Tuesday 4th July 2017:
I'm done and I can write about my last few days and give some thoughts about the experience. I can finally, and freely, admit to blocking the shower. After a particularly muddy session, I washed my boots in the shower. The grass and mud went down the drain, and from that day on, it prevented the water from disappearing (sorry). Overall, my time in Bacalar was an incredibly positive experience.
Since finishing, and looking to keep busy while remaining involved in the development of the programme, I have designed curriculums, and come up with a document to help incoming coaches. The trip back to Distrito Federal was a strange one. My taxi arrived at four in the morning to drive me to the airport. The plane, again, was great, and I had three seats to myself. I managed to sleep a little too, having not slept much the night before, for fear I would miss my taxi.
On Friday night, I said goodbye to all the players. They truly are a lovely bunch. One brought me a gansito, which is like a chocolate and jam roll. Another had her aunt bake me a cake. That was shared with the whole group. Everyone loves cake, and it was good cake too. I wish nothing but the best for this lot, and I will remain interested and in touch for years to come.
Wednesday and Thursday of this past week, with just myself and the American, we split the older group by ability. I took the better group on both days. She was amazed at the lower ability of the weaker group and became visibly frustrated. All coaches have to start from the bottom (unless you are an ex pro with good connections). You have to work with the players who are completely clueless, and with little motivation to be there. As committed and passionate footballers, we can't understand why others don't know football, or don't want to know football, however we're not working for now, but for the future. It was frustrating for her, and we originally planned to both take a stab at each group, but she insisted, and persisted.
Genuinely, there's a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity about the game in Bacalar. No one is going to be pulling up trees any time soon, but who knows, in ten years, Bacalar could be a hotbed for girls football. The players were so interested to learn and it was a real pleasure to work in such an environment. I only wish I could have done more. If they had better foundations, I could have been far more effective with my coaching. Unfortunately the girls had no initial reference point for football knowledge and were not used to training. Simple games, such as 3v3, with each team defending a goal, took so long to explain and they almost seemed shocked that the exercise was so simple once they’d figured it out. Perhaps they’d been anticipating a minefield of cones, lines, and lots of shouting, like we see with the boys.
Football is a game of intelligence. I must have said that to the players every day. I kept reminding them that everything in football needs a decision. It became my catchphrase. The difference between a pass and a kick is the thought that precedes it. With the other coaches, my most used words were "decisions" and "repetitions." Over time, the players stopped just kicking it, and began looking for passes. I kept calling them out on it. "What was the decision you made then?" and they would look embarrassed as they admitted they didn't have a decision. I kept telling them that mistakes are fine, as we all do them, and it is part of the learning process, but there must always be a decision. Some of them even began to call the others out on it.
In the last few sessions, we could see a real difference. I want that improvement to continue. There were backwards and sideways passes. There were players running away from the ball and into space, instead of swarming like they did originally. Instead of being a fast paced, random, swarm, the games had become slower, with more deliberate actions, and more apparent thought processes. I love that. Please, please, please continue.
Lastly, before I sign out, I must speak of my love, respect, and admiration for the other volunteers. In a world where horrible acts are committed in the name of religion, where people say they will do things but don't (like how they care about veterans and will make a donation, or that they care about coal miners and will bring back non-existent jobs), or a world where people only do good so that they can share it on Facebook, it's rare to find truly good, honest and genuine people. I'm boring, miserable, and prefer my own company. The other volunteers realised that, but that doesn't mean I don't like them or think that what they’re doing is great. What Romina is doing is far greater than most religious people I have ever met, and there is not a hint of arrogance in her, nor does she give the impression it's all for show. This is genuine, altruistic, and giving something back motivates her. She wants to do the right thing.
Despite our different backgrounds and personalities, in four weeks, no one had any problems with anyone. We'll most likely admit to not being people we'd necessarily choose to hang out with in a more normal setting, yet due to the pure motivations and the absolute dedication of everyone at Girls United, we had no problems. Every volunteer in Bacalar, without a shadow of a doubt, wanted to do right by these girls. We gave them our best, and will continue to do so. We also worked as a team, there were times when we were busy, dehydrated, tired, or sick with stomach problems and we covered for each other without question. If I had to spend two hours with other coaches helping them plan their sessions, I didn't care, as it meant the players were getting a good service. If a coach was desperate for a rest and needed a drink, shade, sit down, or bathroom break, we didn't care. We were all pulling in the same direction. Work and credit are irrelevant when working with selfless people, and due to that, the quality of work is better, and the credit is rich.
If I had a heart, these volunteers and these girls would always have a place in it.
Nos vemos, bromigos.
More posts from Will's time in Bacalar can be found here: http://unorthodoxcoaching.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/coaching-in-paradise-bacalar-2017.html (or by clicking on the title of this blog post).