Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Project Coach Goes Global: Andy Wood in France
By Andy J. Wood, Project Coach Director
Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
Heywood Broun, US journalist (1888 - 1939)
MARSEILLES, FRANCE: The brisk sea breeze, a pleasant 55 degree temperature, and faint sounds of the familiar early morning routine - all while the Eagles and Redskins battled it out live on Monday Night Football with painful French dubbed announcing - were all stark reminders that this certainly wasn't Western Massachusetts anymore. Indeed, while the Project Coach fellows and youth coaches were about to hit the hay after another Monday night academy session, the program was just waking to a whole new audience 3500 miles west, in Marseille, France.
As a part of the Institute of Training and Development's partnership with the State Department, I'm currently attending a series of meeting and workshops in France's southernmost city to help develop an exchange program between French and American youth over the next 18 months. Our series of appointments began early this morning, with an opening breakfast hosted by the interim Counsel General at the American Consulate in Marseille - Philip Richards - who expressed his gratitude and delight that youth from his region had been selected to take part in the program. Accompanied by the wonderful Madame Josette Steinbach - a former high school teacher from Strasbourg fluent in four languages, who has spent over twenty years in the Public Affairs departments of various US Consulates - we were able to establish the criteria for selecting the ten prospective youth coaches from the city, as well as devise an appropriate application and interview procedure for evaluating the candidates.
Shortly following this meeting, I attended a planning session with Francois Noel - the Head of Sports Facilities and Planning in Marseilles (no small feat in the second largest city in France) - Madame Steinbach, and Mrs Julie Hooks-Davis of the organizing agency, ITD. In addition to exchanging ideas (where possible in our foreign tongue, although the astute translator Ned was on hand when this wasn't possible), all members of the planning committee placed utmost importance in selecting youth of excellent moral character and leadership potential, over sporting ability or competitive prowess. Mr Noel - a former professional judo champion himself - espoused the very same values of PC in this respect, and it became quickly apparent that the goals of the Marseille Sports Bureau aligned very neatly with those of PC and ITD.
The remainder if the late afternoon and evening was devoted to meeting with prospective youth at two of the ten potential sports clubs shortlisted from the 150+ in Marseille, informing them if the program and fielding their questions. In the spirit of PC, we even managed a couple of games of 'freeze tag' and 'sharks and minnows', the latter of which was played with particular gusto and energy by a group of French u16 national players at the first club we attended!
Tomorrow promises to be equally fruitful, when we will meet with members of the mayors office, attend a luncheon hosted by the consulate, and visit 4 more sports clubs in the city for potential applicants.
Andy Wood - 11/16/10.