Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Soccer training goes beyond the pitch

Budapest, Hungary — All the soccer players were young – between 10 and 14 years of age – but at a recent match, the opposing team was fierce in its verbal taunting of the Black Stars Juniors Football Club.

“Most of the time when children play football, they swear a lot,” explains Nabil Switzer, 15, a player in a different league who helps mentor the Black Stars. “It’s very normal.”
But in some ways the Black Stars are not “normal.” For one thing, other than playing all the harder, they didn’t respond to the goading at the recent match. Not a word. Afterwards, some of the parents of the opposing players were heard scolding their sons for mouthing such abusive words.
Gabor Karagich, the 31-year-old Black Stars coach, was pleased with his boys’ behavior but said it is what he expected of them. His goal, he says, is “nurturing good human beings, not only good soccer players.”
That he is serious about this is reflected in the dual nature of his program – football practice twice a week, a Saturday class twice a month.
The boys – there are about 20 of them – have named the class the Forro Csoki Klub (Hot Chocolate Club), and while there they do talk about football. But that’s not all.
“We evaluate how the training went,” the coach says of the class. “We look at what made it possible that we played more unitedly or what happened if we were not so attentive towards each other. We also discuss topics related to our behavior, what it means to be good, one’s responsibility towards others and society….”

Mr. Karagich receives financial support for the project from a Baha’i-inspired nonprofit organization in Hungary called the Unity in Diversity Foundation.
The director of the foundation, Mrs. Furugh Switzer, said the boys in the soccer program are from disadvantaged families who normally cannot afford this type of sports training. The program, she said, is provided free of charge to participants and not only offers quality instruction but also helps keep the youngsters away from things like drugs and alcohol.
Coach Karagich, who is a Baha’i, previously worked for six years as a certified youth football trainer and said he used to be concerned only about winning.
He signed up for a moral education training program run by the Baha’is that would allow him to be what they call a youth “animator.” It gave him the idea for the new football club, which he launched last September.

In starting this club I wasn’t looking for a career again as a soccer trainer,” he said. “I wanted to help boys find respect for themselves and for the society. I also wanted to help them see that not everything is about winning.”
Mark Molnar, 10, is one of the Black Stars and says his football club is different from others. On most teams, he says, “they laugh at people when they make mistakes.

Coach Karagich says that at the beginning, some of the parents seemed suspicious of the motives – both his and that of the Unity in Diversity Foundation. But after the parents came to some of the training sessions, they warmed up, both to the football practice and to the Hot Chocolate Club.
He proudly quoted from a letter he received from one of the mothers: “Our friends who came to the training this Saturday for the first time could hardly believe this group. … The atmosphere of the training is so good.”

For the six years that I’ve been a trainer I have never had this type of support from the parents,” the coach said. “At first it was weird to get so many telephone calls, but now I know their support really helps the work we’re doing.”
Mr. Karagich said part of his motivation comes from his own background.
“When I was a child I had some real trouble,” he said. “I started this club to help these boys avoid some of the mistakes I made.”
He works to create a collaborative rather than a competitive spirit among the team members.
“We had a child who thought this was a team like all the others where you had to be the best player,” the coach said. “In the beginning it was hard for him to make friends with the other boys because he was in competition with them. But now he understands the way the team works. He is getting along with everyone and has a good time.”
Another of the boys used to spend all his time alone in his room on the computer. Now he likes to go to football practice and the Hot Chocolate Club to spend time with his friends, the coach said.
Mrs. Switzer of the Unity in Diversity Foundation says the program is helping the boys develop a social perspective.
“Gabor organized for them to go to play a football team at the orphanage,” she said. “Afterwards, the children at the orphanage took them around the place, and now all the boys have become friends. After their visit they discussed the importance of being kind to others and being of service to them.”


Anonymous said...

Very beautiful

Baha'i Family - اسرة بهائية said...

Virtues are the most important things for children to learn.