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Fun and Impactful

During a soccer dribbling exercise, I ask the men and women candidates to give each other high-fives, to be encouraging and to cheer for each other, and to partner with the opposite sex. I ask them to learn and say each other’s names and to share their favorite colors, animals, and foods while completing the drill.


At first, my instructions were received with uncertainty. These additions to the activity seemed strange to the 21 refugee coach candidates and to the community of men, women, and children crowding around the field watching (and laughing). But these seemingly silly requests are all part of the comprehensive Refugees United Soccer Academy (RUSA) curriculum. Developed by our Soccer Technical Advisors, the Academy structure and curriculum is designed for state-of-the-art player development—starting with the foundations of passing, receiving, and dribbling skills, and progressing to attacking and defending. But there’s more to RUSA than just developing future star players—RUSA also teaches refugee boys and girls life skills by integrating lessons on gender equality, health, and peace-building into each Academy session.


The candidates completed the dribbling exercise, giggling their way through sharing their favorite colors, animals, and foods while dribbling through cones. Afterward, as we huddled together, I explained the meaning behind my instructions: that encouraging children to express themselves and to get to know their peers is one small but impactful way they, as coaches, will begin planting seeds of peace at the Academy and in their community. What may have felt elementary or funny to them was going to create the opportunity for boys and girls in their camp to play in a safe space, to learn, to be heard, to make new friends and…to have fun! I pointed out that each of them was smiling and laughing during the entire soccer exercise. “And so,” I asked, “wasn’t that fun!?”


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