Archive for the 'Soccer4Hope' Category



work rant/

Integrating an institutional overhaul as a relatively neutral third party figure is a daunting challenge. Our task is to completely reboot and remodel the recruitment and employment structure of Hoops4Hope, starting with the application process, extending to the contract and retention phase, to the growth and community development aspects, to a final exit strategy for participants.

Our task here began with an overhaul of the application system – presently there isn’t really one. All-Stars and MVPs are chosen based on who you know or what affiliation to the program you have or what club team you played for. This means that most of the All-Stars aren’t really cut out for their jobs – they don’t have any kind of training or education for it, and their motivation is ridiculously low. They see the job as an avenue for free internet and phone in the office, a nice little stipend once a month, and a stable career. That’s not what we want and its not what breeds institutional growth and a desire to see change, expansion, and community outreach.

Hence, we’re completely revamping the application system, starting with creating an application from scratch. The hurdles we have to jump through that you don’t even think about in America are huge – a basic request for a 500 word essay turns into a huge debate. Does a normal applicant have access to a computer? Do they have the basic English literacy rate needed to write 500 words? Is that too many words for the topic? Should we shorten it? Do they have access to a printer? Should we make them do it in the office to test their computer literacy? The typical All-Star/our ideal applicant has what amounts to an 8th grade education in America, and catering an application to that level is a challenge.

Further, we have to change the basic framework of the organization. Right now the All-Stars and MVPs receive basically nothing from us besides a stipend and free computer access. We want to team up with other NGOs and offer them computer literacy, financial planning, resume planning, and all kinds of other classes. There are NGOs all over this city looking to help people with all kinds of problems like that, and its our goal to provide All-Stars with access to them. The idea is that All-Stars keep the position for one year and then have the skills and framework to move on to a legitimate career – a stark contrast to the atmosphere around the job now, which is basically seen as a 5 year job with stability and no growth.

Therefore we’re revamping the contract All-Stars sign at the start of their year, matching it up with results of the planning week we had in late September. The program needs to see a ton of growth and institutional change to get it out of the slump it’s in right now. It does a very good job at what it is presently – a basketball organization with some life skills on the side – but that’s a dismal representation of what it should be. We should be a community wide organization thriving on teaching life skills, AIDS prevention, and other aspects of basic education, and also running a successful basketball program on the side as a way to get kids interested and involved in the organization.


Things haven’t really been that busy, I’ve just been pretty lazy about writing up a new post. If you want more constant interaction just email me – – skype me – jack.robenalt – or send me money


Settling In

Picture 023I can’t believe this is the start of my sixth week of work. The time here blows by – working everyday from 9(ok, closer to 10) to 5 (well… more like 3:30) and then having different Connect events or going out afterwards really drains you and keeps the days busy. Its rare to have a few days with nothing to do, and even rarer to have entire weekends with nothing planned.

The last few weeks have been filled with work projects. Two weeks ago we held a holiday program for the girls in our program while they were on their spring break. The idea was to have each community have a day camp for the girls, culminating in a tournament. I organized the event, starting with a budget and moving to the actual day-by-day planning stages. The girls who have worked in the program for years aren’t very creative with what they do, and its part of the reason the organization has seen very little growth recently. They don’t think outside the box, and basically just replicate everything from the year before. Not that anything I do is revolutionary – its all basically stuff I’ve picked up from working lacrosse camps and things I remember from going to soccer and lacrosse camps as a player.

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So I planned the week with the girls in charge of each community. On Thursday and Friday of that week I went out to the townships to document the program. The way we planned it, there was supposed to be around 60 girls broken up into 4 groups, doing soccer drills and life lessons. It looked great on paper, and I know had it been planned as such in the US it would have gone off without a hitch.

When we arrived at the field, the first thing I noticed was a cow skull. It was in the grass near the soccer field. Vuyo said that it’s a pretty normal thing to see in the townships – the people take everything they can from the cow and then leave it be, but the head is useless because their brains are too small to eat. So they leave the skull.

I gave my camera to a little girl, and this is what I found later

I gave my camera to a little girl, and this is what I found later

When we walked closer to the field we noticed that the girls playing weren’t actually girls – it was a group of boys. The girls were all sitting off to the side, huddled around each other giggling and laughing. We all exchanged looks of frustration – this was what we were afraid of. Its part of the reason this organization doesn’t exactly draw me in – the overall futility of what we’re trying to do quells any unknown desires I have to give it my all and dive in head first 100%. I don’t think it’s the organizations fault – I’m pretty sure its just the way this kind of thing works. The frustration level is astounding though. I’ve barely been here a month and already when we go out to townships I expect to find unorganized and poorly funded events.

I’m now spending the week trying to find a way to implement an MVP improvement and evaluation form. Basically the MVPs right now have no way to measure their growth over the course of the year, and have no program to make sure they’re learning new things and improving their coaching techniques. They have no method for growth, and its my goal for the week to figure out a way to get them to improve and evaluate their performances. I have meetings with them and am drafting up various forms and programs for them, we’ll see how it all goes. Its an uphill battle, but you gotta start somewhere.

More on the past weekend – I reffed a basketball game, made sandwiches for 300 kids, listened to MSU win its second straight game, and went to the beach.

This might be my favorite picture of all time

This might be my favorite picture of all time


A Week Later

Picture 161Its been a week since my last post, and a whole lot has happened. I didn’t come here to sit around all day and hang out at my computer (just after work) and that goal is finally coming to fruition. I say “finally” like it took longer than a few days, but 3 days with nothing to do, by yourself, in a town you don’t know is pretty boring. Thankfully work started last Wednesday, and my spirit has just been crushed and stomped on by my daunting workday. I work every day of the week from 9:30 to 4, and it is a grind. I’m constantly exhausted and the work just never ends. Waking up at 8:15 is awful, and getting home at 4:30 is one of the most obnoxious things I’ve ever experienced. That puts me like halfway through Oprah, and I miss most of the Today show before I leave for work in the morning. That doesn’t even cover all the prep time I need to prepare for the next day’s slave labor. November can’t come soon enough.

