Would it be easier for you to get out of bed in the morning if you knew your office had an open-air view of Table Mountain? No? How about if you were able to work with some of the most diverse groups of people imaginable – and by work I mean play fun games – to have an impact on their lives far beyond the boundaries of the football pitch?
From the 21st to the 25th of October CAC coaches, Nick Gates and Nora Dooley, worked with African Brothers Football Academy in Cape Town, South Africa. We ran a training that brought together people from a very wide range of backgrounds, especially when it came to football. African Brothers invited other groups in the region to join the program, one such group being Bread of Life from the community of Langa. This group was represented by a mix of local leaders and volunteers from the UK, all of whom, except one, were female. Few of them had every played football before, and none had heard of the notion of using sport for social development. By the end of this week, the proof of the impact of the work we do could be seen and heard in the manner that these young women coached CAC games to the rest of the group, and more importantly, in the way they used their voices.
One particular game that saw great success with the entire group was Mia Hamm Communication from our GOAL curriculum. In this game there is a large circle of people and four or five footballs spread amongst them. There are four or five others in the middle of the circle who must call for the ball from someone on the outside, receive it with their hands or feet (two variations), and find somebody new on the outside to pass the ball to. It is a classic football game that is great to help players develop their skills, but we are more concerned with the social messages being taught, and in this game there are many. The difference between Mia Hamm Communication and the way this game is played on pitches all over the world is that in order to call for the ball you must use words other than the usual “Ball!” “Yes!” or “Pass!” First the players call for the ball by saying, “My name is ____!” Then new players come into the middle of the circle and call for the ball this time with, “I am a woman/man!” or with kids “boy/girl”. The third round the players say “I have a voice!”, and then “Listen to me!”. After they are told what to say by the coaches, they have to come up with something they love about themselves in order to get the ball such as, “I am intelligent!” or “I love my eyes!” The next time the participants say something they like about the person passing them the ball, for example “I love your smile!” or “You have great skills!” In the final round we challenge participants to string all of those “calls” together. This is the difference between coaching football, and coaching football for social impact. With a game that is oft played by football teams to work on passing, receiving, and turning, we have added an element that teaches people how to communicate, to raise their voice, to be confident, to share their identity, and to pay compliments to each other.
After we played Mia Hamm Communication with the group at African Brothers, it was clear that they had bought into the idea of sport for social impact, and as the week progressed you could sense changes in confidence levels, especially with the Langa girls. The transformation of these young women is the evidence that what CAC does, works.
On the other end of the spectrum, this training welcomed three Community Impact Coaches (CICs) from Gansbaai, South Africa, a program we finished last year. These three coaches joined the Cape Town program to continue to practice their coaching skills, as well as to continue learning from CAC to develop their curricula. In particular, they wanted to learn and expand on games that teach about nutrition and protecting our environment. Now you’re starting to understand the vast differences with regard to coaching and football experience among the group. From the Langa women to the Gansbaai CICs, and then the African Brothers team who coach football for a living and who already had a year of CAC under their belts, this week proved a lofty task for our CAC staff, but it came together with incredible success. And that is part of the magic of CAC. Our games bridge the gaps between sex, race, culture, ability, knowledge, age, and even time spent working with CAC. We bring groups together that under normal circumstances would never cross paths, and we find a way to make it effective and have an impact on all involved.
This week in Cape Town was great, plain and simple. And if you disregard all the amazing things that happened on the pitch, at least we had Table Mountain watching over us each and every day.