• Education For A Changing World

    February 1st 2016. CAC SDL coach Rubén Alvarado writes from Monterrey about our work there with Street Soccer Mexico.

    “When I was a kid, all my problems would fade away when I touched the ball. It was like entering into a dream, I forgot about everything, all that existed was me, my friends and the ball…like living in a different reality”.

    “La pelota no se mancha” (The ball does not stain) said Diego Armando Maradona, after admitting he had made mistakes and “paid” for the consequences in his career as a footballer. He made it clear that, no matter what, the opportunity for human beings to find their wonder through the game, remained untouchable.

    I heard the words that start this blog 2 years ago, in my first encounter with the concept that would enhance the transformation in my perspective on Fútbol: Sport for Social Impact. I attended a CAC training as a participant and heard my good friend Joshua Alí (from Street Soccer México) say them in such a sincere way that, even tough he might not remember that moment, they’ve stayed with me until this day. The Ball has the capacity to enable the creation of new realities, just like it happened to Joshua during his childhood. I wanted to play that game as well.

    “Look Hooch, there you can see El Cerro de la Silla (The Saddle Mountain)” I told my friend and SDL Coach Turner Humphries, with that eagerness one feels when wanting to to share a treasure (the beauty of my motherland) on our first day of training when we walked outside the High Performance Center of Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, our home for the week. In the past two years we worked with Street Soccer México in México City, but for this year’s training they made a visionary partnership with the School of Social Work and Human Development of UANL (the largest University in Nuevo León). The two organizations aim to impact the life of hundreds of thousands of kids and youth in Nuevo León, México City and other states like Oaxaca and Chihuahua, through the professionalization of the work that teachers, sports coaches, social workers, leaders of civil society, etc. do towards transforming and healing their communities. Our participation in this project consisted in offering efficient and fun tools, practices and techniques on field that would complement the brilliant theoretical part that the University’s academic authorities provided for the participants. After completing the course, besides CAC’s certification, they would also receive the title of Entrenador Social (Social Coach) from SSM and UANL.

    During the training we worked with experienced participants in community sustainable transformation, including social workers, people from the state security department, sports for social impact coaches and social work and human development students. We dived into deep and rich moments of dialogue in which we reflected on how through every personal story (from the specific work everyone did in their communities) a larger, heavy on the back of the optimists and dreamers, social decomposition showed. The anger and sadness that people in Mexico feel about financial poverty, insecurity and violence equals their sense of incapacity to do something about what causes them. How do we, a group of people wanting to change that face of reality, deal with this scenario?

    Knowing what hurts does not help us identify and understand our problems and their roots, nor give us the capacity to solve them once we see and comprehend them. We agreed that sometimes we don’t know how to do it, and one of the best things that we can learn consists in knowing how to not know. When in uncertainty, what should one do? Not listening to the same voices that command reality as we live it today, we must come together, ask and explore, but mainly listen, listen to the Human Being before culture, tradition or duty, they said. CAC’s Education for a Changing World creates spaces where people acknowledge the unknowability of the future as something given, while at the same time develop perspectives, skills and behaviors that would enable them to create it. “The meaning of life is to make meaning of it”.

    Having come back to México helps me reconnect with the pain and the joy that the country, my country, experiences today. After a vibrant week with people that intend to become peace ambassadors in turbulent times, my feet feel ready to keep walking with them to create paths of manifest freedom in which The Ball doesn’t serve to step out of what impoverishes humanity, but simply, to celebrate the life our hearts whisper we can live.

    Punto y seguimos.

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  • The World That Our Hearts Tell Us Is Possible

    Three time CAC volunteer Anna Rodenbough writes about her experiences with Street Soccer Mexico last week.
    January 23rd 2015. Although I have previously volunteered with CAC in East Africa in 2010 and Jamaica in 2013, this past week was the first time I had worked with a partner program in their second year of the Hat-Trick Initiative. I am incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to work with Street Soccer Mexico (SSM), a wonderful organization based in Mexico City that coordinates soccer-for-social-impact trainings and tournaments across the country of Mexico. Though we only spent a few days working with SSM in Mexico City, my time spent there galvanized my belief that CAC can help to inspire a better world.

