How could you describe Coaches Across Continents (CAC) in few words?
Coaches Across Continents is an organization promoting sport for social impact movement. CAC mission is to enable communities to create lasting social change through sport. We partner with local organizations (such as Football 4 Life in Tacloban, Philippines) to implement our ‘Chance to Choice’ curriculum that focuses on local social issues such as: female empowerment, including gender equity; conflict resolution, including social inclusion; health and wellness, including HIV behaviour change; and other life skills. CAC started in Tanzania in 2008. In 2014, we worked in 26 countries with 74 implementing community partner programs.
How many years have you been working for CAC?
I have been working with CAC since 2013 and I have cumulated two years on the field. We have head coaches who run the training all over the world and I am one of them, and we have volunteers that come to be a trainer for few weeks or months. Everyone starts as a trainee, learning to be a trainer for some time before leading seminars.
Why did you decide to be part of CAC?
After I graduated from college where I played football competitively and intensively, I decided to volunteer for a year in South Africa for a group using sport as a development tool focusing on HIV awareness. I saw the potential of using sport for development. I learned about CAC and I decided to travel with them for 3 months instead of going back home. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to work for them on a longer-term basis.
What do you like about the vision of CAC?
What CAC is doing in the sport for development field is quite unique. We do not have our own program anywhere. We are only facilitators. We get to see what people are doing all over the world since we work with so many different organizations. Every organization has different approaches using different sports with different development goals, obviously within different culture context and social issues.
But what I really enjoy with CAC is our philosophy of self-directed learning. It is all about the local organization identifying their own problems, finding their own solutions. CAC does not go anywhere saying that our method is the best. We want to erase ourselves as much as we can and allow the most organic learning possible to happen. The participants identify their own problems and solutions; they make their own choices. We ask questions instead of lecturing. We do not pretend we know it all. We set the group for learning, we do not tell them what they are going to learn or what they will get from it. We want to facilitate the learning process.
What is so particular about the CAC curriculum?
We have the curriculum written down, but we do not give a manual to the participants. We are going to a place, we talk with the participants and the coordinators and we get an idea of what social issues we should focus on. And when participants play, something is happening. At the end of the week, we leave a developed curriculum with more than 24 games, but the participants have adapted the games. We teach by experiencing and not through a book in a classroom. We want to enforce local ownership and sustainability. The local organization knows their community, and we do not.
Do you observe a difference between these Tacloban participants and other groups you have been teaching all over the world?
It is my first time coaching in the Philippines. But I have been leading similar seminars all over the world.
Every program is so unique. What is a great advantage with this group is that they all understand English so well. But it is not the only reason that makes this group so nice to train. Something has clicked here since the first day of the seminar. Maybe it is thanks to some of the coaches from F4L, because they are seriously phenomenal. They are some of the best educators that I ever encountered!
What are the dynamics that you have observed here in the group you’ve been teaching?
It is true that Filipinos are shy people. But this is the power of sport: we create this environment with a game that they love or that they want to learn. Just by being goofy as coaches’ trainers ourselves, we have cracked their shyness. Moreover, having fantastic older leaders helps too. Finally, the dynamics here can be described as: they are definitely having fun, and they really care about their community and are eager to learn. Even the young boy teams that just thought they came to learn some football tricks, they understand that they are learning much more than football. You see the light in their eyes. They really want to learn and to answer our questions. There are some things that cannot be measured through figures, and it is part of it. Participants took chances on the last day of the seminar: they tried to be coaches by adapting the games we previously learned. They were definitely nervous, with not so much confidence. But they were awesome, especially for those who were coaching for the first time.
Why do you consider this seminar as a successful one?
What shows as a success is the last day of the seminar. The game adaptations were not all successful, but they all tried intensively. And once you have started, you can try again and again. Confidence will grow. In terms of the leaders of F4L, they are at the top of whom we work with. The women in this group were so amazing, more empowered than I have encountered in most places!
If the participants have to remember 4 things from the seminar what should it be?
1. Love to coach. It goes with having fun. Take it as a passion, not a job.
2. Ask questions for yourself. Always question your own thinking, your own way of life.
3. Remember the power of sport. You can teach anything on the field, even mathematics!
4. Get out of your box! Confidence will grow.
Thanks Nora for this quite interesting feedback.
And a big applause to the participants that were willing to be part of this seminar. Inspiration is contagious and we can’t wait to see these games reaching thousands of children and young people!