An Interview With A CAC Participant
February 18th 2016. A Q & A with Francisco Ramon Longoria Pacheca, a participant in the recent CAC training in Nogales, Mexico with FESAC.
Q: How did you come to hear about the Coaches Across Continents training in Nogales?
Francisco: I’m around this area a lot. I play basketball on the courts just behind the soccer field; I coach over there every now and then too. I don’t play soccer, but I saw you guys out here and thought the course looked interesting. Other coaches from FESAC encouraged me to join so I did.
Q: You said you do some basketball coaching, who do you coach and for what team?
Francisco: Well, I’m not a coach in the traditional sense. Basketball is my passion, so if I see a game going on at one of the courts I join in and play a bit while giving pointers and tips to the kids. Here in Mexico we have a lot of talented young basketball players, but they go without good coaching for so long that they develop bad habits.
Q: Have you found this training useful as a basketball coach?
Francisco: This training has helped me be more aware of myself and it’s certainly helped me become a better sportsman and person. A lot of the games we played could easily work as basketball games too.
Q: Which game would you say is your favorite?
Francisco: All the child rights games! If I had to choose, I think I would go with the [Right to] Information game. To be successful your team has to work together, focus and pay close attention. The game is a fun way to develop intelligence.
Q: What about the child rights games did you enjoy? Why is this an important issue for Mexico?
Francisco: I think one of the most important things we talked about this week was the creation of safe spaces for children. Without these how can we expect children to develop into the adults they want to be? Adults also need to be conscious about giving children private space, as this also helps with their development. I really like the idea of people and families working together and coexisting together. When this happens we are able to use everyone’s skills to solve our own problems. These lessons are not just important for Mexico, but for the whole world.
Q: Thanks for your time Francisco, do you have any other thoughts on your week with Coaches Across Continents?
Francisco: Thank you for this opportunity, this has been so much fun. Sports is life, man.
CAC staff member Turner Humphries writes about a day in the life of Pankaj Mahajan, a Community Impact Coach from our long term partner Slum Soccer in Nagpur, India.
November 20th 2015. Pankaj ascends from bed at 6:00 am, he washes his face, brushes his teeth and takes a small cup of tea before heading out the door. He borrows any moto available to get him to Nagpur’s city center for a practice session with fourteen year old boys and girls. He then departs for the Slum Soccer center in Bokhara – arriving around 7:45 am. He brings out all the football equipment that I will need for the on-field training and takes another cup of tea. As the clock closes in on 8:00 I reach the field. Having spotted me walking up the road, Pankaj has already retreated to the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea for me. As the program begins Pankaj is right by my side as he beckons the Hindi translation of the instructions I have given for the upcoming game. He then scurries to join his team to play; hounding attacking players with his insatiable appetite for a 50-50 challenge. After assisting me with my coaching session Pankaj sits down with the CEO of Slum Soccer to discuss an upcoming fair play tournament that he is in charge of organizing. Pankaj is hoping this tournament will give him the experience necessary to be a Young Leaders Coordinator for a Street Football World festival in France. Following his meeting with the top brass of Slum Soccer, Pankaj sets about fulfilling his many Off-Field responsibilities. Emails must be sent, practices must be planned and reports must be written. Closing his laptop Pankaj heads back on the field, this time to observe and evaluate some of the Young Leaders of Slum Soccer as they try their hand at coaching games to local youth. Once the session is complete Pankaj makes his way back to the office to retrieve his trusted laptop. The lights of the office have been switched off, still he continues his work from home. Back at home another cup of tea is in order. With the last of his emails sent he begins refining his English skills with a booked entitled, Differences Between Mission and Vision. He shuttles back and forth between this book and the dictionary as he attempts to learn the words he does not understand. After dinner Pankaj mingles with friends and relative in his neighborhood. For an hour or so they listen to music and share tips on how to gain the interest of members of the opposite sex. The clock now reads 11:30 pm – it is time for Pankaj to go to bed. Before he switches off the lights he squeezes in five more pages of his book.
