Bowling and Bridging Divides with Meiser and Kfar Saba

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Githa, PPI – ME Program Director in Northern Israel, and some of the girls from Meiser and Kfar Saba

On January 1, 2017, PeacePlayers International – Middle East’s (PPI – ME) boys’ and girls’ teams from the cities of Meiser and Kfar Saba met for a fun afternoon of bowling and pizza. There were 47 participants: 22 from Kfar Saba (Jewish), plus their coach Eyal, and 25 from Meiser (Arab), plus their coach Renan. The teams spent over two hours at the bowling alley competing against one another in mixed groups.

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Some of the boys of Meiser and Kfar Saba at the bowling alley

This is the second year that the teams from Meiser and Kfar Saba have played together. Meiser is an Arab village in northern Israel and, before PPI – ME started working there, there was no basketball program in the village. Meiser’s coach, Renan, was determined – and still is – to make basketball the new favorite sport in Meiser. Kfar Saba is a Jewish city located about 30 minutes from Meiser. Kfar Saba’s coach, Eyal, works as a full-time coach, and is constantly looking for ways to improve himself and his players. He has been a huge advocate for PPI – ME’s programs and he and Renan have developed a great partnership with their teams.

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The participants enjoying pizza after bowling

The kids on Meiser and Kfar Saba have made huge strides since they started twinning together last year. As with most teams, the kids were hesitant at first, but after spending some time together, they relaxed and starting getting close. Their twinnings are always filled with energy, fun and friendly competition. Their coaches often comment that participants on both teams ask when they will next be seeing the kids from the other team. They are really showing signs of developing true friendships.

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The girls showing off their bowling form!

At the first twinning of this season, we were all curious to see how the participants would respond to seeing one another again and if the connections they’d formed last year would still be there. Immediately, we could tell that they were; when the buses from Meiser and Kfar Saba arrived to meet each other, the participants rushed off to look for their friends from the other team. The hesitancy and nervousness from the previous year before had been replaced with excitement and delight as        they raced out onto the basketball court to play with one another.

The twinnings between Meiser and Kfar Saba continue to be exceptional. We have seen even more growth this year because the participants were able to build on the foundation they established last twinning season. The bowling and pizza party was a chance to reward these kids for their commitment and another chance for them to see their friends from the other side. We truly hope that through their unrelenting teamwork and dedication to PPI – ME these two groups will only continue to grow – on and off the court.

 

 

Nahariya-Tamra All-Stars Throw a Pajama Party!

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Lilian (left) taking a selfie of the entire team at the party

On December 16, 2016, the girls from one of PPI – ME’s awesome All-Stars teams, the Tamra/Nahariya under-14 team, came together to celebrate the 13th birthday of one of their teammates, Roni Tamir. Roni and her mother, Osnat, organized the entire event: a pajama party for the whole team. The girls arrived at Roni’s house on a Friday afternoon and spent the entire afternoon and evening together playing “get-to-know-you games,” singing and dancing to karaoke in three languages (English, Arabic and Hebrew), and eating lots of birthday treats.

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Some of the birthday treats that Roni and her mother, Osnat, prepared for the girls

Here is what Osnat had to say about the party: “The girls seemed so comfortable and natural with one another. It felt like any other birthday party for a 13-year-old, with everyone happy and celebrating. I think this is because of all the time they’ve been spending together during games and practices and also from the retreat they attended in Tel Hai. The retreat really took this team to the next level because they were able to see that there are more similarities than differences between them. The girls seemed to have a wonderful time at the party. I hope we will do more activities like this off the basketball court.”

After talking with Lilian, a Jewish player from Nahariya, I learned how special the party really was. Lilian said it was the most fun the girls have had together thus far. She said they were able to connect on a deeper level and learn more about one another outside of basketball. They took a ton of photos and videos, and Lilian even put together a “Mannequin Challenge” video to share with the rest of the team.

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The birthday girl, Roni, setting up decorations and waiting for her teammates to arrive

One of the most impressive things about the pajama/sleepover party is that it was organized entirely by the girls, without PPI – ME’s involvement. These girls and their families are making an effort to become more than just teammates who play together. They are becoming friends who genuinely care about one another, on and off the basketball court. The bonds they are forming outside of PPI – ME are also helping them on the court; the Tamra/Nahariya under-14 All-Stars team is in first place in their division right now and are looking to continue their success. There is no coincidence that teams who are able to get along, trust in one another, and build friendships off the court, also are able to reap those benefits on the court.

From Sea Plunges to Super Twinnings, Keeping up with Coach Jazz

This week’s blog is written by Jazz Bishop, International Fellow at PPI-Northern Ireland.

