BY STARTING AT GRASS ROOT LEVEL, COACHING CONSERVATION AIMS TO INSPIRE A GENERATION OF KIDS WHO CARE ABOUT THEMSELVES, EACH OTHER, AND THE NATURAL WORLD.
Informed by decades of experience in the fields of conservation and social development, Coaching Conservation (CC) evolved from one key realisation – namely that asking people to care about the fate of endangered wildlife is a lot to ask if they have very little faith in their own futures.
CC uses sport as a vehicle to inspire children to care about the fate of threatened wildlife and develop a deeper understanding of the connection between themselves and their environment. We know that you cannot value something until you care about it, and you cannot care about something until you know something about it.
Specifically, CC increases young people’s knowledge of the natural world and builds empathy for endangered wildlife through our unique Learning from Wildlife model, which introduces threatened species as exemplars of things like teamwork, communication, independence or balance, and encourages students to emulate those behaviours in relevant situations in their own lives, both on the soccer field and off it. By coaching kids to BE like their animal mentors, a subconscious affiliation for those animals is nurtured, awakening a new-found appreciation for wildlife and often yielding a lasting passion for nature.
Using soccer as a vehicle, we strive to engender self-respect, team spirit and a sense of wellbeing – elements that are the foundation of a caring society. By additionally integrating conservation messages alongside those soccer skills, Coaching Conservation aims to build empathy between children and animals, and so develop respect for wildlife from a young age.
WHAT IS CC
Coaching Conservation (CC) is a wildlife conservation initiative aimed at developing empathy for wildlife and motivating action to make a difference. Kids learn about the natural world by emulating animal mentors in a mix of soccer drills and other bespoke activities and games, all designed to explore the charicteristics of iconic wild animals while simultaneously revealing the threats these mentors face. The kids enjoy attempting to be like their wild mentors, and as a result develop a real interest in the fate of the animals they have learned about. Importantly, once they have chosen to care, we also teach them how they can take practical steps to help their threatened animal mentors. Every kid leaves with our mantra ringing in their ears:
RESPECT YOURSELF! RESPECT EACH OTHER! RESPECT YOUR ENVIRONMENT!
ROOTS OF CC
“While working on my graduate studies in Anthropology throughout the 1990’s – as a research project of the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, I struggled with the question of how to reach people with our conservation messages.
It became clear that what we were asking – which was for people to care about the fate of endangered wildlife – was a lot to ask, because they had very little faith in their own futures!
We had to move away from traditional knowledge based programs in order to instigate any meaningful behaviour change.
We realized that we needed to address fundamental values and change the relationship people have with themselves and with their environment. The starting point is to have respect for yourself and your own health, and from there to choose to have a future. Then, and only then, can we start talking about what that future might look like.
By using soccer as a vehicle, we strive to engender self-respect, team spirit and a sense of wellbeing in children; elements that are the foundation of a caring society. By interweaving conservation and respect messages with football skills, C4C aims to build a relationship of empathy between children and animals and develop an interest for wildlife from a young age.”
Lesley McNutt, Director of C4C.
Our goal is to move away from kids being told they should care…to inspiring kids who really care
Our primary objective is to inspire a generation of KIDS WHO CARE about themselves, each other, and the natural world around them.
We do this through our unique Learning from Wildlife model which presents threatened wildlife as animal mentors that each possess highly developed skills. Like elite athletes, these skills and strategies help each animal to thrive and be resilient in times of adversity, just like our children need to be.
The iconic charismatic megafauna of Africa exemplify these characteristics. Lions for example, work as a team to hunt successfully, just as a soccer team must work together on the field. Rhinos are the landscape architects of the bush, creating space for other animals to live in. They are exemplary in defending their territory and what is theirs, while being surprisingly fast and able to change direction quickly.
On the soccer field, children learn to defend possession and develop the skills to quickly change direction, while off the field children learn to defend and protect what is important to them and how to change direction in school or social situations if thing are not going well.
FOR THE FUTURE
Young people need to be engaged beyond the standard education process if they are to become tomoorow’s change-makers. We catalyse environmental awareness and action by a) giving young people a choice to act and b) supplying the tools to act well.
Coaching Conservation is a proven model that engages children at the ideal age where they are cognitively aware enough to understand environmental concepts and issues, but have not yet defined their own personal belief system and ethos. It is the only time to allow them to make a choice to care and to define their own appreciations and values.
To affect the greatest possible change, we need to expand our reach exponentially. We hope to make Coaching Conservation the new metric for engaging and influencing young people across Africa and across the globe, inspiring a generation of Kids Who Care.
We understand that empathy cannot be taught directly, but has to emerge organically in each child. Our programs provide empathy-building experiences, motivating positive social and environmental actions, and moving children from being ‘those who are told to care’ to ‘those who actually do care’ about others, animals and the natural world around them.
“Sport teaches life skills. Sport remains the best school of life.”
Adolf Ogi, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Developemnt and Peace
“Sport is a universal language. At its best it can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status.”
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General 1997 – 2006
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