For the first time in nearly three years, Soccer Without Borders (SWB) brought together 20 full-time staff members from around the United States to participate in-person in Coach Foundations, a three-day intensive, hands-on training designed to set up our coaches for success in ensuring that every SWB participant we coach has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Hosted by our Colorado Hub, the training provided coaches from a variety of backgrounds, experience levels, and expertise with the in-depth knowledge and practical skills needed to understand the SWB methodology, team culture, skill-building, and their own coaching style.
At SWB, we believe every day is a new opportunity to learn. This is why self-reflection plays an integral role in our coach training strategies. What went well? What could have been done differently? What did I forget? Who or what needs some additional attention? Our coaching tool, the FAMILY Framework, provides a platform for coaches to turn every game day and practice sessions into a chance to hone their coaching craft. Not only did Coach Foundations introduce coaches to this practical tool to track their learning during the 3-day training, but it also prepared them to implement the practice into their day-to-day work at their home hub.
During their time at our Greeley, CO site, coaches were immersed in practical and theoretical training sessions which included everything from how to plan a complete season to behavior management techniques for supporting dysregulated youth. Some sessions took place in a classroom setting, encouraging discussion between coaches who work in different contexts. Others took place out on the field giving coaches the opportunity to implement their classroom learnings with youth from the local community.
SWB Hubs across the USA serve newcomer refugee and immigrant youth. This year alone, our teams will welcome youth participants from over 60 countries of origin who speak more than 40 languages. Some are playing soccer for the first time, some have a long-standing love of the game. A traditional soccer team may aim to limit or homogenize their teams by experience, skill level, or language, strategies that may benefit soccer skill development and winning games. One consequence of this traditional method is that, due to a lack of resources or other barriers, many youth will inevitably be excluded from participating. Another is that it can limit diversity of perspectives within a team. At SWB, our priorities are different. We aim to remove barriers to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to play, to learn, and to grow, and to maximize opportunities to build friendships across cultures and practice empathy.
From day one at Coach Foundations, our coaches start to sharpen their lenses in four areas: Sport and Health, Youth Development, Access and Inclusion, and Healing-Centered. Coaches make thousands of decisions, big and small, every season. Each of these lenses, anchored in research, give coaches a framework from which to make daily decisions about what to prioritize, how to respond to difficult circumstances, and how to build meaningful relationships.
A whole person approach is one of our core values that guides everything we do at SWB. While the main focus of any training is to learn, another top priority of coaches' time together at Coach Foundations was to begin to build a sense of true camaraderie and teamwork. Three full days together meant that meals were shared, ping-pong battles were had, and some quality down time was enjoyed together.
On the final evening before our coaches headed back home to begin implementing their newfound knowledge and techniques, the training was capped off with a friendly Dutch-style soccer tournament alongside the local SWB community. Volunteers, program alumni, and former staff members gathered to send off the crew with this fun and friendly competition.
“My biggest takeaway was structuring practices,” recalls SWB alumnae and Coach Mentor Brenda Arevao, “I’ve already used a lot of my Colorado training in my everyday coaching routine. I feel confident in making practices and now use many of the lenses when planning them.”
For even more about SWB’s approach to our work, visit our website: https://www.soccerwithoutborders.org/program-model