More than Basketball with Chad Ford

 

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PPI had the pleasure of having Chad Ford come to camp. During the sessions Chad hosted there was a common theme, “more than basketball”. During his sessions the participants played games that focused on teamwork, communication, and leadership. But it was the discussion during and after that brought out the more than basketball theme.

During a discussion towards the end of a session Chad related a game to the many conflicts we see around the world today. As he was discussing how this simple game, had a deeper meaning, you could see the participants begin to realize that this is more than basketball. During one of the games with the objective of getting the ball around the room, Chad

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Chad Ford teaching a workshop to PPI participants

explained that the participants could only pass to someone who was from the same country as they were. As there were many different countries represented in the room, most of the participants stood by people from their same country. Thus making is harder to move the ball around the circle. Showing that it is more difficult to solve conflicts without all parties involved actively participating together. To many people basketball is just a game, but to the participants at PPI’s Summer Camp, Basketball will forever be more than a game.

Day 1 of the 2nd Annual International Exchange Summer Camp

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PeacePlayers International’s second annual international exchange summer camp is underway and off with a bang! This year is the largest attendance with PPI coaches and participants from Cyprus, Northern Ireland, and South Africa. Also new this year, PPI is joined with Lead4Peace from Norway. On Sunday campers bused in from Larnaca and Nicosia. Immediately upon arrival fun was underway, after a brief meeting on rules and team assignments, participants were already swimming in the pool and playing pickup basketball. The Rodon hotel is the perfect place for camp with two swimming pools, and of course, three basketball courts! Laughter filled the halls over a delicious dinner and everyone was off to an early bed.

Bright and early Monday morning campers stumbled into the dining hall and filled up on delicious haloumi, Greek yogurt, and eggs. Right after the energizing meal the teams split up into different activities. Practices were filled with dribbling skills drills and small sided scrimmages. Classroom sessions were filled with team building and leadership skill development activities such as setting goals and defining potential barriers.

At lunch and break time, the success of the team-building exercises could already be witnessed at the pool where cultural barriers were eliminated through a friendly match of pool volleyball where participation and laughter were widespread. In the afternoon sessions the participants played games to learn and test each other’s knowledge of culture through jeopardy and quizzes. For the first time, the different PPI sites share affiliations and transcended borders through 5v5 basketball games on the courts all afternoon. Tuckered out campers enjoyed a quiet dinner and socialized a bit before heading off to a well-deserved sleep.

Why do we address identity-based conflicts through sport?

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Sport blurs the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and gives us a new identity, a shared identity.

This week’s blog from the Middle East is written by PPI – ME’s newest intern, Rohit Kumar, from New Delhi, who holds a master’s degree in conflict analysis and peace-building and is spending the month of July in Israel as part of an international program for the study of conflict resolution. He maintains a blog on the subject of Sports for Development at s4dp.wordpress.com.

Conflict theorist Terrell Northrup defines identity as ‘an abiding sense of self-hood.’ Our personal and social identities make us feel secure. But identities are fluid. They form, reform, and fall apart in due course. And depending upon different contexts, we take on different identities. Identity is indeed a powerful force, and a threat or perception of threat to our identities invites defensive responses. At times, these responses are violent in nature.

In divided societies, ‘media, myths, and stereotypes’ form the narratives through which we learn about the other side. This leads us to a biased understanding and instills fear, while we dehumanize the ‘other.’ As a result, physical and psychological barriers are created that divide us. In order to find a resolution, we need look at the deep-rooted causes of the conflict.

Photo by Joel Dzodin

Sport blurs the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and gives us a new identity, a shared identity. Photo: Joel Dzodin

Sports can provide a solution, or at least a platform where solutions could be employed. To begin with, sport blurs the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Sports give us a new identity, a shared identity – that of a fellow team-mate – and encourages us to work towards the shared goal as a team. By bringing us on the same field, sports give us the opportunity to learn more about each other, and ourselves, through the eyes of ‘other.’ Simple interactions, on and off the field, have the potential to break the biased narratives we have about the ‘other.’ Interactions are instrumental in bridging differences. Conversations make us realize that ‘us’ and ‘other’ have much more in common than the differences we have been told about.

Besides, sports provide a safe and neutral environment for the ‘us’ and the ‘other’ to engage with each other. Engagement is the first step towards resolving the conflict. Engagement opens the door for communication, which could foster understanding and build relationships. Sports transform the ‘us’ and ‘other’ into ‘we,’ gives us an opening to write a new, common narrative, instead of settling for existing conflicting narratives. On the soccer field or on the basketball court, people play by the same rules. This narrows the inequality and affects the dynamics of relations between individuals and groups in conflict. The lesson could be helpful in other areas of our lives too.

Relationship building has been a focus of conflict resolution theorists and practitioners for a long time. Engaging people through sustained and well-executed programs can build the relationship through enhanced interaction between communities.

Further, sport is particularly effective in reaching out to marginalized groups, such as girls, underprivileged, at-risk youth etc., from within our community. This way, we have a chance to address issues our own community is affected by. Finally, sport-based initiatives are carried out at the local level by local individuals and peer groups. This gives the agency to the people, which make it simpler for the participants to adopt these programs.

International experience shows that majority of participants engaged through sports based initiatives express fewer stereotypes and biases compared to children and young adults who were not a part such programs. PPI believes that ‘children who play together can learn to live together,’ and living together is a great leap towards addressing identity-based conflicts.

PPI-NI Seniors are Ready for Lead4Peace Exchange in Cyprus!

