• Work Hard, Play Hard – Week 2 in Lima, Peru

    November 4, 2014. Volunteer Coach Tomas Torres-Tarver of the One World Futbol family worked with us earlier this year in Colombia and Mexico. He returns to the field for two weeks in Lima, and writes about his experience during the second week of trainings in partnership with UNICEF Peru.

    On Monday October 13th I woke up at 9:15 am, excited to start my second week with Coaches Across Continents in Peru. The first week had gone very well, so I could not wait to see what this week had in store for us. I was excited to meet all the coaches and teachers that were about to take part in this tiring but amazing weeklong course. So I made myself some eggs, grabbed some coffee, and was ready to go alongside Nora, Billy, and Mauro (Community Impact Coach from Colombianitos) to see how this week would pan out.

    When we first arrived at the school we quickly set up and asked the Baseline questions, which help us evaluate how much the participants know about sport for social impact. Then we went to the field and started with Circle of Friends, which is a game that is designed to get participants talking and feeling a little more comfortable with each other. The group started off a little tense probably because they did not know what to expect, but once they saw how we connect the games to real life the group quickly started getting more involved in the conversations.

    One game that had particularly positive impact was the Lines Game. In this game the group is split into two teams and then each team is divided into four groups. Each group on each team is numbered one through four. The two teams line up facing each other standing in lines ordered one through four. When the person leading the game says any two of the four numbers those two lines switch as fast as possible but only with their own team. The first team that gets into its new position wins the round. This goes on multiple times and depending on how fast the group gets the game we start adding new rules like no talking. It was unbelievable how fast this group picked up the game, so we decided to test them: if the person leading the game put up only one number, the two groups with that number would switch across to the other team’s side and this would change the teams. This was one of the best games of the week because it was where the participants really started to understand the idea of this training. To finish the Lines Game we asked the group if they could identify the social message of the game and they said, among other things, communication, problem solving, and working as a team. These were great answers as one of the most important aspects of this game is allowing the players to come up with their own solutions instead of the coach interfering with the problem-solving process. We hope they carry this lesson and coaching style with them into their fields of work, as it is crucial in creating self-directed learners.

    After a great first day, we were invited to stay and practice with the Escuela de Futbol Feminino, a women’s semi-professional futbol team and one of our partner programs in Lima. The girls were awesome and they put us through some of the drills they do on a regular basis, leaving me panting and out of breath by the time I was done. Then we got a chance to play with them in small-sided games, which was a blast. We got to play with these girls three out of the 5 days after our sessions, which was inspiring because in many of these young ladies’ communities they are told that women cannot play futbol. The passion and love for the game that drives these girls to play is truly amazing, and I’m very happy I got a chance to coach and play with these incredible young women.

    During one of the afternoons later in the week we went to see one of the largest impoverished communities of Lima. We went to a school where there were only two teachers working with many children. The work they were doing was amazing, it was like they were the only two people in Lima that knew about this section of the city, or that everyone else had forgotten or didn’t care about this large Brazilian favela-like part of Lima. We shared some of the CAC games with the children, which was difficult for me because I had been left speechless thinking about how a city could just forget about such a large part of its population. We ended the visit at the school with a little futbol match with all the kids. This was a truly moving and humbling experience.

    The last day of the program came so fast, and it was evident that all the participants had really learned and taken to heart the new coaching style we had taught them over the past five days. It is a very good feeling having all these people coming up to us and thanking us for coming to their community and helping them learn how they can have a greater impact with the kids they work with. I couldn’t help but think that I had learned so much from these amazing coaches that really do what they do because of the love they have for their communities, and that passion is an amazing thing to be around. I feel so lucky that I got the opportunity to work with CAC and hope to be with them again in the future to do more of this incredible work.

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  • Self-Directed Surfing and Learning in Lima

    October 22, 2014. Volunteer coach, Billy Hawkey, writes about his first week on-field with CAC in Lima, Peru. 