Pankaj Mahajan is twenty-one years old and has recently become a senior coach with Slum Soccer. Just one year ago Pankaj’s circumstances were very different. After a battle with alcohol addiction his father committed suicide. Pankaj left college so he could care for his family. He began work painting houses and running a provisional store, earning around 1,000 rupees per month. His entire wage was going back to help support his family. As Pankaj shares his story with me he is calm and measured. Instead of being sad about the past he wants me to know he is focused on his future – I have no doubts it will be bright one. Pankaj is a Community Impact Coach with Coaches Across Continents. His hard work and dedication have made him a joy to be around, his sense of humor and genuine personality have made him a great friend.
I’m Here, I Want To Play
CAC SDL Coach Turner Humphries blogs on renewing acquaintances with Slum Soccer in Haryana, India.
November 12th 2015. Stepping out of the Delhi airport I could see a tall man with wide eyes and an even wider smile making his way through the crowd of people towards me. The sign he had made to find me was folded up in his hands. After seeing me glance at it he said, ‘You look like a CAC coach so I didn’t even need this!’ His name is Homkant, and the two of us would be spending a lot of time together. From Delhi we had a two hour drive to Haryana were the coaching program would be held. Once we arrived at the house we would be staying at we both dropped our bags in the room and sunk into bed. He had arrived into Delhi not long before me; making the trek from Nagpur, a twenty two hour train ride away. The two of us were sharing a bed in a room lined with posters of Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. With the eyes of some of footballs greats looking down on us we drifted to sleep, the next day would mark the start of the program with around thirty young leaders from Haryana.
As always we began with Circle of Friends, a game designed to allow everyone to get to know one another as we warm up our bodies and voice. The first time Circle of Friends is played both participants and coach are feeling each other out. Participants new to the concept of sport for social impact are most likely wondering what a ‘boomshakalaka’ is and why I want them to do something called the Koo Koo dance. Before leaving for the field I was briefed by the local partners that female empowerment would be the main issue for the training, as girls are actively discouraged from playing football in their community. As Circle of Friends took off I noticed that girls were only interacting with girls and boys with boys. After pointing this out to the group everyone gave a light hearted laugh and agreed to mix it up. For some of the participants this was their first time playing football with the opposite sex. What was first nervous energy became real enjoyment and excitement as the participants learned how much they shared in common. It turns out both girls and boys really like Barcelona and Messi. Later in the session Homkant came up to me and said, ‘You and I, we know that girls and boys playing together is good. But some of the local coaches here are upset that the girls are mixing with the boys. They told me they will not bring there girls team to our training again.’ After hearing this I was deflated. To me this seemed incredibly unfair to the girls, as someone else was dictating under what circumstances they could play.
The next day sure enough we were without nearly twenty female participants. However, the following day two girls appeared back at the field. They told me their coach had threatened to kick them off the team if they went back to the training. They didn’t seem bothered by their coaches severe threat. Putting her hands up in the air one of the girls said, ‘I want to play…so I’m here.’ Sometimes teenagers are smarter than adults.
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.
When Life Gives you Beetle Nut…Spit It Out
CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Turner Humphries blogs from Sentani, Indonesia about another great week with Uni Papua.
September 25th 2015. Walking around the town of Sentani everyone seemed to be wearing lipstick. Both young and old, men and women, skinny and fat. Each with the same glistening blood red lips. I began looking closer to ensure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. Not only were everyone’s lips red, they were also chewing on what could only have been the most industrious of chewing gum. Investigating further I noticed that their spit had also turned a vibrant red. Could this chewing gum be making their mouths bleed, I wondered? Alas, I gave up my Sherlock Holmes like quest for the solution to this red mouthed quagmire and asked Yan, who would be our translator for the week, just what was going on. “Lipstick!? Ah, that’s beetle nut,” he proclaimed, silently thinking I was the weirdest person he ever met. Beetle nut is an extremely popular snack that after the first crunch of your teeth leaves your mouth a color of red that can be seen from space. Between all my questions for Yan about this mysterious nut he managed to acquire a few for my enjoyment. After he demonstrated the proper chewing technique, I popped a beetle nut into my gullet and began chomping. Immediately my mouth became very dry. My head starting spinning. Stars were coming into view. And after trying to remain strong I, ultimately had to spit it out to a roar of laughter from the crowd that had gathered to watch my inaugural beetle nut experience. I must admit I expected something much more enjoyable. Following a few swigs of lukewarm water I was back to my normal self. Now it was Charlie’s turn.
