BRADENTON, FLA. - Carson-Newman football placekicker Carson Wise has been selected to attend the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace's (UNOSP) International Sport and Social Impact Summit from June 6-18 in Bradenton, Fla. Below is the third blog update about his experiences.
Today was a much-needed free day off. We've gone six straight days of some intense activities, learning, and interaction, so it was nice to have a day totally to ourselves. Just because we weren't in a structured setting however doesn't mean I didn't take anything away from the day. A lot of the new things I am learning and experiencing come from just interacting with all my new friends from around the world. Today was full of interaction and speaking to each other, which proved to be very valuable.
We decided for our day off we wanted to all go to the beach. We caught a bus down to Siesta Key, the number one beach in the United States. We had a lot of fun playing sand volleyball, sand soccer, and just enjoying the beach and beautiful weather. Mr. Lemke (Special Advisor to the United Nations from the Office of Sport for Development and Peace) even joined in on our sand soccer game and scored a goal. What was really valuable from today though was the time between and after games when we could just talk to each other. For example, I went with a group of friends all from different places in Africa to eat lunch at one point during the day. They came from Botswana, South Africa, Seychelles, and Tanzania. Growing up in the United States, I'm used to everyone getting their own meal and eating their own food. They explained to me instead that from where they're from in Africa everything is shared, from the food to the drink. So rather than everyone ordering one dish we just got a few things and shared it all around the table together. This is something simple, yet just different enough from the culture I am used to that I appreciated the experience to be able to do something in a different way.
Conversations and interactions like these happen everyday here. Another similar example occurred one day when I was eating with a friend named Niharika from northern India. She was explaining to me that she was having some trouble eating here because she didn't know what order to eat the food in. At first I was a little confused as to what she was talking about. But then she explained that in India there is a very strict order that you eat different items on your plate based on how things digest in your body. I thought this was incredibly fascinating to have your meal planned out so the items you consumed came together to digest in the best possible way for your body.
Today we were back on the normal schedule and had the English Football Association working with us all day. For the sake of this blog post, 'football' refers to what most of us would call soccer. In order to discuss the type of football that I play you would have to preface it with American football.
The English Football Association began by having us discuss and further learn about leadership qualities. We discussed qualities in ourselves as well as qualities we see in leaders we admire. After we felt that we had a good grasp on the information being presented we moved outside to the field for a more practical approach. The English Football Association is a football club in England that works with many young kids from all over the country. Through football (soccer) they try and develop their player's sport related skills as well as further develop their kids as individuals. They taught us a few different games that related to football but also required some more complex thinking as a team. An example of this would be having to score a goal with your right foot, left food, and header. This slight restriction altered the games just enough that we as players had to reflect on our play style during the frequent breaks called in order to see how we could improve as a team.
Later in the afternoon once we understood a few different types of games, the instructors from the English Football Association had us take turns acting as the facilitators or coaches. We took turns delivering the games to each other to practice on how we may be able to take them back and introduce them to the youth in our own communities. It helped us to develop our coaching skills from the viewpoint of working with young people. The games we learned really focused on both sport development but also the development of teamwork, critical thinking skills, and communication. This is an example of how life skills can be taught to kids through sport from a very young age.
Today we again worked with the English Football Association. We continued to begin taking on more of the coaching and facilitation role while the leaders from the English Football Association began to fade out into the background. It was really cool to see over the past two days that transition in action. At first the English Football Association was completely in charge, running the activities for us. As the days progressed though they slowly handed power over to us so we could eventually take full ownership and learn how to best facilitate activities to the youth by actually doing it. I think this will help us remember the lessons we learned much more vividly now that we have taken away that experience rather than just a list of ideas. I have a lot of respect for the leaders from the English Football Association, as they kept the past two days very fun as well as engaging and educational.
One of the most impactful moments of the whole time I've been here happened this evening when I sat down with Niharika from India to hear about the program she works with back home. Since we are all living together in an apartment complex the evenings are a great time to have fun with one another but also to get to know everyone on a much more casual basis outside of the classroom. Niharika and I had talked previously about the NGO (non-governmental organization) that she works with and finally got a chance to sit down together so she could share with me some videos and other information related to her work.
Niharika is one of the leaders of a NGO in northern India called Yuwa, which means "youth" in Hindi. In India, many girls become child brides at the age of around 16, get involved with trafficking, or become confined to the house for everything except for work. The leaders of Yuwa knew that if they could educate these girls and teach them life skills then they could live much better and productive lives. The problem was getting a group of young children to regularly attend school when they didn't have the strongest passion for learning. They overcame this challenge by using soccer. Many of the girls loved soccer. They created soccer teams which helped the girls to have more friends than most of them had ever had before. All of the sudden the girls were so eager to come to Yuwa everyday because they loved the sport. Yuwa began introducing different schooling and supplementary programs throughout the day as well to further develop the young girls. Niharika actually taught a class at 4:00am because that was the only time available to teach it, and she said most of the girls would show up at 3:30am ready to learn. Now they are sending their teams to compete in tournaments in Spain, and many of the girls are going on to get degrees through higher education, some of which even in the United States. This story was an incredibly inspiring example about how one of my peers here at the summit is using sport to give girls back in her own community a life that they most likely would have never had if it weren't for soccer.