One of the perks of having a friend working abroad for PeacePlayers International is the excuse to take vacation to the far side of the world. Having a friend working for PeacePlayers International in the World Cup host country should only make it easier to visit. However, South Africa is a long (15 hours of flying from New York or Washington DC) and expensive journey that takes a lot of planning. Luckily, I had one friend who was able to make the commitment and give three weeks of his time volunteering as a coaching consultant with PeacePlayers International – South Africa: Scott Mooney.
Scott and I have been friends our entire lives. Since childhood, we have spent countless hours together on the court, from childhood basketball camps to high school varsity basketball and both of us have a strong passion for sports. Scott has also chosen to make sports an integral part of his life by founding his own Volleyball apparel company (www.tantrumvolleyball.com), coaching high school varsity and Junior Olympic boys and girls volleyball, and assisting at the collegiate level for the University of Pennsylvania women’s volleyball team. With nearly 10 years of coaching experience, Scott will add invaluable insight to the PPI-SA basketball team over his three week stay.
I interviewed Scott not long after he arrived to get a fresh perspective on PeacePlayers International’s work in South Africa.
PeacePlayers International: What made you interested in taking time off of work to come to South Africa and help out PeacePlayers International?
PPI: How would you compare the basketball in South Africa to basketball in the US? And the style of play?
SM: The game is definitely played at a faster pace here. There is a lot of running up and down the court instead of setting up plays and working the ball around on offense (much like Americans play soccer). I was impressed by the overall play, especially on defense, and I know the strategic elements will come along as the kids get more exposure to the sport.
PPI: What has been your most interesting experience so far?
SM: Heading out to the townships to play basketball with Claire was eye-opening. I couldn’t believe how enthusiastic the kids were in the face of some pretty terrible court conditions compared to what I played on when I grew up. Broken glass everywhere and some random bricks on the court. A few kids didn’t even wear shoes. Didn’t phase them at all. They just laced up the sneakers (or didn’t) and went at it like, “No big deal.” Awesome.
PPI: What lessons of being a coach can be passed on despite the differences between basketball and volleyball?
SM: I think coaching is pretty universal. The object of the game may change, but you are always trying to foster an environment of self-improvement and teamwork. In practice, we try to keep things fast and focused to maximize the number of repetitions a player has and replicate game situations. During games, it’s time for a coach to encourage and motivate his players. Most of all, keep things fun and challenging. It’s amazing what kids can do if you empower them to play with confidence.
PPI: As a coach, how have you seen sports positively impact players’ lives?
SM: We really try to instill a sense of self-confidence and discipline in our players that I think helps them outside the gym as well. I have had a few players write to me and say that they want to be coaches one day. That’s always extremely rewarding. We’ve also had a few players from our teams go on to play volleyball in college and it’s a thrill to watch them play at that level. Overall, it’s just great to see them develop lasting friendships and share a love for sport.
PPI: Finally, you extended your trip to catch a few World Cups games. What are you most excited for and who will win it all?
SM: Tough question. USA? Wishful thinking, but I’m an unapologetic homer when it comes to sports. If things don’t work out for the Americans, I’d like Bafana Bafana to come out on top. Gotta pull for the home team!