Markus Bensch, from nearby Dresden, Germany, joins CAC in April, 2014 – beginning his on-field training in Uganda with senior staff member Nora Dooley.
Let me say this first: It was a brilliant first week with Coaches Across Continents and our partner Mbarara Soccer Academy (MSA) in Uganda. Nora gave me a very good first introduction into the work of an On‑Field‑Coach and we were hosted by the very welcoming and warm-hearted family of Salim Blanden who is one of our Community Impact Coaches (CIC).
I left Germany on Saturday 29th March and when I said “Good Bye” to my parents and my brother George at the Berlin airport my new adventure started. I was excited, but after my arrival I felt for the first few days quickly pitchforked into a survival modus. My body and my psyche were not used anymore to the African heat, food and living conditions. My stomach rebelled, my body felt weak and I wanted to sleep a lot. After 2 months in Germany I had to get used to using holes for toilets and taking a bucket shower. But my physical condition quickly got better as soon we moved on the football pitch.
After a very rainy Tuesday including a thunderstorm, we finally could start with our first-year program on Wednesday. We welcomed over 30 coaches and they get very quickly into it. After we did the baseline questionnaire we started with Circle of Friends and trained the Ronaldo Skills. The two main aims for the week were to let the coaches experience the idea of self-directed learning and to let them understand what it means to solve their own problems. All our games are based on these two principles so the coaches had many chances to learn how to put them into practice.
As with most of the groups they liked our “Mingle Mingle” game very much. The coaches are dancing in the “Mingle Mingle” rhythm and have to get together in different numeric groups depending on which number the coach shouts. After the first few rounds when there was pushing and pulling we discussed this behavior and agreed that it is important to make our own decisions and let others decide too if they want to join a group or not. We even took this game further and didn’t allow the coaches to speak anymore so they experienced and practiced different ways of (non-verbal) communication like hand signs, eye contact and body language. It was a very fun way of learning different solutions and the importance of communication and to respect the freedom and independence of the other person.
One of the most successful games in this week was “Adebayor Makes Good Choices”. This game focuses on good choices that can protect from getting HIV. Many good decisions like being faithful, using a condom when having sex, getting tested and getting educated protects from the HI-Virus. The more good choices somebody makes the better he/she is protected. After we brainstormed many good choices we played the game “Keep away” where the players in the outside circle try to keep the ball away from the one or two players in the middle who represented the HI-Virus. Every player on the outside who touched the ball yelled out one good choice that protects from getting HIV. Later during the review the coaches came up with the idea to modify this game and address the problem of corruption. On Saturday morning one group developed ideas about good choices that can be made to prevent corruption. Again the players on the outside yelled out phrases like honesty, don’t take and don’t pay bribes, education or transparency. The players in the circle represented corrupt lawyers, policemen or politicians. That was a perfect example of self-directed learning and solving your own problems. We as coaches were impressed from the creativity of the coaches and it was the best reward we could get from the group. If groups develop their own games we know we’ve done a good job.
We’re sure that our training has an impact in the daily work of the coaches and we already look forward to next year so we can see the development in the coaching skills of our participants. By the end of the week I got baptized on the name Mubangyizi which is in the local language Lunyankole and means ‘supportive person’. That was a huge reward and a big compliment for me. I look forward to next week in Kampala and I’m excited to get more involved and lead my first games.