My work so far has included a number of different projects, but on a daily basis, I coach boys and girls football at the primary school across from where I live. And, though this is a small project compared to some of my other endeavors, this has been the most rewarding activity I have done during my Peace Corps service so far. The boys are all ears as I give them instructions on technique, rules, etc and the girls are so excited to have the chance to prove themselves in, what is here, a male-dominated sport. And I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to hear my male co-coach tell the girls they can do whatever boys can do, including play football.
And last night, as I sat trying to figure out the logistics of starting a football academy for girls in Mbale, I began to reflect on how important football has been to me, personally, during my time here in Uganda. What I realized was that football has been my saving grace - because of the joy that it brings to the children and the piece of mind it brings to me – it’s football that keeps me holding on, even when I feel like giving up. Some days, such as yesterday, I will work all day and, yet, I will feel as though I have accomplished nothing. But then I will go coach the children and I will see how happy they’re to be playing and how happy they’re to have me there, and I think to myself: “Okay, maybe I’m not wasting my time.”
Yesterday, after I finished coaching the children, I went and played football myself. I exerted myself. I laughed with my teammates. And I enjoyed a rush of endorphins that made everything okay; a rush of endorphins that even managed to quiet all the doubts I have been feeling about the work I am doing here. Then, I came home, and worn out from football, I sprawled out on my couch and thought to myself that playing football was the best hour or two of my day. And then I thought, with a sliver of satisfaction, that for the children that I coach, who wake up well before I do to start their chores, who are in school for over 9 hours everyday, who face hardships that children in America could never imagine, playing football was probably the best hour of their day too.