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Some frosty Plungers on Boxing Day

Happy New Year to everyone from Northern Ireland!

PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland wrapped up 2016 with its Inaugural PeacePlayers Boxing Day Plunge on Monday, December 26th in Newcastle.  PPI-NI staff, friends, and family took the plunge into the Irish Sea.  Everyone jumped in with their sneakers on, except me because I didn’t have a spare pair with me.  I jumped in with my socks on and ended up losing my socks in the Irish Sea. The water was extremely cold, but it was a great deal of fun for everyone.

The fundraising goal was set for 500 pounds. With online and cash contributions combined we were able to reach our goal!  That’s impressive considering this was the inaugural year. Thank you to everyone who took the plunge, to all of the sponsors and to all of the donors that helped us to raise the funds to help support PeacePlayers.

Kicking off 2017, we have started organizing our Super Twinnings. Basically, Super Twinnings are like a big celebration tournament.  It’s an opportunity to celebrate the great things accomplished by our P6 class in their twinning sessions that the just completed and a perfect way to lead into the P7 class as the will soon begin their sessions.  I have two of them scheduled in February.  All of the PeacePlayers International–Northern Ireland staff will help coach at all of the Super Twinnings.  Team Work makes the Dream Work!

 

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Coach Joanne leading Warmup at Carrs Glen & Our Lady Queen of Peace Super Twinning

 

We had our first Super Twinning session on Friday, January 13th.  There were eight teams total participating, 4 from the P6 and 4 from the P7 class.  As you might already know, the twinning programme involves two schoosl (Catholic & Protestant) and when I first arrived to Belfast, I had the joy of coaching alongside Coach Joane and Michaela in the North Belfast Twinning with Garrs Glenn Primary and Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary. This was part of my onboarding and I truly enjoyed working with and getting to know these young children.  All of the participants were great and the Super Twinnings ran quite smoothly as well. All of the participants on my team were really amused that I was from America. They said that they liked me because of my accent and that they wanted to come to America too.

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Participant keeping score!

Good Sportsmanship was the theme of the day. Winners were not determined in the conventional way by the team with the most points.  Instead, the winners were determined based on points earned by being a “good sport” throughout the day. Participants were giving a Good Sportsmanship checklist and at the end of a match, they were to grade themselves based on how well they think they performed as a good sport. I have had many coaches throughout my career for several sports, not just basketball, and most all of those coaches would rather have a Good Sportsmanship Banner hanging from the rafters in the gymnasium than a championship banner.  I would have to agree with that.

 

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My Squad at the Super Twinning

 

Because we ran into some time constraints with schools needing to get the students back to the school and the venue availability time, some of the stations were finished rather quickly.  However, all of the youth seemed to be enjoying themselves and were having a great time.  Most importantly, they truly understood and demonstrated the true meaning of Good Sportsmanship.   I was very proud to be part of such a great event.

In closing, I would like to thank Debbie Byrne, PPI-NI Operations Team Leader for opening up her home to Sally and I, and inviting us to share Christmas dinner with her and her family.  The food was excellent!  She has a beautiful family.  They were all wonderful and treated me like one of their own.  I enjoyed meeting and getting to know them all.  Best of all, she made me feel right at home.  I learned that our families are very similar even though they are half a world apart. After dinner at Debbie’s house, we enjoyed playing a game together.  It reminded me of Christmas at home because we always have dinner and then we play family games together as well.  So thank you for sharing your home and your family with me.  This meant a lot to me.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Today’s blog comes from the team at PPI-SA, who is kicking off their year in an exciting way!

Second round of the interviews this Monday.

Second round of the interviews this Monday.

Happy New Year to all our From-the-Field readers! 2017 is proving to be a great year as PPI-SA is one step away from selecting the young leaders who will be coaches for 2017. Just this past Monday, PPI-SA hosted the second round of interviews for all the applicants. And, in true PPI style, the proceedings started on the basketball court.  There were over 25 applicants present with a few returning coaches. The interview process has been happening since December 2016, all thanks to  the PPI-SA HR Manager, Mtu Zulu and the rest of the PPI-SA staff members for really working together tirelessly to ensure that by the time programing commences in schools on the 14th of February , there is a dream team ready to coach!

Moreover, when the 2017 coaches are selected they will be participating in 5 day long orientation camp funded by Laureus.  This will give new coaches the opportunity to get inducted into the PPI family as well as get to know the programme a little more.

PPI-SA would also love to announce the appointment of, the newly created position of the Local Fellow, to Thobani “African Panda” Khumalo. Thobani will be working closely with the Strategy & Operations to manage and coordinate all programs. PPI-SA is so excited to have Thobani on a full time basis and look forward to see his growth and success in the year ahead.

