According to FIFA, roughly 500 x more girls have the opportunity to play soccer in America than in South Africa.
So practically, what does this mean for girls in the city of Cloetesville, South Africa?
In my personal experience, soccer has taught me some incredibly valuable lessons: discipline, leadership, teamwork, communication skills, and trust. Soccer has shaped my character and it has built my confidence. It kept me out of trouble as a kid, it opened doors to new opportunities and experiences, and it helped me to build relationships with mentors and leaders who were willing to pour into my life in a variety of ways.
Okay, so to sum it up:
The number of opportunities and positive outcomes that these South African girls can have with soccer are limited. So limited in fact, that South Africa has stereotyped soccer (and futsal) to be predominantly a man’s sport. Girls don’t play futsal. They are intimidated by the boys, they are mistreated and disrespected, and they lack the encouragement from female leaders to step out onto the pitch (field).
Instead, these girls end up dropping out of school, they develop addictions to alcohol and drugs, or in some cases, they get pregnant and are forced to stay home and take care of their children (usually without the help of the father).
The nonprofit I am partnering with, training4changeS, made it a goal to redefine futsal for girls. We want to show them that they can have better futures. They can have hope. We want to use soccer to bring these 14-18 year old girls into an environment where they can learn, grow, develop, and shine. It will be a safe place after school where they can be transparent and experience love, support, and encouragement. This girls futsal initiative will help to counter those cultural norms that plague the colored communities. Empowering, equipping, and establishing these high schoolers through futsal is the main focus of the training4changeS initiative. This is a ground breaking concept, so it will look more like a marathon than a sprint, but we are willing and ready to give it our all.
We have (so far) partnered alongside Coaches Across Continents, SAIFA (South African Indoor Football Association), Cape Town Titans, Futsal Worldwide, and the Stellenbosch Municipality to accomplish these goals. People are joining our team, things are getting done, and visions are being put into action.
Practically, my role within the training4changeS nonprofit will be to coach and mentor the girls who play futsal under our initiative. I will be working alongside Ashulita and Rencia, two other coaches with a passion for impacting girls, to develop the high schoolers in life skills and in technical futsal skills. We will also tutor them since academics will be a huge priority (no school, no futsal). The more time we get to spend investing in these girls, the greater our impact will be. We chose Friday nights to be our “league game night” which will help keep the girls off the streets and away from those dangerous “night life” environments. We are also planning multiple training camps and tournaments to give the girls more exposure into the sport.
Offering them practical lessons and training will be far more beneficial than just offering them kind and motivating words (though we plan on doing that too!). We will do our best to lead by example and make a difference practically. These young women will be fighting a tough battle, and they need all the armor and all the tools they can get to fight back against the oppressing and depressing situations they face each day.
If you’d like to support the training4changeS initiative visit their website at: training4changes.org
Also, help us spread the word by using our hashtag: #againstALLodds
Together we can accomplish much. Thank you for being a part of our team, and I can’t wait to share updates on the girls and the growth of this program.