So how much of a jackass would I be if that was actually the way I felt? (Its ok Genie, if the President can call  Kanye one I can use it too) Seriously, 9:30-4 rules. The African work day is about ten times more relaxed than the American work day. People stroll into my office around 11 some days and have the African equivalent of a ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse – usually something along the lines of ‘I had to kill a lion with my barehands on the way to work’ (No lions actually live in the wild in Cape Town), ‘I had to get an AIDS test because I saw blood on the way to work’ (Did you know you can’t get AIDS from just looking at blood? I think you might be able to after the way MSU health people talked about it before I got here) or ‘I passed three gang shootouts outside the local middle school’ (This might be a legit excuse) – and my boss doesn’t care.

Picture 150No doubt contributing to the incredibly slow pace of work is the glacial internet speed. You know when your computer gets overloaded or your network has too many people connected and facebook albums don’t load very fast? Yea, that speed is like someone hit the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon compared to the speed of the internet at work here. I swear I can hear the phone line static thing whenever I walk by the router, and I check like half the time to see if someone is watching You’ve Got Mail. But how good is that Kid CuDi album? It took me three full workdays to download it, and it’s about College Dropout level.

I’m working with 2 girls who are from townships around here to organize and structure Soccer4Hope, an offshoot of Hoops4Hope that’s based on the same ideals – teaching life skills, leadership, and providing structure and productive afterschool activity through sport to boys and girls from the townships around Cape Town and eventually throughout Africa. There are branches of Hoops4Hope in Tanzania, Joburg, Cape Town, and a few other areas throughout Africa, with plans for more, but their home base is my office in Cape Town. They get funding and help from NBA Cares and the Boston Celtics, and everyone in my office actually spent the week before I got here in Joburg at an NBA Cares camp, working with Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitski, and other NBA players.

The program is based around a volunteer infrastructure that extends into each township. Soccer4Hope is based in 4 townships around the city, and has an “All-Star” for each township. These All-Stars are usually between 20 and 25, live in that township, and had something to do with the program before they became All-Stars. They receive a small per diem to cover basic expenses, but its by no means a full time job – although most of them don’t have any other kind of employment. Their responsibility to set up and coordinate a system of volunteer “MVPs” – high school kids from their townships that will become coaches and help lay the groundwork for recruiting kids from the primary schools to participate in the program. The MVPs are the people that work directly with the kids, the All-Stars sometimes work with individual teams, and the handful of people at the administrative level mostly work with All-Stars and rely on them to move information down the food chain.

Picture 147There are really only 2 administrators that work with Hoops and Soccer – the head boss, Kita – an ex-semi-professional basketball player who spends every preseason interning with Doc Rivers and the Celtics, and my boss, Karl. There’s another American intern working in the office too, a kid from NYC named Valerio. The office is very relaxed. It’s basically in a glorified warehouse, and I usually wear jeans and a tshirt and sometimes I’m overdressed. I caught some crap from a few of the All-Stars yesterday for wearing a tucked in button up on my first day, but they’re good people and fun to hang with. I brought Valerio and Raviq – one of the All-Stars who is a little bit older than the others – out with me and the kids I live with last weekend and everybody got along pretty well, although Raviq was laughing at being the token black guy for once, when usually Valerio and I are the token white kids wherever we go with work.

I’ve spent the last week and change organizing, planning, setting a budget for, and implementing a Coaches Clinic for next week and then a Holiday Program for the week after that. The schools here get a spring break the week after next, and we’re organizing a soccer camp from 10 to 3 every day over that week to keep the kids out of trouble and into a structured, productive environment. The Coaches Clinic is so the MVPs know what to coach their teams during the Holiday Program, which should be a pretty full week. I get stations and responsibility at both events, which should be an adventure. Most of the kids from the townships here have never heard an American speak English before, and they always ask me to repeat things or elaborate, and most of the time I have no idea what their names are or what half the stuff they say means. It’ll be fun though – its coaching and working directly with kids, which will be way better than working in an office all day.

After being here for 10 days or so, you being to notice how different it is here. All my coworkers, and all the kids from townships, call stoplights “robots”. As in, “When you get to the robot, turn left”. I still laugh at that, but I’m sure I’ll start calling it that soon. There’s also 14 million little Toyota sedans from the 80s and early 90s in the townships that are called “cockroaches”. They’re basically mini-taxis that will take you anywhere in that township for 5 rand – basically 75 cents. They’re called cockroaches for two reasons – both according to the kids I was driving through the townships with yesterday. 1) “Every time you turn on the lights you see cockroaches scatter, and when you drive into a township you see cockroaches scatter everywhere.” 2) “You can hit a cockroach nine times before it dies, and I’ve never seen a cockroach without at least 3 dents or scratches in it”. The police often set up roadblocks for them, and yesterday we drove through 3 in my 4 hours in the townships. Most of the drivers don’t carry ID and a high percentage of the cars are stolen from other townships, so they’re easy prey for cops here.

Picture 157

Time to go pick up my laundry – I paid six bucks American to drop it off in the morning before work and pick it up washed, pressed, and folded after work. Very nice. More later from the past week – I also went surfing, got drunk at the American Consulate’s private residence on your tax dollars, saw whales jumping in the ocean, and some other stuff I can’t think of right now.

June 2018
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