• Impacting Individuals: Interactions From our Past

    December 19, 2014. It’s a week away from Christmas, and we are at our penultimate program of the year. This is the second year partnering with Ballaz International and the Spanish Jamaica Foundation in Kingston, Jamaica. We were impressed with the expansion of and advances made within the Kingston program. There are a greater number of coaches this year with the amount of female coaches up from zero to over twenty percent. It is apparent that Ballaz coaches have made a concerted effort to be the change that they would like to see in their community. With that, this week instead of telling of the larger social impact of our work, we will focus on two Jamaican coaches whose have been influenced by our past interactions and are carrying forward the good work.

    Tashana Vincent, who plays for Jamaica Women’s National Team attended our training with three other members of the Reggae Girlz. Staci Wilson, a CAC coach and a former USWNT player was delighted to work with such high quality. Staci has connected with various organizations in attempts to advance the Jamaican WNT, which was disbanded from 2007-2014 for various reaons. Without their existence, role models for young girls faltered and Jamaica’s lack of female participation and gender equity issues snowballed. The team was reactivated this past year.

    Staci thought that she had originally met Tashana during a recruiting opportunity in 2012. However Tashana insisted it was earlier than that. On the third day of training, everything clicked. Tashana walked up to Staci and declared that she had played against her over a decade earlier, in 2000 in Kingston. Skeptical at first, Tashana pressed on and told Staci that she wore #27 and played wing-defense, and that she remembered Staci out-working and out-running everyone during the match. At the time the Jamaican national team organization was a relatively haphazard. Fast-forward to today and things are still not equal, however the JWNT now has the support of Cedella Marley (daughter of Bob Marley), the JFF, and the country. Our staff was excited to see such progress and Staci was moved by Tashana’s kind words of recognition. Everything adds up to gender equity and progress to where we are today. Because of Tashana’s comments, it is clear that playing against Staci and her team made a lasting influence and encouraged her to continue to play and improve, even when the National team did not exist. She persisted and now is proud to represent her country. She is still involved in the game as a player and is studying to be a teacher. Tashana will become a coach for the next generation of girls and boys as both a teacher and coach – a true pioneer when things seemed bleakest.

    The second coach with a great story is Maximillian McTaggart. He was ‘discovered’ by Ballaz program coordinator Sherrick “Shrek” Williams while working in his home community of Stadium Gardens. Sherrick asked Max why he wanted to coach the kids – and he answered that he wanted to make a change in their lives. Formerly a track athlete and working as a customer service representative, Max’s first soccer training came last year at the inaugural Coaches Across Continents partnership. Although his real job prohibited him from coaching during the week, he found a way to volunteer every Saturday. When his contract expired, he reached out to Ballaz to see if he could work for them full-time. His new and more enjoyable job allows him to coach at three schools and on Saturdays with kids ranging from pre-school through 18. In Max’s own words:

    Working with Ballaz means a lot to me. I now have the ability to reach and impact a child and it’s important because in my community I see a lot wrong with they way the children are being socialized. There is a level of selfishness across all Jamaica. With people being very disrespectful, so I saw coming to coaching as an opportunity to change that. That’s one of my coaching mantras, the idea of respect – not just for the adults, but for each other. I really want to thank Sherrick for giving me the opportunity. If all of us as coaches see ourselves as people that can make that change, then Jamaica can be better.

    Tashana with Ballaz Founder and JFF Grassroots coordinator Andre Virtue

    Tashana with Ballaz International Founder and JFF Grassroots program coordinator Andre Virtue

    Max and Staci share some stories

    Max and Staci share some stories during the CAC training

  • Yeah Mon, Part 1

    IMG_8147December 17, 2013.  Upon our arrival in Kingston, our coaching team was greeted by Ballaz International and fantastic weather. The CAC-Jamaica 2013 team consists of four fabulous coaches: Staci Wilson, Marc-Anthony William, Anna Rodenbough, and Brian Suskiewicz. Staci, originally from New Jersey, won three national titles at UNC and was a gold-medalist for the USA in 1996. She currently coaches in South Florida and volunteers with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Marc-Anthony, originally from Trinidad, played collegiately at Denver University and Huntington University, and is a full-time coach in the New York Metro Area. He also coaches with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Anna, from North Carolina, won two national titles at UNC and currently studies medicine and public health as a UNC graduate student. She previously volunteered with CAC in 2010 in Uganda and Kenya. Brian, as many of you know, is a seasoned CAC vet, having worked in over fifteen countries in the last four years. He is originally from Virginia and played at Boston College before coaching at the collegiate level. Interestingly enough, Staci and Brian were high school classmates at TJHSS&T in Alexandria, VA.

    IMG_8056Soccer clearly permeates Jamaican culture, as evidenced by the presence of the honorable Edward Seaga (former Prime Minister) and the honorable Celsa Nuño, the Spanish ambassador to Jamaica who welcomed us and others to her home during the week.  In addition to that star-studded evening, all four of us had an absolute blast in Kingston. The community coaches were enthusiastic from the beginning and continually gave well-thought-out answers to every question posed.  Our daily contact during the week was the affable Coach Sherrick, who went by the nickname “Shrek.” Many of the coaches were from the Ballaz International organization, but several clubs, schools, and organizations in Kingston were represented. All of the coaches offered valuable social commentary on life in Jamaica so that we could tailor our curriculum to the unique problems facing their communities. Although we have a fairly experienced bunch of coaches on this trip, we were not only teaching, but also constantly learning from the Jamaican coaches.

    IMG_8116The highlight of the week was definitely the discussions held by the coaches during our water breaks.  Their insight into Jamaican cultural norms towards gender equity, violence, and other issues were well-taken, and you can see that there is a passion in the coaches when they discuss progress in their society.  The next generation also got into the act, as two coaches brought their sons to training on the last afternoon.  The messages from our games were immediately picked up by the youngsters, sometimes even faster than their senior counterparts grasped them!

    IMG_8100The connection between Ballaz International and Coaches Across Continents was made possible by the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation and our trip was the support of many sponsors including Scotiabank, Wata, Island Grill, Hi-Lyte, the Spanish Court Hotel, and Riu Hotels. Our coaching team has been treated very kindly by all of these sponsors, who have provided us with delicious meals and wonderful accommodations throughout our program here.  We can’t wait for our second week in Montego Bay!