoma.

    By the way the bruise is healed and tomorrow Sophie and I fly from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam, so there should be no risk for bumpy roads and a bruised coccyx.

    After a successful week coaches proudly received their certificates

    After a successful week coaches proudly received their certificates

  • 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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