This week’s blog features an interview with PeacePlayers-Cyprus’ staff member, Andreas Koulendis, who coaches a team in Dali. Andreas worked with PeacePlayers from the very beginning and spent two years as a PPI coach before other engagements, such as finishing his studies and starting a career, took him away from coaching for a short time. This season coach Koulendis is reunited with PeacePlayers and we are excited to have him back on the court with us!
How did you first get involved in PeacePlayers?
When I was in college a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to participate in a bi-communal basketball program that was starting up. I immediately said yes because it involved coaching basketball, interacting with kids who wanted to learn the game, and also creating a new way of thinking in regards to the relations on this island. All this through a sport that I worship, it was a perfect opportunity.
How has PeacePlayers impacted your life?
PeacePlayers has opened up new horizons for me. I have been lucky enough to make new friends from the other community (coaches and players), share my love for basketball, and give back to my community. I think my greatest realization during my time with PeacePlayers was realizing I’m 100% sold on the values and ideals of the organization, like seeing others as equals and respecting others differences, and having the opportunity to pass along such ideals and values to the kids.
What is your favorite thing about coaching?
My favorite thing about coaching is when the less experienced and talented kids on my team are doing a drill and their teammates cheer them on and encourage them. For me, if all the kids have a smile on their face at the end of the practice it means I’m successful as a coach. Overall for me, coaching is about the joy you feel when you realize that you added something positive to a kid, whether that is a basketball skill or a life skill.
What’s your favorite memory from PPI?
That’s a tough one! I have so many of them! But, if I have to pick it would be the following:
It was the first day of the first ever basketball camp in Agros. The kids were waiting in the lobby of the hotel for their room assignments and the divide between the two groups of kids was so obvious, absolutely no interaction at all. But, that night, after practice on the walk back to the hotel from the court a couple of Greek-Cypriot girls and Turkish-Cypriot girls were walking together laughing at the fact that none of them could understand the others language. For the rest of camp these four girls could not be separated. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, free time they were always together and they had found a way to communicate! It was the first concrete example I had experienced of how basketball can bring the two communities together.