A Special Third Year in Katatura Namibia
June 24, 2013. For the third consecutive year a Coaches Across Continents team (Brian Suskiewicz, Charlie Crawford, Sheila Dohmann, Nick Gates, Bill Gates (former Middlesbrough professional) & Dr. Judith Gates – CAC board member) came to Katatura, Namibia and worked with coaches at Special Olympics Namibia. Although is was our third year we taught all new games that emphasize conflict resolution, gender equality, and health and wellness through the use of sport. At the Football for Hope Center there was a solid average turnout of 30 coaches a day with a very small number of them ever having any prior coaching experience. By the end of the week these coaches had not only gained the knowledge of games that teach social lessons, but had practiced on each other and done a fair job at imitating Nick and his mannerisms. Some even went so far as to claim “all seeing eyes” and demand public apologies from their players for mistakes.
A group of these new members to the Coaches Across Continents family will be playing in the Homeless World Cup this August. Easily identified by their dyed blonde hair and serious expressions, they would run themselves ragged by playing pickup in the morning and somehow keep chugging along through the next four hours of our own sessions. They have the real potential for change in Namibia because they are all too familiar with the social problems that exist having lived them throughout their lives.
In the afternoons, after working with the coaches, the CAC team would go to schools that Special Olympics works with and run a session for the kids. Tuesday we went to the Dagbreek School. It was an inspiring trip. We had never seen kids look after each other as compassionately as these did. These kids managed to be more considerate and aware of all of each other’s needs better than any teacher or supervisor ever could and it was done with a smile. They’d pat each other on the back, willingly give up their turn to a newcomer, and give high-fives as often as possible. One young girl even kindly demonstrated to a struggling Bill how to sit on a ball without falling over. Our first week working with SON has been great, and we expect another fantastic week in the nearby city of Rehobeth next!
Meet the Coaches Working in Namibia
June 17, 2013. Happy (late) Father’s Day everyone! Coaches Across Continents has six coaches and board members here in Windhoek as we start our third year with Special Olympics Namibia. Board member Dr. Judith Gates, who is working with UNICEF to develop a Child Protection Policy, will be working with SON along the same capacity this week. Joining the team is another board member, former 13-year English professional player Bill Gates (Middlesbrough FC) who will be working with the four coaches on the field. The four coaches on the field are Nick Gates, Brian Suskiewicz, Charlie Crawford or Sheila Dohmann. Since we already know about Nick and Brian – here is some more interesting tidbits about our four other team members for the next two weeks.
Charlie is a rising junior at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, USA. He competes on the men’s varsity soccer team as a center back and is studying philosophy. Or is he?… Here are some fun facts with Charlie!
Favorite Team – FC Barcelona
Favorite Player – Zinedine Zidane
Favorite Coach – Nuno Piteira (coached Charlie during club soccer days in Georgia)
Favorite Movie – Silence of the Lambs
Bill Gates made his first-team debut for Middlesbrough at age 17 and was a first-team regular for 13 years. He has worked programs for CAC in Uganda and Tanzania in past years.
Favorite Team – Middlesbrough
Favorite Player – Bobby Charleton
Favorite Coach – Sir Alf Ramsey
Favorite Movie – City Slickers
Why you enjoy working with CAC? – Because Brian is so funny.
Who will win the World Cup in 2014 and 2015? – Brazil and USA
Dr. Judith Gates is a CAC board member and heads our monitoring and evaluation and child safety initiatives. Married to Bill Gates, she has also worked programs in Uganda and Tanzania in past years.
Favorite Team – Middlesbrough
Favorite Player – Bill Gates
Favorite Coach – Sir Bobby Robson
Favorite Movie – Iron Lady
Why you enjoy working with CAC? – “I never cease to be impressed to see at the variety of ways in which they can use soccer to create a real change within communities.”
Who will win the World Cup in 2014 and 2015? – A rare occasion that I agree with Bill, but Brazil and USA
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” – Special Olympic Athlete Oath
June 16th, 2011. From Dean, Brian, Sophie, AJ and Alicia in Namibia. Namibian culture seems relaxed and unhurried, but our 10 days here have gone by quickly. Now, at the end of our collaboration with Special Olympics Namibia, we’re looking back at our enjoyable time spent working here.
