Figuring Football out by Discovering more!

This month of the (new) year is all about exciting firsts, and Anshul Dube, a Discover volunteer from  Kolkata, had a wonderful first experience at Dakshin Kalikata Sevasram (DKS) this Sunday. He went as a substitute to help conduct a SEL (Social Emotional Learning) session for children of classes 7 and 8, and came back having done a bit of learning himself.

SEL teaches mental skills that lead to understanding and managing emotion, setting positive realistic, building long-lasting relationships, show empathy for others, and problem-solve constructively and ethically. With this particular session, the Discover volunteers tried to create a recap of all the skills the children had learned over the year. They made an effort to involve as many soft skills and interpersonal skills as possible, more so because the children were in a ‘paarty mood’, as they themselves put it.

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On the previous night, the mentors got on a conference call to go over their plans for the next day. They missed out on one tiny detail, though. It was the fact that the boys at DKS love football. They live and breathe the game. The game is so much more than just a sport to them. To nobody’s surprise, Anshul and his co-volunteers Ayan and Ankit made the best possible use of this love by integrating football into the session. It worked like magic.

Initially, the three mentors entered with a plan to shake hands in different ways so that the kids could be told about the importance of a good, firm grip. Since Anshul was the ‘new guy’, he got to do the good handshake and the kids instantly took a liking to him. What followed was a quick activity called ‘Alike and Different’ where the like traits of children were identified. From ‘who can wriggle their ears?’ to ‘what type of music do you like?’, a plethora of questions were answered in a fun and playful way! Next, the children were asked to come up with an example of an ‘everyday machine’. For this, they chose the manual air-pump used by vendors in the Babughat area on the banks of the Hooghly. The kids formed different parts of the pump, with one of them being a balloon, and the other – you could have guessed this – a football. The mentors then removed one child from this mechanism, and there was the lesson of team spirit, explained with stunning simplicity. A third activity was called ‘Mirror’ where the children mirrored the habits of one another and then of a leader, thus becoming aware of what being a leader entails.

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All of this was absorbed in the most unique way when mentors explained using football analogies. “The kids play with the aim of being the hero in each game. We talked to them about stepping back for the team. After discussing the different positions like forward and goal-keeper, we discussed how sometimes the ball should be passed to a team-mate so that the team could score. Reshmi and Biswajeet later came up to tell me how they’ll use these new tactics in their matches. I felt so proud of that day’s session then!”

Anshul went on to compare this with previous sessions in his own center, where the kids run up to watch the television as soon as the session is over. In DKS this week, however, the mentors had to leave, and the children were not done asking them about Football tactics! While this seems to be an insignificant aberration, it goes to show how much the kids and volunteers can learn from each other.

The bonds we form are strong, and they can go deep, and boy, do we survive on the hope that they will.

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