In November, SWB teamed up with streetfootballworld the German Federal Foreign Office to host the, “Women Take the Lead,” conference that brought 25 young women together for a week of coaches’ trainings and workshops. The purpose of this conference was to empower women and girls to grow the game of football for themselves, their peers, and communities in Uganda. Leading this event, we had two extremely qualified and talented individuals; Coach Petra Landers, a former German National Team player and professional football coach and Coach Magidah Nantanda a former Ugandan National Team player and former long-time coach of the Uganda Women’s National Team. Although Coach Petra resides in Germany, she has spent time in Zambia growing the game for girls and even set a world record by playing the world highest soccer match on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Now, both Coach Magidah and Coach Petra dedicate their time in energy to growing the game for girls and women in Africa.
Thoughts from the Field
On a warm Sunday morning, we kicked off our coaching conference in Jinja, Uganda. Women from all parts of Uganda came together, strangers, on a simple dirt pitch. Although working with a variety of skill level and ages, Coach Petra and Coach Magidah put on a brilliant training session where we learned basic drills that can strengthen foundational skills while also being inclusive to those players new to the game.
Training sessions like this continued throughout the week, twice per day. And by the end of the week we were all exhausted! But the work we put in resulted in some truly remarkable outcomes. When we first came together at the start of the week, most of us were strangers. But, we left as friends. To me, the connections we made over the course of our five days together, speak to the power of soccer. Soccer is a language itself that has been bringing people together, across languages and cultures, for decades. A second outcome was that some of our new coaches who had never been given the chance to play football growing up left the workshop with some serious football skills! As a coach who works with beginners, this was very encouraging. Personally, I am very excited to use some of the new drills I learned throughout this week with my ladies, especially those who are new to the game.
At the end of the week, Coach Magidah led a seminar about how we as coaches can grow the game for girls in Uganda. Sitting with our new friends, we shared our stories and football journeys. While each and every story was beautiful, I would like to share Coach Magidah’s journey.
As the only girl in her family, Magidah was responsible for the household chores. While this sometimes made it challenging to play football, she never let it stop her. In fact, she would even sneak out of the house with her brothers to play! AND SHE LOVED IT. This young girl wasn’t just passionate about football. She was GOOD at it. As good of a footballer that she was, Magidah shared with us the importance of family support. “I couldn’t have done it without my brothers. They would help me with my chores so I could go play with them and they let me borrow their shorts to put on underneath my skirt. They even encouraged me to join my first all girls team,” Magidah humbly reflected. Her brothers were her biggest advocates, and helped pave the way for her making the National Team.
Magidah’s talent and leadership abilities were quickly realized on the National Team, and she worked her way to the position of team captain were she experienced great success. Then one day, she was given the chance to attend a professional coaching course. She was told to go because they, “needed female participants.” “Just go there and sit. Don’t pay no mind,” she was told. She went, but she did not retain a passive presence. In fact, she was an outstanding participant. This inspired her to retire early, without injury, to become a coach.
In turn, this led to her coaching the National Women’s team for many years. However, something was still missing. So what did she do? This UNSTOPPABLE woman created an organization called “Growing the Game for Girls” (G3), and has since then traveled the country and into rural communities to coach girls and educate parents about the benefits of playing football.
What really resonated with me was what Coach Magidah said in response to her fame. “I was not invited to the U.S. because I was a National Team player. CNN and BBC did not interview me because I was a National Team Coach. I was given these opportunities because of the sacrifices I have made to grow the game for girls,” she reflects. She then encouraged us to fight for the young girls in our own communities, with or without pay or a lot of equipment. On the pitch, she encouraged us to accept and encourage girls of all skill levels and explained the importance of establishing a relationship with parents off of the pitch. While I learned some great drills and coaching tactics throughout this week, this message was my biggest take away.
By the end of the conference we were all ready to TAKE THE LEAD! Stay tuned... in just a few weeks, this group of will be back on the pitch together to put on a tournament, coaching all of our respective teams!