I interacted with the coaches and watched some of the kids play. The field was great, the grass was well maintained. In my head, I thought I should expect more or less the same everywhere, but I was wrong.
The biggest challenge was on how to maximize the time with the children given for different drills with the limited space and not wasting time just waiting for their turn. I know it was tough for the coaches especially for less the experienced ones. Even with a well-planned program, there will be a need to adjust parts of the session to make sure everyone is given the chance to participate and be taught/supervised correctly. It was great to see that there was a decent turnout in the number of girls and humbling to see even if almost half of the kids were bare foot or simply wearing flip flops, they were excited and very attentive in listening to the coaches and most importantly they were having fun.
I was able to visit two more sites before I held my first session with the kids. Being able to observe different sites helped me a lot because I was able to take down notes. With this, I could share and show the coaches how I would approach coaching exercises/sessions with the kids differently based on my experience. Though there was a language barrier, but with the help of the coaches, the kids followed my instructions as we went on. The second session was better because it was in one of the biggest sites with more experienced kids plus majority of the coaches were present. The site was perfect for small sided games and drills so we had a circuit-type of training whereby not a single group would wait for more than 2 minutes. I was glad that in less than two hours, we were able to have fun while working on our touch, passing, receiving, ball handling, turning, foot work, communication, teamwork and virtues while playing.
The community engagement on the fourth day, another highlight, made me understand how the data is gathered. I listened and witnessed how the Football of Life community intervention is helping the kids dream and aspire in life on and off the court. The kids were very interactive with me and the Fundlife team. We had a great time playing card games while talking. The kids kept on calling me Jordan Clarkson. I am not sure if it was because he also Afro-Filipino or maybe because they do not know any other footballer other than Messi and Ronaldo. I was able to grasp how they appreciated these kinds of sessions and how it is a brighter side of their lives. When we said our goodbyes it was somewhat sad when they found out I will be heading back to Manila that weekend.
Over all it was a great and a huge learning experience. Thank you Fundlife International for giving me this opportunity, it was a dream come true! Dreams do come true and I can see how you open these kids’ eyes by encouraging them to dream big and while they work on themselves individually and with a fellow Kapwa, be it on or off the football field. I wish you success or even better as you transition into your other program “Going Places” and continue to expand the F4L program. I am confident that there are positive psycho-social impacts on the kids and the coaches enjoy what they are doing. During my talk with the coaches, I shared with them more about my background and how football has brought me here all the way from Africa even though I am not a professional football player or a full time coach. With the current growth rate of football in the Philippines, football has opened doors for many people, myself for example. Thanks for letting me share it and most of all learn from the players, coaches and people that benefit from the program. ~
Kaman Lee Suleiman