Women's Sports Corps (WSC) is a coaching program run by SWB and Women Win that recruits, trains, and supports female coach-mentors to collaborate with sport-for-good organizations worldwide to get more girls in the game and advocate for gender equity on and off the field, court, and track. In August, WSC Fellow Mia Weinland traveled to Myanmar to begin her year of service with Girl Determined. Here Mia shares her experiences from her first month as a part of the Girl Determined team...
After spending a week training with the amazing people working at Soccer Without Borders, where I learned about different sport-based youth development frameworks and models (and subsequently put these theoretical coaching concepts into practice at a week-long soccer camp in Boston), I arrived in Yangon, Myanmar feeling ready to throw myself into this fellowship.
And thrown into it I was. Thrown into the streets, the smells, the delicious food, the death-defying street crossings and hectic Yangon traffic which would make even the boldest of Bostonian pedestrians and drivers cower. And the heat. I don’t think I stopped sweating for the first 48 hours I was here. I’ve since acclimated, or rather adjusted to carrying multiple “emergency” shirts to change into throughout the day.
On my first day, I went to the office and met the incredibly friendly staff at Girl Determined and headed to Burmese class at the French Institute only nine hours after I had arrived in the country. My “Introduction to Burmese” is keeping me on my toes as it forces my brain to fire neurons in new ways and employ some never-before-used motor mechanics in my mouth. I’ve missed the challenge of learning another language, and am grateful for the opportunity to do so again! It has already come in handy as I’ve been negotiating taxi fares and ordering food at street stalls (both of which admittedly rely mostly on a lot of pointing and hand gesturing). I’m excited to get to practice the script so I might be able to read the signs in the streets and, perhaps more importantly, the snacks in the convenience stores.
Work-wise, this month has been an awesome period of observing how the Girl Determined team operates and getting to understand the organizational structure. The programming is offered in communities all around the country in seven different states/regions, so organizing meetings, trainings, and events is an impressive feat of communication. It sounds like I’m going to get to travel to a lot of these regions to observe the volleyball programs and support some coaches training, which I am incredibly excited for. I’ve gotten to visit two of the volleyball programming sites in the Yangon region, at two monastic about two hours south of the city in Kungyangon. I was floored. The girls were so bought-in and eager to learn from the coaches and participate in drills, and I was able to witness technical improvement within just one session. It was enlightening to see how the program is operating now, and the experience energized me in thinking how I might be able to support programmatic growth over the next year.
I am also getting the opportunity to work on Women Win’s International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI) exchange between the United States and Myanmar. I’ll be working on planning and logistics in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and Women Win for the Myanmar delegation who will be travelling to the US next spring.
Life-wise, I joined a volleyball team in Yangon and practiced with a host of other expat and Burmese adults. I’m looking forward to getting more involved with the team and excited to be able to put the practice of using sport as a tool for cross-cultural cooperation into my own life. I’ve also joined a football group with some people from work, putting to good use the skills I gained at camp with Soccer Without Borders. Though in Boston we admittedly did not have to play on a pitch dotted with rocks and divets, nor navigate a terrifying pack of wild geese guarding the sideline.
All in all, I am happy and excited for the year ahead. For the past ten years, this time of year has always been devoted to hot, sweaty days of pre-season training for volleyball. So the fact that I am still hot, sweaty, and playing volleyball is a source of comfort. I couldn’t be more excited to channel my love for this sport into dissecting the skill progression of volleyball and translating it to the context within which Girl Determined operates.
To learn more about Girl Determined visit their website: http://www.girldetermined.org/