MIAMI, Florida – 2022 was a landmark year for Concacaf in many ways, but one of the major milestones that took place was the launch of Generation Amazing in 10 countries across the Concacaf region.
The Generation Amazing Foundation (GAF) is the flagship human and social legacy program of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Concacaf to enable Concacaf Member Associations to optimize their own grassroots coach education curriculums and provide more local coaches with the skills they need to deliver fun, safe, and engaging football sessions for young people in their communities.
Helping spearhead this initiative is Concacaf CSR Coordinator Jennifer Roche, who says that the aim is to have Generation Amazing in place in all 41 Concacaf MAs prior to the start of the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America, Mexico & Canada.
“The base of our program is education and capacity building. We have an education package that we co-developed. From the Concacaf side, we have our understanding sport for development, as well as our first full eight-hour course on safeguarding and child protection, which is very important,” said Roche in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“Generation Amazing, they developed a course on how the coach becomes like a facilitator, as well as how to develop your football session, using what they call a twin-track approach. They match a sports skill with a life skill. There's a session planner that will take them through a bunch of small-sided drills and activities with the children to link not only the sport football development, but human growth lessons,” added Roche.
Recognizing how each country poses its own set of challenges when it comes to implementation of Generation Amazing, Roche says it is important to help those working at the local level to feel empowered in this process.
“Everyone involved in the program, from coaches, or as we call them, community activators, we really want them to take this education, use it with their own tools and activate something within their community. It's really about taking the tools and making it for your own circumstances because not every country is the same,” said Roche.
In her travels to the 10 countries that have utilized the Generation Amazing program, Roche has been impressed by the positive reception received not just from within the respective football federation, but from governments as well.
“There are obviously common themes across the countries and issues they may face when it comes to poverty, access to resources, a lack of teachers, a lack of training, etc, etc. But really, it's been amazing to see how each country and all the stakeholders plan to use this program to push other agendas and to make it a full country approach with everyone involved.
“It’s the school’s and the Ministry’s choice whether they do it as an extracurricular activity, or whether they actually implement it into their curriculum. But essentially, they are delivering the football lesson sessions to girls and boys aged eight to 12. They'll go through a six-week cycle of football delivery, they'll have a festival, and then they'll get continuous programming over the next couple of years,” said Roche.
Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been rewarding for Roche to see how Generation Amazing has come together in the initial 10 countries and how the governments within these markets are understanding the influence that can be wielded with implementing such a program.
One big success story has taken place in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in which current Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation Technical Director Theon Gordon made the most of his opportunity as a community activator.
“Theon was a community activator in our pilot football for development program 4 years ago . And now fast forward, he's the Technical Director at the Saint Vincent Football Federation, as well as one of the master trainers for my program. He truly exemplifies what we are trying to do, which is going into communities, providing this education and giving you the tools so then you can really run with it and make it what you want,” said Roche.
Roche does acknowledge some of the obstacles of trying to bring change from the outside. With that in mind, it is crucial to communicate that Generation Amazing is bringing long-term growth to the country.
“I think it’s important to create something sustainable, a complete network of trained coaches, a complete network of rethinking around the power of sport and how to create better kids and people through the game. We’re not here to impose on them. It's really those at the local level who are the experts. They know what's going on, so they need to tell us what they need. Our job is to support you on that journey.
“We want to give access, we want to grow the game and give a chance for people across our region to play the game. As an automatic byproduct, there's going be more players, more standouts, more people that are then able to enter the workforce around football. If you grow the bottom of the pyramid, it naturally will flow up to the top,” concluded Roche.