TEHRAN – One of Inter Campus’ greatest strengths is its ability to quickly adapt to its surroundings, devising improvised solutions and tackling unfamiliar quandaries with innovation and enterprise.
When a new centre is in its nascent stages, it is vital for Inter Campus to adapt to the local area and build up a rapport with local representatives to ensure the project can develop as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Order must be brought to places where it is often nowhere to be seen. And though we would never say our method is the best around, we know that over time it will bear fruit, helping the youngsters to learn and have fun.
Here in Tehran, cultural differences and the contrast between the local approach to sport and our own are even more marked than usual. The key is to find common ground, a task that proves both stimulating and at times complex. Not that the language barrier is a problem: gestures, expressions and football – as well as the invaluable help of our interpreters – ensure that all parties understand each other.
The biggest challenge in Tehran is to bring about a better ratio of coaches to kids. Before we arrived, there was just one coach for 75 children. And although he did a sterling job of organising varied, high-intensity sessions, the sheer number of participants meant it was virtually impossible for him to build a good rapport with the youngsters.
It was even harder for our solitary coach to correct the kids’ mistakes, something we believe is vital in every training session to ensure the children develop as players.
We tweak the sessions to make them truly constructive, splitting the kids up into groups, working closely with them, ensuring they are challenged and picking one overall objective for each training session.
It’s never easy to change long-established practices, but the coaches are ready and willing to make the necessary adjustments. We alternate management of the sessions, letting them take the lead on certain days to highlight the differences and work on improving together.
By the end of our time in Tehran, we are under no illusions as to the scale of the job that awaits us in the coming months. Many hours will be spent on the phone and over email before we make our return to Iran, but the vital groundwork has been completed.