From the start, our objective was two-fold: to offer our blend of soccer training and social engagement and to advance the cause of Special Olympics, particularly in
the realms of acceptance and inclusion. Soccer was the agent, the force behind our two organizations, and we tried to inject plenty of soccer coach training into each session with Olympic Namibia (SON) coaches. We addressed lots of points of methodology in our daily sessions, such as:
- When you’re talking to players, ask
them to stand in front of you so that they can hear you.
- Face the sun so that your players don’t have to.
- Listen to your practice as well as watching it: laughter is a good sound and good feedback for you.
- Use a strong voice.
- Try to avoid activities that involve straight line running.
- Recognize that learning takes a lot of repetitions.
- Always make a plan before practice – and bring it with you.
By themselves, these might seem like small points, but a good coach is in command of
them all, and others that we talked about this week – and they contribute to effective, enjoyable practices.
On this past Thursday, towards the end of the week’s training, we asked the SON coaches to pair up, prepare a game (that was Wednesday night’s ‘homework’), and then coach
that game using the other coaches as their ‘players’. The sessions were very good: they showed good methodology, solid instincts, excellent demonstrations, and earnest effort. All week long the coaches impressed us with their high spirits, friendliness, and open-minded approach. They were a remarkable group: young coaches and older ones; women and men; British university student volunteers; the irrepressible Mojo; Bethuel and Felix, leaders of the Namibian homeless World Cup team and the Namibia Second Chance Street Soccer Project; Deon, a Global Messenger at the SO World Games – every coach distinctive in his or her own way, all drawn together by soccer.
Of course, the social messages were at least as important as the coach training details
and the pure soccer learning. We continued to assert many ideas all week, including:
- Sport should be for everyone: all people should be able to participate and play, regardless of physical/mental limitations.
- There are so many things that can keep us apart (race, tribe, religion, cultural beliefs, etc.): we have to work to stay together.
- Violence, exclusion, racism, threats to health and safety have no place in sport – or in life in general.
- Soccer is a powerful cultural force that can be both an enjoyable game and a means of addressing and solving some of society’s deepest problems.
- Special Olympic Athletes are all individuals, but they have in common an ability to rise to challenges and show bravery.
In all our endeavors over these last 10 days, we have been inspired by the ideals of Special Olympics Namibia. On Friday, Esther Kambala, the director of SON spoke eloquently to all the coaches about the structure and mission of Special Olympics, the largest amateur sports organization in the world:
Among her many insights:
- Katutura was one of the first six sites in Africa chosen to receive a Football for Hope Centre, as part of the legacy of World Cup 2010.
- “The pitch is our diamond.” It’s the only artificial pitch in the
- SO is an international organization for people with intellectual disabilities – people who need special attention. We offer year round training for athletes:
and local, regional, and international opportunities to compete. (A soccer team representing Namibia has been training at Katutura and will leave next week for the World SO Games in Greece!) It’s important that they have
opportunities to compete – to demonstrate courage and experience joy.
- SO is global, important, a movement and a business: it’s about all of us.
- For SO, words matter: they can open doors or make barriers. Demeaning
language robs people of their individuality.
We had the opportunity the very next day to see SON in action. They held a “Special Smiles” day: free dental screenings offered by local dentists who were volunteering their time. SON also offers “Opening Eyes” and “Fit Feet”days. We organized several soccer stations through which the athletes could circulate as they waited for their check-up. For us this was community building at its most beneficial.
We finished our collaboration with SON on Tuesday the 14th of June, after
offering three clinics at local schools designed for students with intellectual
disabilities. We were happy to see, at the schools we visited, many of the athletes who had
been at our sessions last week. One of them greeted us with a wave and a “Marta 2!” – a reference to a move we practiced last week.
Many thanks to Esther Kambala for her inspiration and for enabling us to partner with Special Olympics Namibia.
At the Football for Hope program with Namibia Special Olympics.
June 11th, 2011 from Dean, Brian, Sophie, AJ and Alicia.
After several months of discussions and negotiations, Coaches across Continents has started its first year of a Hat-Trick Initiative partnership in Namibia. We’ve come to
the capital city, Windhoek, to work with Special Olympics Namibia by blending
our missions – which are quite similar to begin with. As always, ours is to educate and support local teachers, who educate local children, ensuring that the program is
consistent and sustainable and that there will be a new generation of community
leaders. Special Olympics aims to “empower people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential and develop their skills: through sports training. The world’s sport, soccer, opened the door to our collaboration.
