It all started in December, 2014 when Children of Armenia Fund invited soccer coach and writer Andrea Montalbano to Armenia to take part in a “Soccer Diplomacy” event to promote soccer among Armenian girls. Andrea ran a small training session for girls from Lernagog, Karakert and Shenik, teaching them a special warm-up routine. But along with the training Andrea gave inspirational speeches to the girls about the importance of girls’ soccer, and this made a huge difference.
Feeling the great enthusiasm among the girls in COAF-supported villages, Andrea recommended COAF as a partner organization for Coaches across Continents (CAC), a global leader in the sport for social impact movement, founded in 2008 by Nick Gates, a former soccer player for England Youth International, a soccer executive and a Harvard graduate.
In August 2016, CAC and Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) conducted a 2-day training session for 20 coaches and 40 children from Tumanyan, Debed, Dsegh, Arevatsag, Akori and Dzoragyugh villages at COAF-established SMART Room in Tumanyan. But this was not your average soccer training. In fact, it was more like “sports therapy” aiming to solve social issues through soccer. The training consisted of drill implementation sessions and discussions about women’s rights, breaking stereotypes, community problems and healthy living. The unique “Soccer for Social Impact Curriculum” contained physical exercises and soccer moves that helped the participants open up about social issues, talk about them and find solutions.
“Most importantly, you make their voices heard,” says Andrea Montalbano. “When kids have freedom of expression, they feel their importance and become more confident.”
The project will go on for three years and will be implemented by local coaches who will be trained through practical sessions, as well as webinars and online lessons.
“We call them coaches but they are actually change-makers,” Andrea says. “They are coached by CAC to train children and youngsters, and to empower changes in their communities.”
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