Life Skills Education
In accordance with our vision of using football as a tool to promote community relationships and a positive environment in which to foster social development, an important component of the Youth League is the inclusion of life skills education. Following the curriculum of WomenWin’s GOAL Programme, the life skills lessons and workshops we organize for the kids in the League focus on four goals: Be Yourself, Be Healthy, Be Empowered, and Be Money-Savvy. Our goal is to create a generation of Cambodian youth capable of financial sustainability and emotional resilience in the face of social adversity.
These lessons and workshops are organized before the weekly games, and attendance is mandatory for the players to be allowed to play afterwards. This is how we have been able to ensure participation in the life skills activities. Players who have been in the league for several years have also developed an appreciation for these workshops, and often encourage their teammates to participate and get as much out of this educational experience as possible.
Further encouragement is provided by the people who actually teach life skills, as they are often coaches, team leaders, or our own Mighty Girls: their own experience with football allows them to communicate on a personal level with the younger players and build positive relationships which foster the optimization of the life skills education that we provide.
To build upon the four goals outlined by WomenWin’s program, the curriculum for the lessons has been standardized over the years, highlighting three focus areas which we aim to introduce league participants to:
- Reinforcing elements of team play and maintaining a positive community by promoting commitment, respect, honesty and fairplay.
- Developing self-respect and critical thinking by addressing issues such as the impact of drug use, peer pressure, (domestic) violence, and human trafficking.
- Improving physical health by introducing techniques to avoid worms and underlining the importance of nutrition and hydration.
This season is held during the dry months. Organized on a weekly basis and on regular grass fields, the games involve teams of 15 players, with 11 on the field at any one time. Players are split according to gender and age, creating three categories each with separate male and female teams: U11, U14, and U17. The League today sees more than 3000 people register for its Grass season, all Cambodian youth with a passion for football and willingness to meet and exchange with new people from other communities. Every year, the winning team in each area qualifies for the Championship Game, which takes place in Battambang.
Due to the flooded pitches characteristic of the rainy season, games during these months are played on cement fields, and opposes teams of 5 players only. The rules vary slightly from those of regular football, nonetheless this season represents a great opportunity for young people to keep practicing and stay on top of their game while waiting for the next Grass season.
When developing teams for both seasons of the Youth League, SALT helps form at least one boys’ team and one girls’ team from each community group or organization who wish to participate. These partners then identify a potential young leader from their community who show commitment and enthusiasm but lack the economic or social channels necessary to put these to use. These individuals are chosen to serve as team leaders, and undergo vocational training organized by SALT.
Our oldest youth league, Battambang was launched a little under a decade ago. Over time, the league, along with its activities and participants, have effectively become part of the city’s social life with Sunday games and tournaments often drawing large crowds of spectators. Since it began, Battambang has grown quite substantively, with the numbers of players registered increasing every year. Today, we average 60 teams per season with more than 1200 players competing and 21 partner organizations supporting the execution of the league. Roughly of our teams comprise of female athletes, alongside 20 female referees, thus combining in an average 250 women and girls involved in the league every year.
This league was the second to get launched, with the help of 8 partner organizations involved annually in helping run it. The number of players averages 280 for each season, although recent have seen growing numbers much like our league in Battambang. Due to weather conditions, the league in Pailin had to be cancelled once in the past as our field got flooded during the rainy season. The general disappointment with the change of schedule demonstrated how attached everyone involved has grown to the league, and we look forward to keep developing it in future years.
Our newest league, Poipet was only launched a couple of years ago with the help of 7 partner organizations. It was however off to a great start, with 20 teams registering for its first edition, producing more than 300 players. 3 of the teams are female: with 2 female referees, Poipet’s league sees a rough annual turnout of 50 women. Given the infancy of this league, we are very optimistic about its future evolution and potential to foster a sense of community in this province.
Every year, SALT creates what are called select teams by drawing from the pool of players who participate in the League. These teams are often invited to national competitions organized by the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), which gives them a chance to showcase their abilities and compare their level with that of the best football players in in the country.
These teams contribute to expanding SALT’s national and international recognition as a premier football program. Over the years, several players from SALT have been selected to play on both the Men’s and Women’s National Football teams in Cambodia. All league participants have gained pride from this, along with recognition from both the FFC and FIFA, and an added sense of value to their involvement with the sport of football.