John Carroll - After School Sports in Ghana
I traveled to Ghana on 1st May 2011 to start a two month Sports placement at Cantoments Soccer Club based in the capital Accra. After much research on the internet and talking to friends who had traveled with Projects Abroad I decided to make a call to the UK office. The information I got really helped me make my mind up.
Being an English speaking country I felt Ghana would be a place where I could really make a difference when coaching as I would be able to get my ideas across. Traveling to Africa was also something that I really wanted to experience, having heard so much about it yet never having gone myself.
First impressions of Ghana
After landing in Accra I was greeted by a wave of heat, even though it was 8.30pm local time! You soon get used to this though as your body adjusts to the temperature difference. Once I had passed through customs I was met by Nyame, one of Ghana’s Projects Abroad staff members, who instantly made me feel welcome. This friendliness is a quality shared by the vast majority of Ghanaians, which really helped make my trip.
From the airport we took a taxi with a couple of other volunteers to my host family’s house, where I received another warm welcome; not only from my host family, but also from the other volunteers in the house. I quickly realized that there are a good number of volunteers in Accra giving plenty of opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world.
The following day gave me my first real taste of what life was going to be like for the next two months when I was shown around Accra on my induction. I spent pretty much the whole day, and my first week for that matter, trying to take in as much as I could whilst adjusting to the Ghanaian way of life.
My host family in Accra
My host family were extremely friendly and helpful, something which definitely helped when settling in to a new culture and a different way of life. Being made to feel so welcome helped me to settle in quickly, which really helps when time is limited. The location of the host families was also a big positive as there were a good number of volunteers close by, of which two were also doing the soccer placement. This meant I always had someone to travel to my placement with, making things a little easier in my first week or so. Planning joint training sessions and talking over any issues with fellow volunteers in the evenings also helped.
My sports placement
I really enjoyed my placement as a whole with Cantoments Soccer Club. Coaching soccer in Ghana is a world away from anything I have ever experienced and as a result it took a while to adjust to the way things work. However, once I had, my time in Ghana was very rewarding. I would recommend going into any placement with an open mind and have a good level of adaptability, particularly for the soccer placement. This is because player numbers, timings and pitch use may change but if you are prepared these things aren’t a problem.
The program really gave me a good opportunity to improve both my coaching and personal skills. This was largely due to the level of responsibility I was given, allowing me to implement my own coaching drills, conducted in my own style. Even though I was given the opportunity to coach in this way, I also felt that support was always on hand if I encountered a problem. Consequently, I feel I achieved a lot during my placement.
The best way to adapt to life in Ghana is to go into the placement with an open mind and a willingness to fit into to how things work. Getting involved in lots of social activities and weekend trips with fellow volunteers really helped me make the most of my time away. Being talkative and friendly allowed me to build a good rapport with the local people, as well as at the soccer club. This is something which makes me most want to return to Ghana as I am left with such a positive feeling about the people, as well as so many connections.
Leaving Ghana was definitely a sad time. As I have said, I really want to go back to Ghana and experience the way of life again. I met so many people out there that I hope to keep in contact with and look forward to visiting in the future.