    While that may seem like a bold belief, I am supported by the measurable changes that have occurred at SSM since they began their partnership with CAC one year ago. At the start of each program, CAC performs a baseline questionnaire to determine the level of sport-for-social-impact knowledge and skills from which the participating partners are starting. With SSM, about half the coaches were returning after taking part in the first year of the on-field training with CAC. Because of this, the group’s baseline knowledge was quite high – much higher than any other group with which I had previously worked. This presented a unique opportunity for us to build upon an already strong foundation during our time with SSM. It also gave the SSM coaches the opportunity to begin adapting the CAC games to their communities. In addition, the returning coaches shaped a positive learning environment for the coaches who had not previously had exposure to the CAC games.

    It became clear to me on the first day of our training with SSM that the coaches were staunchly committed to generating positive change in their communities. They were constantly engaged in training and were eager to share their own ideas and experiences. They worked hard, both physically and mentally. And they were passionate about using football to improve the lives of the children in Mexico. Over the next couple of days, the SSM coaches continued to astound me with their creativity, intelligence, and work ethic. On the final day of our program, we asked the coaches to create their own games to teach to us. Normally, CAC reserves this activity for programs in their third year of the Hat-Trick Initiative, as they work on the “Create” aspect of the “Educate  Adapt  Create” curriculum. However, we felt that the coaches at SSM were ready to showcase their abilities, and we were right! Working in groups, the coaches taught us a litany of well-developed and innovative games that addressed the dangers and obstacles faced regularly by the children in their communities. In addition, the coaches emphasized the importance of giving those children a voice with which to make positive choices in their lives.

    The strength of the coaches that I witnessed firsthand on the field was supported by the endline questionnaire that we performed after completing the trainings. All of the coaches in attendance, whether young or old, male or female, proudly raised their hands to acknowledge their familiarity with football games that teach about gender equality and women’s rights, conflict resolution, health and wellness, children’s rights, skills for life, and fun. I was impressed by the gains made in just a few days with a group of coaches that was quite accomplished at baseline.

    During our time in Mexico City, we asked several of the SSM coaches to share with us their dreams for the future. One of the coaches, Ruben, gave an incredibly moving answer:

    “When I grow up, I would like to see individuals and collectives acknowledging freedom and power, and creating from that space, living from that space. Because I think that, if we do that, we could create a world that our hearts tell us is possible.”

    After working with SSM last week, I am more confident than ever that CAC can help to make that world a reality.

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  • I Have A Voice

    Coaches Across Continents volunteer Marie Margolius writes about her first week in Mexico City with Street Soccer Mexico.

    January 20th 2015. During our second day in Mexico City, Anna and I ran the afternoon session on Female Empowerment. Before taking the field after lunch, we led a short off-field discussion about the rights of women and how the Street Soccer Mexico coaches can foster gender equal environments on the field. The issue of gender inequality was not initially identified as a priority for Street Soccer Mexico, but during our discussion of the abuse and inequality that women face all around the world, it became clear that gender inequality was a main issue in Mexico, too. The most chilling and inspiring revelation of this truth came when one woman by the name of Lasalia, who had not spoken the entire week, stood up and made a heartfelt, passionate announcement. With a twinge of frustration and a sense of urgency in her voice, Lasalia told her (mostly male) peers:

    “People often think that women in Mexico don’t face the types of abuses that other women around the world face, but in reality they do. Now in Mexico we have more assaults of young girls than people think, but because these girls are often very young they don’t or can’t talk about it. So yes, there is mistreatment of women by men, but the women are silenced by their male older partners who abuse them. It’s different in every country, but it’s a problem in our country, too.”

    Although the Street Soccer Mexico director and strategists didn’t initially identify gender inequality as a relevant issue in their areas, when Lasalia began speaking about the reality of the gender situation in Mexico, she was met with sincere concern and respect from the Street Soccer Mexico staff. This response was both encouraging and indicative of Street Soccer Mexico’s open-mindedness and ability to challenge norms and traditions in the name of social progress.

    Lasalia’s speech gave the CAC staff chills, and Street Soccer Mexico’s response warmed our hearts. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of coaches for our first week in Mexico! Off to Guadalajara to work with the Rafa Marquez Foundation!!
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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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