Making Strides With Mantay

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After a week with all of our chicas dinámicas, Larkin and I were feeling much more prepared for our second week teaching. We had already learned the hard way to not let the girls make their own teams, looked up some vocab we’d been mixing up (pase=pass, pasa=raisin), and figured out the various transportation routes to bring us to each of our five schools. We felt pretty ready for the week, but for me, there was one school where I still wasn’t sure I was ready to teach.

Our first week at Casa Mantay had been a challenging one for several reasons. One of our oldest groups, they are very different from our other Chicas dinámicas. Casa Mantay girls are teenage mothers, many of whom are victims of sexual abuse. Their participation-level varies not just from week-to-week, but over the course of a single class as well. Not to mention that we arrive bright and early Wednesday mornings, not the easiest time to rally a group of teenage girls to play sports.

Last week it took the girls half an hour to be ready to play, which left us with just an hour for sports. Five girls could join us that day, and walked out to the public cancha (court), we were discouraged that it was filled with a group of boys playing soccer. Assuming that they wouldn’t share the court with us, we instead made our way to a glorified cement patio which was roughly court-sized, but also slanted slightly downhill. We tried to remain unfazed and began our usual warm-up, which the girls met with skepticism and excuses. We quickly moved on to tag and eventually a soccer game, but had a very difficult time keeping the girls from sitting out. By 10:30, I was feeling defeated by the challenge of keeping our small group active and engaged, and very ready to take a nap on the bus ride back home.

After last week, I will admit that I was not particularly excited to return to Casa Mantay. We decided that this week we would start basketball with the group and brought a bunch of jump ropes and a Frisbee, just in case we needed backup activities. We also brought wireless speakers in the hopes that music might make everything a little more fun.

We arrived at Mantay ready to give the morning our best shot. We luckily had about nine of girls, but again the court was occupied, this time by a middle-aged guy coaching youth soccer. Feeling confident, I decided to talk to him to see if we could share the court for an hour. Much to my surprise, all his students gathered around us as I spoke to him, but instead of denying me the court, they encouraged him to share it with our group! Feeling empowered, I signaled that chicas dinámicas could come down to the court. This proved to be just the start our morning needed.

When we had some trouble with warmup again, we changed gears and had the girls jump rope, which turned out to be the perfect way to get them engaged. We got them into shuttle lines to practice dribbling and passing. At first a few of them complained that they wanted to play soccer, but we played music and did our best to maintain positive energy. Eventually, they got more involved, and we soon moved onto shooting. The girls said that they wanted to play an actual game, so we ended the class with a lively five-on-five game (including Larkin and me). The game was a bit haphazard given the girls’ understanding of the rules of basketball, but we were thrilled that they appeared to be really enjoying themselves. We ended the class on a really upbeat note, and when I asked if the girls wanted to play basketball again next week, they responded with a resounding Si!

Our experience with Casa Mantay this week showed me that I can never predict how any given day or activity will go. The morning showed me how a little bit of confidence and positivity can go a long way, and that people can always surprise you. Also, some fun music can never hurt….