Jonny showing PeacePlayers pride with the pupils from St Clare’s and Carr’s Glen primary schools at their recent “Super Twinning” tournament.
In this week’s blog, Local Coordinator Joanne Fitzpatrick interviews coach Jonathan Rooney as we approach his one-year anniversary as a coach within the organization.
Jonny (right of the coach) pictured with Local Coordinator Darryl Petticrew (holding cup) winning the All-Ireland Schools Cup for St Malachy’s College Belfast.
Jonny, tell the World Wide Web a bit about yourself.
My full name is Jonathan James Joseph Rooney. I was born and raised in North Belfast. I attended St. Malachy’s College and first started playing basketball with Star of the Sea, a local basketball club in Belfast, at the age of 9. I am now a student at Queen’s University in Belfast studying medicine going into my 2nd year; I plan on being the next eternal student!
So, how did you first get involved in PeacePlayers?
My first experience of PeacePlayers was back in 2008 when I was asked to help out at Spring Jam. I had coaching experience previously through programs in local Belfast primary schools, but the scale of Spring Jam and the atmosphere blew me away! At the start of last year, PPI-NI appealed for coaches online and I felt it was a great opportunity to once again get involved.
Why do you think PeacePlayers is important in Northern Ireland?
In areas of Northern Ireland, children have instilled into them opinions and perceptions of neighboring communities that creates tension and fear. PeacePlayers helps change these perceptions that the children have and helps them to realize all children have similarities despite their background. The children build lasting cross-community friendships through PeacePlayers’ programs, encouraging them to move past stereotypes and allowing them to educate their friends that the boys and girls ‘round the corner aren’t so different from them.
Jonny at Spring Jam 2011. Former PPI-NI Program Director Harry Morra has said in the past, “You can tell how good a coach is by looking at a photograph: the more kids looking at him in the picture, the better the coach.”
What has been you favorite moment since working for PeacePlayers?
My favorite memory with PeacePlayers was at the Super Twinnings held in Stranmillis. It was the first time this project had been attempted and it was a huge success. My favorite memory was during the final when each twinning partners supported their teammates on court. The noise was deafening, the songs were fantastic and the team t-shirts were being waved like flags. At that time, the kids completely forgot about Catholic or Protestant and became two very passionate basketball teams– it was fantastic to watch!
Finally: if you were a basketball, where in the world would you bounce and why?
With the NBA on lock out at the minute, if I were a basketball I’d say I’d bounce over to the Cameron Stadium, Duke University’s home court. The atmosphere there for home games is arguably the best in the world, with the fans earning the title of the Cameron Crazies. Plus I’d get to meet the next generation of NBA players; I could even teach them to throw the ‘oop just like me
PPI-NI is looking forward to having Coach Jonny on board for another year! And a big thank you for all your work thus far!