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Teaching Life Skills for Girls in Senegal with Volleyball4Life

The Volleyball4Life Coaches Course has been completed in Dakar, Senegal. 13 coaches from Senegal and Rwanda followed the 5-day course on girls empowerment.

Volleyball4Life offers a grassroots volleyball program, especially for girls. We provide girls with volleyball drills and games, coaching, and community support to build new skills, self-insight, and the opportunity to share their stories and problems. All of this results in personal development and increased decision-making power for the girls.

Day 1 | First and foremost, start building a safe environment. Welcome to the court.

  • ✅ Getting to know each other

  • ✅ Creating a safe space

  • ✅ Importance of connecting with others

Day 1 started with a warm and well-organized welcome from the Fédération Sénégalaise De Volley-Ball. The program is lucky to have such an eager group of coaches!

We use volleyball to enhance life skills. A truly powerful combination.

The coaches work very hard and really feel involved in the goals of the program. The group of girls is also remarkable. It's inspiring to hear their thoughts and see how they react to the exercises. It took only a few hours, but everyone agrees: #volleyball can make a difference and especially for girls! Connect is the summary of the day.

Course leader Ms. Ine Klosters: "We use volleyball to enhance life skills. A truly powerful combination. Today we mainly worked on making connections, being inside or outside the group, and how that influences you. Through various exercises, we looked at how you can ensure that you do not (un)consciously exclude anyone but also what you can do to ensure that you are not excluded yourself."

If children feel safe, they dare to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes and share their feelings. To trust, learn and grow.

Day 2 | You can't start a fire without a spark.

  • ✅ Exploring the difference in gender vs. sex and connecting it to daily life

  • ✅ Connecting with others; getting to know the girls.

  • ✅ Reflecting on the coaches' personal situation

  • ✅ Gaining insight into the participants' life qualities in daily life

The group started working with the coaches on the difference between gender and sex. Sex as a biological definition and gender as a social construct that is an internal sense of self.

They spoke about the disadvantages that people have in life because they have not been able to finish school. Lots of children are not able to finish school because they have to take care of their family from a young age or because they are simply born as a girl.

Of course, the program also looked at what's going to help you overcome those disadvantages and this will be a continuous subject during the week. Personal power is the summary of the day.

The girls are open, full of energy, and super bright. It's inspiring to hear how they identify the goals of an exercise and apply them to their daily situation. Today, they received a set of jerseys donated to our Happiness Project, by Dutch volleyball club Skopein Wivoc. Thanks a lot! #Volleybal is more than just a game.

Course leader Ms. Ine Klosters: "We see that the group, just like us, is enjoying the exercises, working together, and is loosening up more and more. That promises something for the coming days!"

Day 3 | What makes you spark and what spark do you offer?

  • ✅ Speaking out

  • ✅ Embracing your own power

  • ✅ Setting goals

  • ✅ Asking and providing support

Without a doubt the most impressive part of the program. Sharing personal stories and life goals. First, a session with the coaches. No words can describe how some of them had to face the most difficult situations in their lives. But they also found a way to deal with it. Some already years ago, others found their power during this session.

While looking at everyone's most developed life skills or talents, they defined their life goals and practiced how to reach them by focusing. Later, the coaches also did the same exercises with the girls in a one-on-one session.

This was the first time I felt safe enough to share my story. It has relieved me from the prison I felt I was in and I feel at peace now. I realize now that I, as a volleyball coach, can facilitate the same safe environment for the girls I train and be their person to talk to so they can share their stories with someone.

Courage is the summary of the day. The coaches and the girls faced some personal challenges in sharing their life stories and defining their life goals. For some, it was easy to tell their story and some overcame their fears of speaking out, being shy, telling their dream.

A wonderful and impressive experience for all. Everyone has a personal story about challenges. Sometimes very tragically, sometimes it seems relatively small. But for everyone, it feels like a struggle (and it truly is).

Sharing the weight you carry and speaking out about your personal goal helps to find relief and support. #Volleyball helps you to develop skills to connect with others and speak out. This is of so much value in life.

Volleyball helps you to develop skills to connect with others and speak out.

Program leader Mr. Peter van Tarel: "Today we have experienced the power of speaking out. I'm thankful for the openness of the coaches and girls. They showed so much courage and vulnerability today by exposing themselves.

I'm very proud of my colleagues Dorien Tenhaeff and Ine Klosters - de Vries that together we have been able to create a safe space for everyone. Volleyball is definitely so much more than just a game."

