There is something simultaneously exhilarating and humbling about being a presenter. Crafting a talk which engages just as much as it educates is something which takes trial and error. Here at UKSD, we have recently tried our hand with this type of work.
This January, we were invited to speak at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago. We were asked to participate in a discussion panel which consisted of various organizations who all work towards creating affordable and accessible soccer opportunities for underprivileged communities.
Although this was a small portion of this convention, one which was comprised of thousands of soccer coaches from across the nation, we feel that this was an integral component to the much needed conversation revolving around affordable play. For this discussion, we invited the head coach of our Kenyan partner program, Touch Kibera, to join us. Doc and Edwin spoke to a room filled with like-minded individuals, all who have found soccer to be one of the greatest equalizers in the world. The conversation took many turns, often posing questions which required some in depth contemplation.
The panel attempted to tackle how we find balance between the pay for play soccer model and providing free of charge services. They were also asked to address how to work with diverse racial and socio-economic groups without trying to overpower previously established leaders who already work within those communities. This concept was particularly compelling for Doc and Edwin because this is exactly what they have spent time working on.
Something which has been at the cornerstone of our work with Touch Kibera is acknowledging and honoring who they are as an entity. It is not our desire to attempt to tell them how to run their program or take it over in anyway; it is our goal to share our resources, our experiences, and our knowledge so that they may simply further enhance the great work they already do. Within the panel discussion, a collaborative style model was something that many members wished to further explore. When coaches and mentors are already embedded within a community, it is imperative to work with them so that they may continue to maintain that leadership and connection. It felt that this conversation was only the beginning as it was evident that listeners and presenters all wish they had more time to dissect these complex ideas. Luckily for us, we were able to continue aspects of this talk just a few weeks later.
Shortly after our work at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, we attended the Breaking Barriers Event in our own state of Massachusetts. Due to the more localized nature of this event and the entire focus being on providing affordable soccer to our region’s most vulnerable youth, our talk took on a different angle. What we focused on for this one was the importance of collaboration. Through a hands-on problem solving activity which created an experiential learning moment, Doc and Fligg were able to encourage the examination of the benefits of collaboration.
All too often, we see organizations with similar missions working in silos. By nature, we become protective and territorial over our work and our resources. However, something we have learned through years of providing free play for kids is that collaboration is key. We need to take ownership of what we don’t know or don’t have sometimes. We need to put our pride aside and ask for help. In addition to this, as organizations, we should be sharing with others what has worked and what has not in order to help others find success or even avoid our previously made mistakes. If we’re all in it for the kids, then we need to always put them at the forefront of our decision making and set aside competitiveness, pride, and, in some cases, our fears.
All in all, we have walked away with a new appreciation for those who dare to present to others. Even if we’re all in the same craft and often for the same reasons, it can be nerve wracking to share your mission. However, we have quickly learned that we will never grow or begin to enact change if we don’t dare to speak. With a new energy and passion for spreading our message, we hope to participate in other panels, workshops, and to keep the momentum going in the world of affordable sport.
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