10 TIPS VOLUNTEERING ABROAD
I have just returned home from my 2 week football coaching volunteer project in Saint Lucia, it was an incredible experience!
I coached after school clubs at Marchand and Vide Bouteille primary schools, delivered FUNdamental sessions at a local pre-school, as well as coached senior teams at 2 of the islands popular football clubs, Valley Soccer and Big Players FC, helping them prepare for league matches.
I also raised £1,077.85 for 'United Through Sport' prior to my trip!
1. USE STICKERS AS REWARDS!
They cost very little and mean so much! It’s a well known fact that people work harder when hard work is being recognised, so using stickers to show you have acknowledged when the kids are going above and beyond is a great idea. You can decide what the stickers are awarded for, this could be; most creative, best attitude, most helpful, or you may even make them specific to your session e.g. if you’re working on finishing you can come up with awards like the super striker sticker for the player who scores the most goals. Of course you can use other things such as medals, stickers are just a more affordable option.
Fundraising is so important for charities, they rely on donations to be able to provide kids with the resources they need to flourish. I raised money before my trip to Saint Lucia and felt very proud that, not only was I able to impact the children’s development during my 2 week project, but that I was also playing a vital role in continuing the positive changes being made even after I had returned home thanks to fundraising - leaving a legacy!
3. EXPERIENCE THE CULTURE AS MUCH AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!
When volunteering abroad it’s important to understand that some people’s way of living might not be the same as yours, but that doesn’t mean their way is wrong! In fact most of the time you will find things that other people do in their countries that you wish you’d thought of doing a long time ago, or that you really enjoy and want to do even more of. Try and experience the culture as much as possible, use your free time wisely by getting out and about, visit the local markets and beaches, go to the street parties, taste as many special dishes as you possibly can, be brave at initiating conversation with the locals and learn about their stories. In life it’s not where we have been that shapes us, it’s the people we met along the way!
4. MAKE IT FUN!
The most important thing when you are coaching is that the kids are having fun! Make sure to have a laugh with them, get to know them, create sessions that are really enjoyable (lots of point scoring, challenges, moving in different ways and allow them to be individual), compare them to the superstar footballers of today when they make an incredible tackle, superb pass or score a screamer!
5. CREATE LEADERS!
Give the players leadership and get them making lots of decisions throughout the session. This will keep them enthused and develop them not just as footballers but also as people! Sport can bring the best out of those who maybe struggle in classroom settings, so make sure you use it as an opportunity for them to learn, solve problems and boost their confidence.
6. SET THE PERFECT ENVIRONMENT!
Whether you are working on a UEFA graded training pitch or local park field you can create a positive and exciting environment! Use the power of a high five at the start and end of your sessions, make effort to learn the players names, praise the good with lots of positivity - use words like excellent, fantastic, great, amazing, well done! Set up your sessions in an organised way, ideas like having a square coned out for water bottles to go in and using a whiteboard to write a welcoming message, the learning outcomes, a quiz question, today’s magic word, a league table and even to draw some pictures!
7. LEARN KEY WORDS IN THE LANGUAGE SPOKEN OF WHERE YOU ARE GOING!
In some places there may be a language barrier between you and the players, so it is important to minimise that as much as you possibly can! Obviously to learn a whole new language takes a lot of time but you can soon learn key words, phrases, numbers, colours and football buzz words (e.g. pass, press, turn) to help greet players, ask them questions and make coaching them a little easier. If you can’t remember as much as you would like then take notes/cue cards to your sessions!
8. HAVE REGULAR WATER BREAKS!
Unlike the UK some countries can be very hot, especially to play sports in! This means we have to be sensible about making sure we have regular water breaks to avoid dehydration! Every now and again, maybe when you are about to make a change to the session, ask players to have a drink of water, and at points throughout your session when players seem tired or hot simply ask them if they would like a water break.
You would be surprised how expensive it is to buy a nice pair of football boots or a good quality football in some places! If you can donate something specific to your project, whether that’s equipment or sportswear, the charity, schools and clubs will really appreciate it and you will put a big smile on somebody’s face.
10. BE A ROLE MODEL!
As a coach you are also a role model that the kids will look up to! They will mirror your actions so it’s important to set a positive impression. Get the kids into good habits by always having your water bottle with you at training, always arriving early to your sessions with enough time to set up and always wearing your football boots so that they remember to wear theirs too. You should also share your positivity with the kids by coaching with enthusiasm, listen to everything the kids have to say and be a firm believer that there is no such thing as a silly question! If the kids start to pick up on your good habits it will improve their wellbeing and play a vital part in developing them as people.