This week we check in with Coach Andreas Koulendis who returned to coaching with PeacePlayers this past season after having been involved several years prior. Koulendis is an energetic, passionate, and compassionate coach who loves the game of basketball more than anyone. We are grateful to have him with PeacePlayers-Cyprus.
What brought you back to coaching with PeacePlayers this year?
Basketball is always at the center of my life- playing basketball, coaching kids, and talking about the game is a way of life for me. Also, I am very interested in the greater purpose of PeacePlayers International. I strongly believe in the way this program can change participants’ perceptions of the other. I appreciate that PeacePlayers not only makes an impact in lives (of its participants) in the present moment, but builds leaders for the future who will guide their communities to build bridges across the divides. These days people are fed up with temporary solutions; they want long-term solutions. This is what the PeacePlayers program offers by building positive long-term relationships.
So this year, after some personal changes in my life, I had some extra time, and there is nothing I wanted to do more than to coach basketball and be involved with an organization like PPI. It could not get any better.
Tell me about the two teams that you coach.
I have been privileged to coach two PPI teams throughout this past year.
The Dali team is a well organized team with some great kids who are really supportive of the bi-communal goals of our program. The reason for this is the great job that the former coach, and friend of mine, Thanasis Souflias has done the previous years. He gave me a core group of kids who are passionate about basketball and are also very active in their community and very willing to participate in community activities. The Dali PeacePlayers are always willing to help one another out and welcome new kids to the program. They are also pretty demanding when it comes to actual basketball practices and always look to improve their game and get better.
My second team is a group of kids from a school in downtown Nicosia, Faneromeni. It’s a group of kids with a really tough background, so starting a program there was a big challenge for me, the school, and PeacePlayers. As an organization, our goal there was to introduce participants to the game (of basketball) and give them a relief from their everyday challenges – a place to get away from the tough environment that many of these kids are exposed to everyday. We have come a long way with these kids both on and off the court over the course of the year. It has been amazing to see the changes in these kids as both basketball players and as individuals.
I am really proud of both of my teams! I’m proud of every single individual I’ve coached and for the transformation they’ve achieved through the program. Thank you guys for an amazing year!
As you look back on the 2013-2014 school year, what has been your favorite moment with your teams?
Oh so many to choose from! Well, today was one of my favorite moments. The kids from Faneromeni have been invited to play in their first twinning, and this afternoon the school called me asking, “How did you ever manage to get all the kids to bring their parent forms back, and on time? This has never happened!” It shows how much the program means to these kids, and that makes me proud.
As a PeacePlayers coach what sort of difference do you hope to make in your kids’ lives?
I hope that I can be the guy that gives them the opportunity to do something fun and creative for a couple of hours every week. I also hope that I can inspire them to embrace the goals and values of PPI. Finally, I hope I can be seen as a friend and role model.
You recently attended an Anatomy of Peace training with Chad Ford. What did you learn during the training that you can take with you on the court as a coach?
That was a great experience, and I want to say thank you to Chad Ford and the rest of the PPI-CY staff for giving me this great opportunity. The Anatomy of Peace curriculum is working in the present to build positive relationships for the future. As a coach on the court, I can introduce these concepts to our kids, and they can introduce them to the greater community. We can inspire a core group of leaders that will build a future while bridging divisions and changing perceptions.