Today’s blog is written by PPI-NI fellow, Ryan McGarry about his JingleBall tournament experiences.
Since I began at PeacePlayers I’ve attended two JingleBall tournaments as part of former fellow, Casey Tryon’s West Belfast coaching staff.
The first was held in Stranmillis College, and it was the first major PeacePlayers tournament I attended. It was also different from other tournaments I’d ever been to with DJ Topper in the corner blasting tunes, coaches adorned in bright costumes and face paint, participants dancing on the sidelines watching and cheering on their teams, and the general high level of energy from everyone involved. It was something completely new to me.
During this first trip, I coached alongside Coach Jack as a West Belfast Junior Boys coach. In addition, each team present received help from one of the volunteers from our friends at Google. We had eight weeks of BIL training behind us, but with a team that had at different points as large as 20, and at times as small as four or five, there was some chemistry missing.
However, the boys played beyond our expectations! They came together as best they could, played their hardest, and we managed to win the whole thing! Not bad going for a group of nine and 10 year old boys from different communities in West Belfast who hardly knew each other’s names six weeks ago. I know I speak for Jack as well when I say that we both felt more excited and nervous during some of those matches as coaches, than we ever had during our own games as players.
I was proud to be a part of the team that term, and we continued to improve in the lead up to our summer equivalent of JingleBall – SummerJam – and that held its own challenges and successes (to be discussed at a later date!)
In the run up to my second JingleBall, there was a bit of reshuffling to be done. Jack took himself off to the States for a year of adventure, and I was switched over to coach the Senior Boys. While we trained in the same room most Wednesday nights, and I knew them all by name, I did not really have the opportunity to develop any relationships with my team that point.
So we had eight weeks to find out! Obviously, the basketball skills for this older age group were a level above, but there was still a lot to improve on. We worked away over the weeks in St Mary’s College, coming together as a team and developing as both people and players. As December rolled around, we were all getting amped up for another JingleBall, which was to be held at Lisburn Racquets this year.
A couple of last minute injuries, and some unfortunate timing clashes meant that we were missing a few key players for the first few matches. This, combined with some questionable last-minute additions to our opposing teams (looking at you East Belfast – Coach Ruairi Sheridan) led to a not-so-successful result by the end of the day. However, this didn’t take away from the spirit of the event, which was every bit as fun and enjoyable as the year previous. Even after our losses, the boys were over cheering on the other teams from West, dancing about and generally having a laugh!
So, two years, and two very different results in a sports-sense. However what stood out to me more than the wins or losses was the energy, enthusiasm, and enjoyment that pervaded both days. Two different groups of boys – different ages, different levels of success on the court, but very much the same in that sense of ‘spirit’ that we always look out for and award on the day of our tournaments.
On Saturday 3rd December, I will be attending my third JingleBall as part of West Belfast. This time however, it will be as not only a coach, but also as a coordinator. Casey left on her own adventure, and Jack has returned. In addition, we have two amazing coaches in Adam Ryan and Sophie Kennedy, who I’m certain will have their own successes to report back on after its all over! For the first time this year, I’m not coaching a boys team, instead I’m looking after the Senior Girls. With a bit of a shake up this year in terms of age groups, we’ll see how it all pans out next week. One thing I am sure of is that; win or lose, West will walk in singing and dancing, and leave the same way, as we do every year! #westisbest