Monday, November 7, 2011

Tibet's First Girls' Soccer Coaches!

As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I often find my thoughts with all the amazingly generous people who supported my dream this summer by making donations and helping with the fundraising efforts. My Thanksgiving this year will include no turkey. There definitely won't be gravy. No football, no apple pie, no mashed potatoes. But what better way to spend the ultimate day of gratitude than by physically manifesting the intention I set so long ago - to start a girls' soccer program for Tibetan refugees - for all the friends, family and strangers who made it possible.

I can't believe it's only 2 weeks away. We've invited 20 Tibetan adults to attend a 6-day coaching intensive here in Dharamsala. Everything seems to just be falling into place so magically. I am led to believe that it's all meant to be.

A twist of fate led to a meeting with former professional Romanian soccer player, Paul Dascalu, who was conveniently hanging around Dharamsala looking for a way to volunteer using his soccer skills. Paul speaks perfect English, has started numerous youth soccer teams, and is a classroom teacher in his current home in Denmark. He has hopped on board our effort to prepare the Tibetan coaches to start the first girls' teams, and he somehow feels just as lucky to have met us as we feel to have met him. Paul brings a whole new level of legitimacy to the training - I am no expert in soccer coaching. And now I feel like we will be preparing these new coaches to form teams and conduct training at a way more professional level than if I were operating alone.

The training program will open with an elaborate Tibetan ceremony, complete with honored guest (the head of ALL Tibetan schools in India), prayers performed by Buddhist monks and official photographs. We've invited two guest speakers from Delhi - one sports psychologist and one sports physiotherapist - both directly affiliated with the Indian Sports Commission.

Each day will begin with a 7am yoga/meditation class, followed by an hour on the field learning drills with Paul. After breakfast we'll gather in the conference room for lectures on various topics, ranging from big-picture feminist theory right down to how to teach a girl to dribble a ball. After lunch we'll take a short break and then head back out onto the field for 2 more hours of practical with Paul. Each evening we'll screen a key game from this summer's Women's World Cup, which was never aired in India.

We've hired cooks to prepare all our meals and tea breaks. We've commandeered an entire guesthouse on the school campus where everyone will be given full accommodation. We've got balls, t-shirts, whistles and stopwatches for every coach. We're paying all the travel expenses for the out-of-towners coming from Tibetan refugee settlements further afield. In fact, we were only planning to invite the ones from within the general region - but somehow, coaches at schools further away (in Ladakh & South India) got wind of what was going on. They asked if they could come too. Part of the agreement that each new coach has to make in order to attend the program is that they must agree to start a girls' team in their community. So, of course, how could I say no? Two more teams. Check!

The entire proceedings will be documented by a professional filmmaker. He is currently living in Dharamsala, producing 25 short films showcasing life as a refugee. He has latched onto our effort and wants to make one of our first girl players the subject of one of his films. He is granting us full rights on the resulting feature.

One might think that I must be completely busy right now preparing for all this. Unbelievably, I am not. Life seems to be in perfect balance.  I've always been told that when you're doing something you truly love, when your work becomes your true calling, the details will fall into place and you won't feel like you're working at all. It's cliche, but for me, right now, it is absolutely true.

So although I'll be substituting lentils for turkey, chapatti for biscuits, and butter tea for beer this Thanksgiving, it's all worth it. I am so completely grateful to all of you for providing me with the chance to live this life that I am coming to love so dearly, that is providing me with so much satisfaction. I don't doubt that it will soon bring a chance for the same to many others.

To all of those who helped in any way to make this possible: FEEL GOOD RIGHT NOW. You've created something truly remarkable. Thank you.

Stay tuned for details on how it all went!

1 comment:

  1. I would like to take credit for being the "twist of fate" that united Paul with Cassie and Tomer. From there, it's only a small leap to view me as the lynchpin to the entire Tibet Women's Soccer program. No, really, just a baby leap...