    This past week I began my journey with CAC in Lima, Peru, eager to see how this world operates, and how futbol can be used for social impact. On the Sunday before the program began Nora, Tomas, Mauro, and myself met with the coordinator at UNICEF, Seppe Verbist, over a delicious lunch at a local Peruvian restaurant where I tried my first chicha morado, leche de tigre, and enjoyed multiple family style platters of fried fish, sweet potatoes, ceviche, and more. Business talk was limited during the meal, but with the nature of our work being such an integral part of our lives, and with a Serie A game playing in the background, it was only natural that some of the discussion surrounded futbol for social impact, sport for development, and the manner in which CAC aims to convey their social messages and develop leaders into self-directed learners so they can breed future generations of intuitive, progressive thinkers in their respective communities. Hearing all this was exciting, but as I have heard many times until that point, I needed to see it, and be a part of it to fully understand how CAC works. We met back at the UNICEF office following lunch to discuss the plan for the week, and what both sides of the partnership were hoping to achieve.

    On Monday, Nora, Tomas, Mauro, Seppe and I were driven to San Juan de Lurigancho, a district of Lima located about 45 minutes north of our hostel where we would hold the trainings for the week. We were stationed in a massive park with tons of courts, fields, a boxing gym, swimming pool, and a BMX track. On the drive in I got my first glimpse of a more realisitc side of Lima. We are staying in Mira Flores, a fairly wealthy and touristy area of Lima, sheltered away from the disproportionate distribution of wealth that looms over this region making it one the most unequal cities in the world in terms of socioeconomic status. I observed mountainsides packed with small houses, stacked one on top of another, that looked as if they were constructed out of the earth. I learned that very few of these homes have running water or electricity, and those that did were not receiving those luxuries on a consistent basis.

    When we arrived at the park we met the program participants for the first time. The group had representation from ten different groups, spanning from Lima to the Amazon. We were very grateful to have representation from implementing partner CARD-PSB, a USAID funded NGO located in the Amazon. There were futbol coaches, basketball coaches, volleyball, boxing, and a chess teacher. There were professors and representatives from the Olympic Committee. It was a diverse group, and overall fairly futbol oriented, but we enjoyed discussing and having volunteers demonstrate adaptions to the games we played to fit their respective sports. Throughout the course of the week the message was stressed that as a coach, you also can perform the role as an educator. What I am learning is that CAC uses the field as a place to learn not only about futbol, but about life, and the coaches have the power to educate their children about much more than the game . We covered a wide range of topics throughout the week inlcuding gender equity and female empowerment, violence, sexual health and good decision making, conflict resolution, communication, teamwork and child protection. After each game, and sometimes before and during, a discussion was held in which the participants had the liberty to say what messages they took away from the game. The messages derived from the games were unique for each person which made it extremely important to create a safe space for discussion where all voices could be heard. As the week progressed, everyone was seeing more and more the parallels between the actual games and the greater social impact that they have.

    One game in particular that was very successful with this group was Child Rights: Right to Education a game focused around the power and importance of education. The format of the game was simple. Two teams played a regular game of futbol to goals. When a team scored a goal, they were granted the oppurtunity to construct a smaller goal anywhere along the outside of the field that they could score on. Each team could set up a total of four smaller goals around the field, resulting in a total of five goals to score on. Only after all four additional goals were set up could the teams begin to count their points. Before the game began we asked the participants what each goal would represent with regards to education. They said that each additional goal would represent a new level of schooling: initial, primary school, secondary school, and universities. The game was fun and dynamic, and lots of goals were scored. In our discussion following the game we asked the participants how this relates to life. They said that with greater levels of education, the more oppurtinuties you have in life. When each team was limited to only one goal, it was much harder to succeed on the field; similarly with only a very low level of education, or with no education at all, your oppurtunities are limitied. It was pointed out that for some children, school is not an option for a variety of reasons. However, what arose from the discussion was that as coaches, we can educate children on the field. We can motivate children to stay in school and help open their eyes to the value of an education.

