The most important people at TackleAfrica are our players, and we’re always keen to know how we can support our coaches to deliver the best sessions to them. In Zambia, we’re working with our partner, the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). This week, we caught up with Coach Chris and some of the young women on his CIDRZ team to get their thoughts on delivering and playing in their first ever TackleAfrica sessions. Our method incorporates sexual health education through fun and interactive football drills, and it’s always interesting to see how young people respond to this type of innovative learning. Many of us will remember being embarrassed teenagers, perhaps listening to a teacher or doctor talking about sex, and wondering when it would end! How did these young women find learning about sex on a football pitch?
Experienced football Coach Chris seen here was also a newbie to our methodology, delivering his first TackleAfrica sessions. He led a warm up using Contraceptive Coordination, which gets players moving together, promoting teamwork, while at the same time learning where you can access contraception such as male and female condoms. He then delivered one of our most popular drills called The Truth About HIV, which improves your dribbling skills as well as improving your HIV knowledge, learning how to distinguish the facts from the many myths which surround this virus.
Fourteen year old Rebecca told us, “The game was really fun and easy to understand. I really enjoyed playing with my friends and learning at the same time. I now know where in my community I can access different contraceptives like condoms and family planning. I really liked the way I could learn new information about HIV while playing football, and I really enjoy playing football and learning new things at the same time.”
Another player, also Rebecca, sixteen agreed, “I find it interesting and different to my usual football sessions. I don’t usually get information about HIV while playing football! I like that we start with just playing football and then do the same game again but this time learn about HIV by answering the questions through playing. I learnt that I can’t get HIV through a mosquito, that HIV and AIDS are not the same. I didn’t know this before the session.”
Our sessions don’t just provide young people with knowledge. We also work to develop resilience and the confidence to negotiate safer sex, or even to refuse sex. For young women especially, that can be a difficult conversation in a male-dominated society, and it’s often not something girls even think is an option. So it’s powerful when a male coach like Chris uses a game to show his adolescent players they don’t need to engage in sex if they’re not ready. One fourteen year old player from Ibex said, “I learnt new football coaching points about how to turn with the ball and dribble quickly with small touches, but I also learnt what was true about HIV. One new thing I learnt was that if I am not interested in having sex with my boyfriend, I can refuse.”
Coach Chris is an experienced football coach and a trained psychosocial counsellor for our partner CIDRZ. He comes to TackleAfrica with a great background, and we can already see he’ll go far. “Coaching is something I love to do. I coach Tuesday to Sunday with four different teams, reaching over sixty players daily. One day I hope to have a job just like yours!” he said, pointing to our Zambia Programme Manager Jed. And it’s not a far-fetched idea, with Jed confirming “these were arguably two of the best TackleAfrica sessions I’ve ever seen”, particularly from a new coach who had only just completed a three day introductory course.
We wish Coach Chris and all his players the best of luck as they embark on their TackleAfrica journey. We’ll be back to see how they’re getting on in a few months’ time.
If you’re interesting in getting involved in the work we do, and even travelling to Africa to support one of our programmes, please visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved for more details.