Rethinking Soccer

A girl in the Core Child Program focuses as she practices for a game of soccer It’s no secret that sport has the ability to unite people- especially soccer. Around the world families, neighbors, and friends crowd small TV sets just to catch a match with their favorite team.

Like children and adults alike across the world, our kids at TYO love playing soccer. Play has long been understood to provide children with the experiences they need in order to learn social skills and values. But unlike many other health and fitness programs, the purpose when we play soccer at TYO isn’t scoring a goal- it’s developing ourselves to become better teammates, neighbors, and people. The focus of last week’s Core Child Program was improved collaboration through building community.  Children in the program partook in range of activities designed to help them develop skills relating to the importance of honesty, active listening, and appropriate reactions to frustrating circumstances. As teachers, we aimed to de-emphasize personal competition in groups for the purpose of rooting in children the importance of working together- showing that we are far stronger as a group.

Beyond that, as we’ve written previously, Nablus is a community that doesn’t always value men and women equally.  Particularly when it comes to sports, it is commonly believed in Nablus that such activities are for boys alone. As such, this week we focused on breaking local conceptions of gender roles by pairing girls and boys on teams.

According to the US Soccer Coaching Education Department, ‘through play, children become sensitive to other children’s needs and values, learn to handle exclusion and dominance, manage their emotions and learn self-control, as well as share power, space and ideas with others. At all levels of development, play provides opportunities for children to feel comfortable and in control of their feelings by allowing the expression of emotions in acceptable ways. Soccer provides children with the opportunity to negotiate and resolve conflict. Thus the concept behind the psychosocial aspect of soccer is assisting children and adolescents to address a myriad of social and psychological challenges simultaneously in gentle and non-intrusive ways through their natural predilection to play.’

As a teacher with a background in health and wellness, it’s been a privilege to be able to share an activity I love so much as a tool to better support children from Nablus’s most under-served communities.

-Core Child Teacher, Haithem