    By the end of the week myself and the participants grasped what it means to coach sport to have social impact. I believe also that they and I learned a great deal about what it means to be a self-directed learner. The participants heard many times throughout the course of the week “resolver sus problemas”, “solve your problems.” The participants did not need the CAC coaches to hold their hand and show them the answer. It was up to them to find the solution on their own or as a team. Children do not need coaches or teachers to spell out every little detail for them and simply asking for the answer is taking the easy way out. By providing individuals with the freedom to explore all options, and to come to the solution on a path that they devise themselves, they are learning so much more than being told a finite solution. This approach challenges people to solve their problems on their own, taking personal acountablilty and learning through their actions, experiences and listening to others. It was clear that many of the coaches embodied this style of leading by the end of the week when they coached games on their own as part of our Coach-Back process.

    It was a fantastic week and the group was extremely appreciative of our work and similarly we were extremely thankful of their great energy, passion, and desire to learn. They will now take the lessons they learned and the games we played to their respective courts, fields, and communities to educate and lead Peru’s youth.

    Side note: On our day off I went surfing for the first time. Lima, and Peru in general, is home to a rich tradition and culture of surfing so I figured it was about time I gave it a go! No lesson, just put on my wetsuit, grabbed the board and dove in. I guess you could say it was self-directed surfing.

     

     

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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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  • New Country, New Experiences, Big Impact

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    February 28, 2014. It is safe to say that our coaches experienced a true CAC first upon their arrival at their weeklong home on the Yucatán Peninsula. After two flights and a quick 14-hour layover in between, staff members Nora Dooley and Sophie Legros alongside volunteer and all-star translator Tomas Torres-Tarver of the One World Futbol family, arrived safely in Mérida, albeit exhausted, excited, and a bit delirious. Our gracious hosts, FEYAC (Fundación del Empresariado Yucateco A.C.), gathered us from the airport late at night and brought us to our temporary oasis… and when I say oasis, I mean… oasis. Eyes watering from laughing so hard, our coaches could do little else as they soaked in the reality of living directly on a beach, in a gorgeous house with more space than our two seasoned staff knew what to do with. Suffice it to say we are not used to such luxury, but when it comes our way we certainly are not shy in seizing the moment.

    Other than the VIP accommodation, this week in Mérida stands as our first program in Mexico, and this group of coaches definitely delivered. A band of about 50 men and women from all over the Yucatán state, these participants proved each and every day how much they not only care about the children in their care as teachers and coaches, but also how passionate they are about finding innovative ways to educate. They unequivocally latched on to the social messages of every game we played with them, making our jobs incredibly easy, fun, and rewarding.

    1502va108As we do with all programs, in all cultural contexts, in so many communities around the world, we asked this group about the social issues most relevant to their society, to their culture, to the people, young and old, that they encounter in their everyday lives. The feedback we received was integral in planning the training schedule, as our priority is always to give our participants exactly what they ask for as we help them on the path to self-directed learning.

    The collective voice of this assembly of coaches emphasized the reality of bullying and discrimination facing children throughout the communities they live and work in. In response to this we played a game called Lupita Against Bullying. We named this game after a participant in this training who has been playing for the Mexican Women’s National Team for 15 years – Lupita Worbis – a true role model who cares deeply about community development and using her celebrity to pay it forward.

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    In this game there are players who represent different forms of bullying such as insults or violence. These players must chase the others around the grid – which represents their community – and try to tag them. If they tag them they yell out what type of bullying they represent and the player they tag must crouch down on the ground, making it clear that they have been caught. Once all the players are tagged we play the game again, but this time we introduce a way for the tagged players to be freed. This can happen when a free player approaches a crouching, frozen player and empowers them with a complement, raising them back up and giving them the power to run once more. Following this game was a great discussion about how we can combat the issue of bullying, addressing specific circumstances raised by some of the participants as well as in a more general context.

    This dynamic and fruitful week of training left our CAC team in high spirits. Yes, the beach house played a slight factor, but even more inspiring was the passion exuded by the participants and members of the FEYAC team day in and day out. To say we are excited about the future of this partnership is an understatement, but when I say our staff will be fighting over running this program in the coming years… I’m talking rumpus!

    Thank you FEYAC and all the coaches and teachers for the incredible welcome, hospitality, energy and commitment to social impact – ¡Muchas gracias!

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