PPI-SA's Thobani (left) with PPI-CY International Fellow Ryan

PPI-SA’s Thobani (left) with PPI-CY International Fellow Sean.

PPI-SA is looking forward to the year ahead, and kicking off programming in 2017.

Nike Announces New Partnership with PeacePlayers International

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PeacePlayers International is proud to join with Nike to build stronger communities harnessing the unifying power of sport.  Our partnership will help mobilize young people across the United States who will show that if you can play together, you can live together.

Programs will involve a multitude of stakeholders, including community leaders, young people, coaches, athletes, professional teams, law enforcement and government. PeacePlayers is excited to be part of Nike’s commitment promoting equality and supporting a shared future for everyone.

To learn more about the partnership, check out http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/go/equality

PeacePlayers Teams Up with Detroit PAL

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This weekend the team from PPI-SPIN went out to Detroit, MI to launch a strategic partnership with the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL). Detroit PAL is the premier after school sports program in Detroit, and works with over 14,000 youth each year across a variety of sports. The partnership, sponsored in part by the Detroit Pistons, is part of PAL’s Team Up program whose goal is to improve the quality of relationships between polices officers, youth and the community by matching Detroit Police officers as assistant coaches on youth sports teams.  As a part of the trip, PPI delivered a comprehensive sport for development training to eight police officers and eight PAL coaches at Boysville gymnasium, a historic gym PAL has used to serve the West Detroit area for years. PPI trainers facilitated activities related to positive youth coaching, conflict resolution, and relationship building while introducing participants to the curriculum that they will be delivering with their teams over the next seven weeks.

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“The training was very engaging and beneficial to the police officer’s and Detroit PAL coaches. It provided us with new ideas and skills in which we can utilize with the over 14,000 youth that we serve yearly. Also, the training provided us with additional knowledge in which to guide our youth, not direct them, in solving their problems and expand their exploration of ideas and challenge their thinking and allow us to act as a collaborator in the problem-solving process.”

  • Officer Chenetta Pasley, a sixteen-year veteran of the Detroit police and youth development officer for Detroit PAL

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Detroit is one of several domestic cities that PPI will have a growing presence in throughout the coming months. The opportunity came in large part due to Vice Chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment and PPI Board Member Arn Tellem. Tellem has been a strong advocate for PPI to establish partnerships and support local stakeholders in the Detroit area over the last year.

 

Yalla-Bye: An Introduction

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This week’s blog post is written by International Fellow James Levine on how he can’t wait to play Yalla-Bye upon his return from the US

Hello and happy 2017 to our From-the-Field readers! I just returned to Jerusalem after spending the holidays in the US and am just starting to process everything that has happened over the past few weeks.

In short, the past few weeks have been amazing. In mid-December, I went to Bethlehem with a few other coaches from PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) to see the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. While there we ate unbelievable knafeh – a traditional Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup. Then I boarded a plane bound for Boston, Massachusetts where I was bombarded with questions from family and friends about Jerusalem, PPI – ME, and my life abroad.

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PPI-ME coaches Khaled and Odai mean-mugging at Jesus’ birthplace

The most common question I received was what I like about Jerusalem. I didn’t have just one answer. Sometimes I would talk about how I love coaching younger kids and seeing them improve so quickly. Other times I would say that I enjoy learning and living in a place that is so different than anywhere I have ever been before.

The truth, however, is that the thing I missed most was a game we play at PPI – ME called “Yalla-Bye”! Yalla-Bye is, arguably, the most intense, non-basketball related activity we do at PPI – ME. Yalla-Bye is more than a game, it’s a way of life. To play one must be patient, agile, and possess nerves of steel. Yalla-Bye is only meant to be played by those who are fearless and unafraid to be pegged by a basketball.

The game is simple. At the end of practice our players stand in a circle with their arms by their sides. A coach – usually LaToya, because she is the Yalla-Bye specialist – stands in the middle of the circle with a basketball. The coach then either passes the ball to a player or fakes a pass to a player. If the coach makes a pass, the player must catch the ball. If the coach fakes a pass, then the player to whom she has faked the pass must resist the urge to put her hand up to catch the pass.

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Yalla-Bye in action. Watch out!

The kids who are most afraid of the ball usually get out quickly trying to protect themselves from fake passes. The most adept Yalla-Bye players are impossible to get out – they are seemingly unafraid of a ball coming straight at their heads!

I missed the intensity, the passion, and our 3rd and 4th graders’ technical mastery of Yalla-Bye. And now that I’m back, I can’t wait to play!