Large Predator Protection in Botswana!

On Saturday the 18th of June, Sophie, Brian, and Dean traveled from Windhoek, Namibia to Maun, Botswana, where we met up with Paul “Gibbo” Gibbons from “Coerver Coaching.” Just as we had partnered with Special Olympics NamiP6280067bia to use soccer to broaden the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, we now looked forward to working with the “Botswana Predator Conservation Trust” to use “soccer for conservation” and create awareness of and commitment to large predators and their ecosystems. The BPCT is “a globally recognized wildlife conservation research program” that “aims to influence fundamental core values and the relationship local citizens have with wildlife and wild spaces.”

The leaders of the Trust, Lesley Boggs and her husband Dr. J. W. “Tico” McNutt, understand the attraction of soccer and have for years used their initiative Coaches for Conservation as their primary social development program. C4C links soccer skills to animals and their behaviors – and the other way around – to advance soccer skills, empathy for and sensitivity to animals, and a positive outlook about the future. We came here to help plan and direct C4C’s annual soccer camp and to support its multiple goals.

We worked closely during our 10 days’ stay with Lesley; Peter Dow, BPCT’s Head of Education; and 10 aspiring coaches from the Shorobe village Wild Dog Football Club. Our first days ‘in the bush’ were spent learning about large predators and their environments from several experts, planning the soccer curriculum, and training the Shorobe coaches. We also met the various ‘spirit coaches’ and ‘conservation coaches’ who would partner with us to inspire the school children from Maun to improve their soccer skills and commit themselves to protecting the large predators and their habitats in Botswana.

After our days of learning and team-building, we returned to Maun. On Sunday the 26th, we prepared all our gear and set up the stadium at the Maun Sports Complex – a wonderful, almost new facility with a full size artificial field surrounded by a running track.

Monday the 27th was a big day. Lesley and Tico and several local dignitaries opened the new Conservation Education Centre and, an hour later, came to the stadium to welcome about 600 P6290107children to the annual soccer camp. As the day went by, the students rotated through stations; the stations were paired up to highlight the predators and analogous soccer skills. For example, to highlight the cheetah, the conservation coaches taught the children about the cheetah’s speed, stealth, smarts, and self-reliance. Then when the children went to the cheetah soccer station, they concentrated on clever dribbling skills and running fast with the ball.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were devoted to the predator – soccer skills’ rotation, through the 12 stations. Then on Thursday we organized a huge, day-long tournament, during which each school group played four games against other schools – boys against boys and girls against girls. We marked out six small fields on the stadium’s full size field; the games were 7 v 7, with frequent, rapid substitutions: a fantastic end to the week.

All day long we watched spirited games, heard the various schools’ chants, and heard, too, on the PA system, the slogan of the BPCT, between games and at mid-day break:

“Respect Yourself, Respect Each Other, Respect the Environment!”

Our thanks to Lesley and Tico for their vision and energy, and to all the conservation, spirit, and soccer coaches for their hard work, friendship, and dedication to advancing soccer and care of our environment.

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