Driving to the field for the first time we turned into a complex that certainly was no stranger to a bit of camouflage paint, there was lots of exercise equipment, many sport utility vehicles abound and many serious looking men. We were on a military base and our field was adjacent to the shooting range. After going through Circle of Friends we chatted briefly about how the football field should always be a safe place, where players should feel comfortable to express themselves. While this was happening a platoon of soldiers had readied themselves, aimed and began firing off rounds from their M-16’s like they were reenacting the final act of Scarface. However it quickly became background noise drowned out by the sounds of the laughter from our game Mingle Mingle; quickly becoming a fan favorite amongst the Sentani participants.
Before beginning the coaching program in the afternoon Charlie and I would visit a local school in the morning to conduct a brief coaching clinic for the students. After going through some of our games it was time to say farewell to the young Sentanians. Before we took a step off the field the children had raced to their backpacks to retrieve markers. We could not figure out what was happening. They all raced back to us, with marker in hand. They wanted autographs. Suddenly we were swarmed by a mob of Coaches Across Continents fanatics all in dire need of our signatures. Our best efforts to convey that we were not in fact professional players were in vain. They must have heard about my extremely average Eckerd College soccer career. I can only hope my signature will eventually wash off of their school uniforms.
Tap Dancing Across Chingola
August 8th 2015. CAC staff member Turner Humphries talks about our partnership with Malalo Sports in Chingola, Zambia.
For our final week in Zambia we were working in a town called Chingola. The main source of income for the town and its population comes from the copper mines. Almost everyone in Chingola either works in some part of the mining process or provides a service for those who do. All over town you could see young men strolling around in the ubiquitous mining uniform, a navy blue jumpsuit with metallic reflective strips around the knees and elbows. Around every street corner merchants carrying bracelets and other jewelry made of copper could be found hoping to cash in on what the final products of the mine offered.
On Wednesday afternoon we visited a local school where Maureen, one of our participants, coaches a boy’s team. As we pulled up to the school Maureen already had a game of soccer tennis in full swing. From the onset it was impressive to see Maureen command respect from a group of boys aged 16-18. During her practice she conducted an energized Circle of Friends, a game showcasing the destructive effects of alcohol and a game demonstrating what happens to a community when you exclude women from participating in most aspects of the economy. Maureen had clearly put some thought into the design and schedule of her practice. The games she chose not only delivered excellent social messages but were well suited for the skillful players she had. Maureen was one of the first female coaches I have seen coaching a group of older boys. Her players benefit not only from her superb coaching skill but also from having such a strong female role model in their life. Maureen serves as a great example for other women in the community who want to become football coaches.
As the week progressed and we got to know our participants better we began talking about some of the traditional gender roles commonplace in Chingola. It became evident that generally the mining jobs are reserved for men, with the women creating income from either washing clothes, cleaning or cooking. Majori, one of our female participants spoke up to say how she wants to work in the mine one day. Despite her father’s misgivings she is determined to stand up to the traditional gender roles established in her hometown. For me this was a powerful moment, both for the courage this young women showed in her willingness to challenge the status quo, but also understanding what it might be like to have your own father disagree with your career choice. Growing up I was always told I could be whatever I wanted to be; an astronaut, a police officer, a chef or a sport for social impact coach. It becomes easy to take this kind of support for granted as I, and many others, have grown to expect it.
Our week in Chingola also marked the third week with one of our volunteers, Sarah Thompson. She progressed each week, slowly coming out of her shell becoming a great coach with a calm demeanor. One of my favorite quotes from Sarah happened each time the CAC team introduced themselves to the participants, “Hey I’m Sarah and I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin. I’m really close to Chicago if you know where that is.” I thought of following with, ‘Hey I’m Turner and I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m really close to New York City if you know where that is.’ Another favorite Sarah moment came when she was leading Circle of Friends – Obstacle Course. This is our standard Circle of Friends warm-up game but various obstacles are placed in the middle of the circle that required the player to perform certain exercises. During our time together the CAC team learned that once upon a time Sarah was an esteemed tap dancer. Naturally we wanted to see her display her unique skillset. As Sarah placed her final cone down in the circle she informed the group that at this cone you must do any dance of your choice. To demonstrate Sarah proudly stepped up and performed a tap rendition to a confused but equally impressed Zambian audience.