So you were inspired to take on a massive new soccer project?
In June, billions of soccer fans from around the world celebrated the kickoff of the FIFA World Cup, arguably the most popular international sports competition. Soccer writer Simon Kuper calls it “the moment when the planet becomes a family.” We believe in the unifying power of this simple game. What an opportunity for our community! It is our responsibility to capture this moment and take an active role in sharing this opportunity with our children.
As parents, coaches, and educators, we know our children and we know the challenges they face. A child’s journey towards adulthood follows a meandering path that weaves between two principal questions: who am I? and who is on my team? Identity and Community. Children need our support in reaffirming their identity and building their connections with a community. The alternative is unacceptable. Shame, loneliness, ignorance, arrogance, apathy, exclusion, hatred, violence: these are real threats to a healthy community, threats to our children’s future. It is up to us to create a new future, to create a community built on respect and teamwork.
The West Seattle Cup is a co-opetition, a combination of competition and cooperation. Competition is a powerful motivator; it is what makes games fun. However, as our children’s role models, we believe it is our responsibility to guide them to always see the bigger picture. In the end, with all our wonderful individuality, we are more alike than not. The more we interact, the more we realize that partnership is possible between any two individuals. Even between “opponents.” Suddenly, our concept of team expands and we genuinely feel a greater sense of community.
Whereas fears about differences typically stagnate and impede conversation and connection, the West Seattle Cup will encourage an acknowledgement and celebration of those differences and, at the same time, it will inspire a discovery of common purpose.
What was the format of the tournament?
The West Seattle Cup brings together teams of elementary-age children and their parents representing different countries to participate in a World Cup-style soccer tournament. Each child and parent, or intergenerational partnership, registers together for a country team with which they choose to identify. For some, their identification might be based on their recent emigration from a particular country; for others, their connection might be more indirect, through relatives, friends, or travel. The 32 teams, made up of 448 children and parents, will represent the diversity of our experiences as a community.
In the weeks leading up to the tournament, each team, led by a captain, comes together in a manner of their own design. This might be a soccer practice, a service project, a dinner potluck; in the spirit of community-building, it is self-determined and therefore will look different for each team. Through whatever forum they choose to unite, the team must complete these two requirements: all team members must meet in person at least once and all children, with the assistance of their parents, must prepare a 2-minute presentation about one aspect of the country they are representing. For example, the child might present information about the country's people, location, language, history, culture, or government. Or, he or she might share a personal anecdote as it relates to that country. The preparation for this presentation will necessarily involve meaningful conversations between parents and children, which will promote identity exploration and encourage intergenerational understanding.
On the morning of the tournament, all teams (children K-5th grade with their parents) gather together for a meeting and warm-up. Once play starts, there will be two small fields hosting games simultaneously. Throughout the day, each team plays three games. During the five minutes preceding each game, intergenerational partnerships from opposing teams spread out around the field and sit down in foursomes. For example, a Nigerian child and parent sit across from a Cambodian child and parent. The children exchange presentations, teaching each other about their countries, with the assistance of the parents as necessary. The strength of a diverse community depends on its people’s willingness to acknowledge and learn about each other’s differences. This kind of generous and humble listening is the foundation for any future cooperation across those differences.
A whistle signals the end of these conversations, players stand up, and play begins. The game consists of two halves, the first organizes players by country teams. Players experience the challenge and excitement of intergenerational teamwork, unified by a common cultural identity. At halftime there is an important switch, reinforcing a flexible concept of team. The second half organizes players by generation teams, for example, Nigerian and Cambodian children versus Nigerian and Cambodian parents. The two parent captains, one from each team, work together to coach the children and maintain an organized and fair game for all. During this half, players experience the challenge and excitement of cross-cultural teamwork, unified by a common generational identity. With each smile, pass, goal, and high-five, players feel connection and community, and, together, we realize that we’re all on the same team.
As an extension of the on-the-field activities, the event hosts a museum of displays and a presentation of performances in the space between the fields, which will celebrate and teach about our cultural diversity. Each team will host a tent where written versions of the children's presentations will be on display along with pictures, food, music, and other artifacts about the country. There will also be opportunities for live performances and cultural presentations on stage throughout the day and during the mid-day ceremony. Taking a break from the action on the field, participants can take advantage of these different opportunities to interact with their neighbors and learn about the world.
How will the tournament benefit the broader community?
In addition to directly engaging the 448 players who participate on the field, the West Seattle Cup will bring together the broader community in a variety of supporting roles. On the sidelines, fans will cheer on their team, contribute to cultural displays and presentations, and learn from the displays and presentations of other teams. Local businesses and organizations will pool together their resources to donate uniforms and equipment. Volunteers will work together to provide logistical support in the running of the event. These supporters, coming together to produce the event, will necessarily experience their own version of the tournament's mission of creating teamwork.
All participants in the West Seattle Cup, whether players or supporters, will become empowered leaders in our neighborhood. The experience of expressing individual identity and discovering cross-cultural and intergenerational connections will inspire the kind of leadership that creates a productive and healthy community for all. These leaders, drawing upon this expanded sense of teamwork, will go on to forge new personal friendships and initiate cooperative professional projects, which will serve as examples to peers of a new way of living in a diverse community.
And how did it go?
it was not your traditional soccer tournament with winners and losers. The winner was community. We had a "Community Scoreboard" and this was the final tally:
- Conversations For Understanding: 485
- Goals Scored Together: 453
- Ignorance: 0
- Polarization: 0
A huge thanks to Terry for taking the time to talk soccer. More video about this year's successful launch at WestSeattleCup.org.