 

In less than 24 hours, 12 of our senior participants jet off to spend a week in Cyrpus with our friends fromPeacePlayers International – Cyprus, PeacePlayers International – Middle East, PeacePlayers International – South Africa and Nesodden Basketball Club from Norway.  Not only will they be spending the week playing basketball, they will gain leadership skills, learn about conflict resolution and the cultural diversity found within our group during classroom sessions, led by Laureus facilitators and the young people themselves.

As part of the preparation for the exchange, we created and shared intro videos or “Lead Logs” where the young people were able to see their fellow participants and ask them questions about their communities well before meeting them. We found the lead logs to be successful because it “breaks the ice” and for most people it has definitely turned anxiety and fear into excitement and curiosity!

Investing in our young people’s capacity is at the heart of our mission and we are excited about this exchange and how it will support our young people in pursuing their goals and returning home to invest in their communities as well. Stay tuned.

Welcome Joe Smith to our DC office

joe picJoe Smith is PPI’s new Organizational Learning Specialist.  His roles in this new position include collaborating with local staff on all aspects of training, delivery and learning. He will also help support our PPI-SPIN program. His job will work to enhance a set of tools, tailored to the needs of each site that will be used to implement PPI’s curricula and support the organization-wide effort to monitor and evaluate program performance.

We interviewed Joe and here is what we learned:

How did you first start to work with PPI?

“I first heard about PPI when I was playing basketball at St. Mary’s of Maryland. My basketball coach knew Sean Tuohey (one of the founders of PPI) and introduced us” Joe explained how after college he spent a few years coaching at Dematha High School before deciding to become a fellow in our Northern Ireland program. He started as a fellow in August of 2014 and now is here in DC.

What did you study in college?

“I studied History and Political Science.”

 What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

“Well aside from being the Godfather to my youngest brother, I come from a family of six kids, I would say my greatest accomplishment is finding a career I love” Joe told us about his love for basketball and how happy he is that he get to use his talents to make positive impacts on others.

 

PeacePlayers Northern Ireland Runs 3rd Annual Basketball Camp

 

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This past week, PPI-NI ran it’s 3rd annual summer basketball camp at Girls Model School in North Belfast. Growing from just over 20 children two years ago, over 50 children attended the three-day camp this year. The theme of this year’s camp was Team: Together Everyone Achieves More, and as International Fellow, Sally Nnamani put it, “our campers truly rose to the occasion taking on some new and advanced drills with effort while supporting each other.”

What may have been most exciting to see was the excitement and ease the campers had working together. They weren’t worried about being with their friends or even the children they knew from their side of the city. All 50 campers jumped right in eager to learn new skills and help one another out.

The favorite part for most campers was the matches. Monday and Tuesday teams spent the afternoon competing in preliminary matches and then on Wednesday had a playoff and final. Ryan McStravick may not have won the final, but still had a great time at camp. He said after, “my favourite part of the basketball camp was playing in the final, although we didn’t win it was still a great experience. I learned a lot about my teammates and it was also great to see the other team win too as they deserved it. The camp was great fun overall.”

13600181_1268984376452936_1068699302163077088_nPeacePlayers would also like to give a big thank you to all of our sessional coaches who volunteered their time to make this camp happen. We could not have done it without their support and enthusiasm. Nicole, one of our Fast Track Coaches, was quick to recognize the campers’ ability to learn and adapt. She said, “my favourite part of camp was seeing the participants using the skills they were taught throughout each day during their matches. It showed their dedication to the sport and their desire to work together and get better.”

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Basketball camp has been a great addition to core PPI-NI programming and hopefully it continues to grow over the coming years!

From the West Bank to Jerusalem

PeacePlayers International-Middle East has begun working in the West Bank region.  This post shares some insight on how things are going so far and a special event that brought the West Bank participants to Jerusalem!

westbank photo 1This year PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) began working in the West Bank, and has successfully recruited enough participants to create three teams.  Each team practices at least two times per week.  The emphasis right now is learning the fundamentals of basketball as many of the participants have never played before.  Because the skills being taught are basic, it challenges the coaches and forces them to think of different and creative ways to teach skills such as dribbling, lay-ups, and shooting.  Repetition is key when first learning such skills but doing it in a way that is always fun and not using the same drills every practice keeps the players engaged.  The coaches are doing a great job of making sure the players are learning proper techniques and not developing bad habits.  The participants are eager to learn and progressing very quickly.

After a few months of practicing, an event was held in Jerusalem where the participants from the West Bank had an opportunity to come and meet some of our Jewish and Arab participants from Jerusalem.  For all of the West Bank participants, it was their first time traveling outside the West Bank.  The bus ride to Jerusalem included lots of laughter, wide eyes full of interest, and hands pressed up to the window as they absorbed everything that passed by.

Once the West Bank participants arrived at the gym in Jwestbank photo 2erusalem they were greeted by the local participants and split into groups.  Their newly developed skills were put to the test as they went to the different stations which included dribbling, lay ups, and a shooting competition.  The last activity was team relay races which included dribbling, balancing a ball on a cone, and lots of cheering.  After the activities concluded, everyone ate pizza together and spent some time getting to know each other.

It was a great event and wonderful introduction for the West Bank participants.  The dedication and hard work of the coaches showed as the West Bank players participated in the different stations.  They had no fear of trying new things, shooting at a higher basket than they were used to practicing on, or showing what they have learned so far.  The local participants from Jerusalem were amazing leaders and came up with some fun and engaging stations.

The participants from the West Bank boarded the buses home with huge smiles, full pizza bellies, and fun stories to tell their parents.

Thank you to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for making these activities possible!