Ana Tantum has been a part of the Soccer Without Borders family since 2011. As she prepares to step onto the field this spring with the U10 Coed Program in East Boston, we were able to catch up with Coach Ana about her experiences working with several of SWB’s programs through the years. Here, Ana shares how she first got involved with SWB and what she sees as a common thread across SWB programs from her experiences in Granada, Nicaragua, Boston MA, and Kampala, Uganda.
Coach Ana with SWB Boston's U10 players.
"How SWB is leveling the playing field" — Ana Tantum
I first heard about Soccer Without Borders in 2011 when I was 16 at a soccer camp and one of the counselors gave a presentation about her recent trip to Nicaragua with the organization. Fast forward 7 years later and I have now had the opportunity to volunteer at three SWB programs around the world. In 2012, I participated in the Seminar and Culture Exchange, an exchange program for high school students, at SWB Nicaragua. A couple years later, I moved to Boston for college and began volunteering at SWB Boston. Over the past few seasons in East Boston, I have coached both the U14 Girls and U10 Coed teams. Most recently, I traveled to Kampala, Uganda in January to volunteer in the 2018 Youth Festival at SWB Uganda.
My years volunteering with Soccer Without Borders have allowed me to experience the game from a variety of perspectives. I have played with, coached, and connected with players from a variety of backgrounds, including players who are from so many countries, practice different religions, and speak several languages. Although each SWB program has their unique qualities, one commonality is that all the programs quite literally put everyone on the same playing field. Specifically, what has stood out to me, are the opportunities that Soccer Without Borders provides to young girls.
As long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with soccer. Growing up, I was lucky to have the support of my family, friends, and community to pursue my love of the game. Now, having played soccer throughout my childhood and college, I attribute the game to shaping me into the person I am. Soccer allowed me to build confidence, learn to handle adversity, and work in teams. The skills I gained because of the game have permeated to every avenue of life whether it be school, work, or relationships.
My work with SWB has made me aware that my experience is not the norm for many young girls around the world. Soccer Without Borders embodies gender equity, instead of just talking about it. Whether it be SWB Nicaragua, East Boston, or Uganda, girls are provided an opportunity to play and be on a team that they otherwise would not have had. For these girls, the value in being treated equally to boys goes far beyond soccer. I saw this first hand with a girl on my recent team at the Youth Festival in Uganda. On the first day, she barely spoke and shied away from participating in activities. It was night and day by the end of the week, when she stood up in front on the whole camp and presented her viewpoints in English during the debate on gender equality. By providing girls equal opportunity, especially when that may not the norm in their lives, Soccer Without Borders gives young women the opportunity to realize their full potential.
Coach Ana at SWB's international programs in Kampala, Uganda and Granada, Nicaragua.