November 27, 2013. Twenty-eight hours on a train later, CAC coaches, Sophie Legros and Nora Dooley, joined by Community Impact Coach (CIC) Homkant Surandase from Slum Soccer, arrive safely in the southern Indian city of Coimbatore. As is the story with each new week in the life of Coaches Across Continents, this week working with a group from the Isha Foundation would follow the same plot, similar only in its difference from all other programs.
Our involvement with the Isha Foundation stems from their environmental Beyond Sport award-winning venture called Project GreenHands. An initiative that motivates members of the community to plant trees for the sake of providing shade during football matches, the Project’s innovation is inspiring and makes for a great opportunity to unite our programs around a shared interest in community development. This is our second year working with a group connected to Isha, though few were part of last year’s training.
The school we worked and stayed at during our time in the south, Isha Vidhya, is one of the many schools funded by the Isha Foundation, a charitable body that is funded by the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore. Physical Education teachers from Isha schools, as well as welfare volunteers from the ashram joined our team for the week of training at Isha Vidhya. With such an eclectic group of adults ranging from doctors and yoga instructors to teachers and only one football coach, we knew from the outset this would be an interesting week.
After just one morning of learning our Ronaldo games, the first time learning any football skills for the majority of the group, the Isha participants taught some of the games to students from the school later that same afternoon. Our CAC team was blown away by the manner in which these men and women coached the students. It was obvious they were used to working with children, but never having coached football before, let alone football for social impact, this group rose to the challenge and seriously delivered. Day in and day out, early morning sessions saw all participants eager to learn CAC games, with the afternoons focused on implementation with various classes of learners from Isha Vidhya. Each day the brand-new coaches impressed our team more and more as they grew comfortable with the notion of sport for social development.
CAC coaches spent the weekend after the training at the Yoga Center or familiarly, the ashram, and gained a better understanding of the wide world of Isha. Sitting cross-legged during meals, men separated from the women, eating in complete silence, taking your shoes off before entering every establishment… it was certainly a new experience for our team and one that taught us a great deal about a different lifestyle and even more about ourselves. It may not be the life for us but it helped us gain a more complete perspective of the Isha Foundation, and the lifestyles of some of the participants of the training.
We are excited about the future of this partnership, as progress from last year to this year is already visible. Our hope is for CIC, Homkant, together with Slum Soccer, to begin working with Isha throughout the year, assisting them in their sport for development initiatives.