Day 4 | Act to realize my goals

  • ✅ Life skills in 4 phases

  • ✅ Take control over difficult situations

  • ✅ Stay in control

  • ✅ Giving and receiving feedback

After an intense third day, today was all about fun. Playing games whilst learning. The coaches worked in groups to classify different kinds of life skills in the following four stages to work towards a goal:

  1. Identity who I am,

  2. Dream and express my wishes,

  3. Act to realize my goals,

  4. Dare to realize my goals.

The groups realized that each group had a different view of when skills are needed. Conclusion: it is not a fixed order, but you do need the skills to reach your goals.

To explore the next subjects, the group was challenged by playing a game called 'The Grumpy Game'. A relay game that is based on unfair rules.

The group was challenged on how to deal with unfair situations and what you can do yourself to stay in control. After the game finished the groups discussed how to deal with unfair situations in real life.

Do you get angry, start fighting, or try to find other ways to reach your goal? The course used four different powers that you can use to stay in control of yourself in difficult situations that you might be in:

  1. Power from within,

  2. Power from the group,

  3. Power by information,

  4. Power from supporters.

Working on feedback

The girls really wanted to play a volleyball game with the coaches. So we spend quite some time having fun, cheering, and celebrating successes. The coaches looked very proud of the girls and the girls had big smiles on their faces.

The course continued by playing feedback games: starting by pointing out positive things, followed by something that can be improved. First up: one-on-one sessions with the coaches, who gave each other feedback about volleyball techniques.

Can you imagine how you would feel like a young, female grassroots player when 12 coaches are judging you?

After that, the coaches practiced the same method with the girls. After the one-on-one sessions, we invited the girls one by one to show their techniques in the big group. Can you imagine how you would feel like a young, female grassroots player when 12 coaches are judging you? These brave girls dared to stand in the middle and receive feedback. A major step of improvement for them!

This helped me to gain more self-confidence, it makes me feel very nice and proud.

At the end of the day, the course concluded with a match. Coaches and girls mixed. After the match, each coach filled in a form for his/her pupil and marked skills that the girls had shown during the match. For example: working hard or supporting teammates.

In the group, every girl reads out loud the compliments that her coaches had given to her. One of the reactions: "This helped me to gain more self-confidence, it makes me feel very nice and proud."

Day 5 | Give your best, encourage others, and work together.

  • ✅ Continuation of the program

  • ✅ Reflections

  • ✅ Volleyball4Life Games

First up, the group went on a field trip visiting the school of the participating girls. The girls are proudly wearing their new jerseys donated by Volleybalvereniging Skopein Wivoc every day.

Program leader Mr. Peter van Tarel: "I have a lot of experience with visiting schools in Nepal. The kids are mostly super enthusiastic and the principal appreciates the attention we give to the school. This time was exactly like that, and the impact was bigger than expected. After our visit, we heard that this large school (3000 students) didn't want to participate in schoolvolley projects. Our visit has changed that."

The school received a donation of balls and a volleyball net from our Happiness Project. The gifts and the foreign attention made that now, the director is enthusiastic to start schoolvolley. Direct impact.

The group continued with the course doing a short wrapup of the week. What did they learn and experience, and how are the coaches planning to apply that knowledge in their upcoming activities? The coaches wrote them down and shared their findings in small groups to inspire each other.

The group finished the course with extra exercises from the Volleyball4Life manual to experiencing the impact with the coaches. The coaches got to choose which games from the manual they wanted to play and picked several games like Silent Volleyball, Personal Space, and Gold-Silver-Bronze. The Volleyball4Life method (Reflect - Connect - Apply) was smoothly applied after just 5 days of training.

It's a wrap

Finally, the closing ceremony. 12 educated coaches, 5 women, and 7 men. 10 trained girls and 1 boy. The summary of the day is Family. The group has grown to become a family.

They were able to connect, share deeply personal experiences, and help each other to grow, learn, and become a version of themselves that facilitates their personal power to handle difficult situations, follow their own path, and thrive.

You don't have to allow people to decide on behalf of you. You have to decide on your own.

One of the coaches' advice to other girls and women all around the world: "What I can advise to women and young girls is that in life you will not get something very easy but if you want something, you have to fight and stand for it. It is very important to have self-confidence and believe in yourself, and you don't have to allow people to decide on behalf of you. You have to decide on your own."

Program leader Mr. Peter van Tarel admits that he was touched after handing out the first official #Volleyball4Life Coaches Certificate. He continues: "We have worked towards this for years. What started as the dream of Kopila Uprety has been transformed into a high-quality education life skills program. And now, we have 13 official Volleyball4Life Coaches!"


Peter concludes with the feedback he received from one of the coaches and his student: "The program helped them to grow their self-confidence and they both have shared their personal, impressive stories with each other. Imagine: both didn't know each other 5 days ago. Now they shared their biggest secret which has given them so much relief. Their conclusion: #volleyball is family."

Check out our project page if you like to know more about the Volleyball4Life program and join our Dreamteam for more behind-the-scenes updates.

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