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  • Soccer Without Borders

My Week at Women Take The Lead

SWB Uganda hosted the second Women Take the Lead coach training in collaboration with streetfootballworld and the German Federal Foreign Office from October 7-11. Women's Sports Corps Fellow and SWB coach, Lauren Zarefoss, shares her reflections from the week focused on supporting young women and girls to grow in their coaching and leadership skills.

Going into Women Take the Lead I had no idea what to expect. I knew there would be 40 women learning from two incredible coaches, but nothing more than that. I’m glad I went into the week without knowing much because there were no expectations. I got to enjoy the time I had at Women Take The Lead and got to know the other coaches from around Uganda along with Coach Petra Landers and Coach Majidah Nantanda.

It can be a little nerve racking meeting a bunch of new people and I was definitely nervous when we all got together at the Soccer Without Borders (SWB) center on Sunday morning. Everyone was pretty quiet or only speaking to the groups that they came with. We ate breakfast, packed the buses, and started our journey to Lake Bunyonyi, Kabale. The bus ride for my group was very relaxing and included lots of snacking and chatting along the way. We even created a group chat that everyone starting to post their pictures on; it was so fun seeing what each bus was doing. When we finally arrived at the resort where we would be staying, everyone was shocked by the beauty of it. Lake Bunyonyi made for the perfect relaxing background each day we returned from our training.

Before we began training each day, Coach Mina would lead us in an energizing warm-up activity that got everyone laughing and ready to start the day. The energizers made for a wonderful wake-up during our early mornings. The football trainings were also a great experience as we were able to see how world class coaches approached training 40 women with a bunch of different skill levels. This really made me reflect on the teams that I coach at SWB Uganda and how I could work with players when I find myself in a situation where some players have stronger skills than others. The major statement that Coach Petra kept saying throughout the week was “I am here to make you better coaches”. It was all about us learning how to run drills; Don’t take too long explaining or giving directions, make sure to demonstrate the drill, if the drill is not going right, it is okay to stop and adjust it. We don’t want to continue to let players do the drill incorrectly otherwise their skills will not get better.

They also taught us that it wasn’t all about doing skill drills. During some trainings we played team-building games, that had us competing against one another. As we started to intermingle more between the groups from each of the different organizations represented, this definitely made for some fun competition! When we knew competitions were coming we all wanted to get in our same groups that won the previous day. This made for so many laughs on the field. Some days we had rain and the grass was so wet that we had a couple of spills which are always good entertainment. Our entertainer for the week was a young woman and fellow coach named Dorcas. She had us in stitches everyday with her witty one-liners. Dorcas noticed that one group of women that were always together on the field were always just so calm and therefore named them “Team No Stress”. It became the inside joke of the week; no matter if we were on the field or off somehow “Team No Stress” was always brought up.

Back to the drills now. Coach Petra and Coach Majidah chose coaches each day to lead sessions. They would meet with those coaches during dinner the night before if they would be leading the morning session or at lunch if they would be leading the afternoon session. Coach Pretra and Coach Majidah were there to share with us as much of their knowledge as we wanted to take in. Everyone has their own coaching style which is good, but Petra and Majidah made sure to give each of us tips to make our style better. They always shared everything in a positive and supportive manner. I don’t think any of us ever felt like we had gotten it all wrong; Coach Pretra and Coach Majidah kept reminding us that some things may be new to most of us and our focus for the week was to become better coaches.

When we weren’t on the field learning we had some great night-time trainings facilitated by our SWB staff that focused on the lenses with which we view our coaching. We focused on primarily on the “Access & Inclusion” and “Trauma Informed” lenses. These workshops were great for everyone present as many of us work in areas and with children who are living in some difficult situations. In my opinion, the workshop focused on restorative circles and conversations made the biggest impact. In their workshops Coach Jerry, Coach Jules, and Coach Mina made sure we all understood the importance of how these two topics and accompanying strategies can especially change how children interact with one other. It was especially awesome to be a part of these 3 nights of trainings because we sat in this huge circle that brought everyone together.

As for our free time during the week, we had a blast in the lake! I think the first two days it was only the SWB staff that jumped in the lake. But then on Tuesday, it was my birthday and I got pushed it the lake. It might have been cold but it was a bunch of fun. Another coach came to swim with us that day and I was so happy! After that it was like swim time was the biggest hit for everyone whether you were actually getting in the water or just down there to hangout and watch. It was all about enjoying each other’s company.

At night we always had a good time at dinner. Lunch and dinner at Overland Resort were always a delicious buffet. We were usually so hungry after being at the pitch all day that we were stacking up the plates! We also got to have some fun at other resorts at Lake Bunyonyi. Bunyonyi Safaris Resort was the first place we went for dinner. Still with the beautiful view of the lake, there was a massive bonfire and these really cool barrels that we enjoyed taking pictures on because of the images painted on them. We all had personal sized pizzas that I’m pretty sure all of us loved. During our last night in Kabale we went to Arcadia Lodge for dinner and our final gathering to reflect on the past week. Arcadia Lodge is one of the highest points on the mountain. We could look down on most of Lake Bunyonyi. It was a gorgeous place to take pictures and just relax one final time with everyone. All of us had so much fun taking pictures with each other so we could remember the moments. And of course, we all wanted a picture with Coach Petra and Coach Majidah. After having our picture taking time we did the “backpack activity,” where we all stood in a circle with our backs toward the center of the circle. As the facilitator read out various statements, the people in the middle of the circle are able to go around touching a person’s shoulder who they believe embodies that statement. This activity leaves you feeling so refreshed and cherished as well as showing you the impact you have left on others you have only been around for a short time. It was such a great night to really hangout and enjoy each other’s company.

The next morning, we packed up the buses and travelled back to Kampala. It was a little sad to say goodbye to everyone, but the best thing that has come out of this is that we still have our group chat. The group is filled with pictures and conversations of coaches who are using the equipment SWB shared with them to do football trainings with their own youth teams. It makes our hearts happy to hear how they are using the equipment and running trainings and sharing their experiences with us. This whole week will definitely keep us bonded whether that is in memory or still communicating with each other.


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