We arrived in Windhoek, a city of about 200, 000 people,
on June first. Namibia and Windhoek were new to all of us. We have found the
country and its capital to be full of startling contrasts. Namibia has been independent for only 20 years; it’s a progressive country, the first one in the world to put protection
of the environment into its constitution. The government has devised a plan, Vision 2030, “to make deliberate efforts to improve the quality of life of our people to the level of their
counterparts in the developed world by the year 2030.” Yet unemployment is around 30%, there is a tremendous difference between the literacy rates of blacks and whites, and the adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS is thought to be 15 per cent. The downtown area of Windhoek is modern and dynamic, but there are impoverished townships not far from the citycenter. Problems here, as in most places, are undeniable – but there are also noble aspirations, a solid government, and a progressive environment. Namibia is beautiful and filled with promise.
Our days here have followed a pattern. We travel every morning from our hostel to a
part of Windhoek called Katutura, where the headquarters of Special Olympics
Namibia is: three small buildings for administration and meetings. Next to those buildings is a small soccer field: artificial surface as big as a hockey rink, four foot high walls around the field. The field was built a year ago by FIFA, the international governing body of soccer.
At 8:30 we organize “Circle of Friends”, all the 35 Namibian coaches and we CaC coaches in a large ring, shoulder to shoulder, friend beside friend, listening to or talking with us as we introduce the day’s plan. Then we warm up, using soccer movements, without and with a ball. We make a point of organizing games that require as few balls and as little
equipment as possible: those may or may not be available to the coaches in
their own settings. After warmup come soccer movements and skills, brief
meetings on the field, and many games to address social issues: female
empowerment, HIV/AIDS prevention, conflict resolution, inclusion. Soccer is the means to our end, but the key here is the message. References to the international stars Ronaldo, Marta, and Tim Howard stimulate interest as the coaches play our imaginative and
provocative games. These games and activities, with their explicit and implicit messages, are complemented by our ‘non-negotiable requirements” for practices – to prohibit any kind of violence, racism, rudeness, etc.
Midway through the morning comes a short discussion
period about the day’s issue, a review of our first session, or questions and answers. The discussions are lively, and they reflect the coaches’ earnest and open-minded approach to our program. In one, we asked the coaches to sharpen up the word “fun”. As far as soccer goes, what does “fun” actually mean? The coaches came up with this:
Learning something new.
Making new friends, keeping old ones.
Competing with self and others.
Scoring a goal.
Being in a team.
Enjoying the game – movement.
In the afternoon, we work with Special Olympics’ athletes. We present challenging
activities and games and support them as they gain skills. Their joy is palpable. The parallels between our mission and that of Special Olympics Namibia have been obvious to us since the first days of our collaboration. Eunice Kennedy Shriver,
the founder of Special Olympics, believed in “the possibilities of individuals
with intellectual disabilities” and “strongly believed that everyone
counts.” So do we.
Goal 1: Exciting new program in Namibia with Special Olympics
March 24th, 2011. After 9 months working closely with Special Olympics, including meetings in the USA, England and a site visit in Namibia, Coaches across Continents is excited to share our ideas and learn from the fantastic work at the Football for Hope Centre in Windhoek with a new Hat-Trick Initiative partnership in Namibia.
Year 1 of this new partnership starts in June 2011 and coaches Brian, Sophie, Alicia, AJ and Dean will run curriculum development sessions for the volunteers of Special Olympics and also sessions for the players.
Location: Katatura Community – Windhoek, Namibia
Centre Host: Special Olympics Namibia (SON)
Mission: To empower people with intellectual disabilities to realize their full potential and develop their skills through year-round sports training and competition.
Target population: Girls and boys with intellectual disabilities
Football-based programmes since: 1998
“This is the type of exciting partnership for Coaches across Continents that benefits both partners. The Football for Hope Center in Windhoek is an outstanding facility funded by FIFA through streetfootballworld and by working closely with Special Olympics we can share and learn new ways for life skill development for players with intellectual disabilities.” Christian Aviza, Coaches across Continents.