By Sarah Van Vooren, Atoot Co-Founder, Equal Playing Field Ambassador and member of the Spirit of Football family
Stepping onto the community pitch at Casey Fields Primary School in suburban Melbourne was my first sip of The Ball & Spirit of Football programming magic. Representing my sisterhood non profit, Equal Playing Field, and the Football for Good non profit I co-founded, Atoot, I stepped onto the football pitch with Spirit of Football in Australia, working together with a mixed national group of young children who all were eager to meet The Ball and ball out with Andrew, Iris (Spirit of Football team) and I. Their energy was boundless, running around like crazy. Within the chaos, we brought forward our fun and informative sessions, introducing fair football games and discussing the prevalent global climate change & gender equality challenges. During our fair play matches, we implemented different challenges with the teams in order to make it an equal and inclusive environment for all abilities. Players were not allowed to dribble the ball and had to give 1.5 meters of space to the player with the ball. You could see, feel and hear the frustration from the players, this was totally different to their normal rhythm of play! This was a perfect setup for them to understand that there are many challenges in this world – and we are capable of finding solutions. The feedback we received at the end displayed such. The children noted that they enjoyed working together as a team in order to achieve their goals; the more they worked together, the better for all. These challenges – and lessons – were put into question around how they can make small changes within their own homes, friends group, communities, etc. They had incredible pledges; ‘I plan to fight for equal opportunities for my sister.’ ‘I plan to recycle more within my household.’ ‘I plan to help take care of my grandmother who is ill.’ All it takes is a small gesture to make a difference; the trickle down effect takes a hold from there.