Not Just About Basketball

Friendships from Twinning programs are also reinforced at PPI-NI annual basketball tournaments, 'Jingle Ball' and 'Summer Jam.'

Friendships from Twinning programs are also reinforced at PPI-NI annual basketball tournaments, ‘Jingle Ball’ and ‘Summer Jam.’

Intern Olivier Pratter shares his experience with a primary school Twinning program in Northern Ireland.

So long, Saint-Pats and Ballee!

A few Tuesdays ago, I took part in my last twinning session in Ballymeena with Saint-Patricks and Ballee and bid farewell to a group that I had never expected to be so great! My long-time colleague, Coach Megan (I am taking the liberty to call her a long-time colleague after weeks of chitchat in her car between Belfast and Ballymeena), along with local coaches Alistair and Craig organized a full session of matches which were brought to full swing by a group that was, as they say in this part of the world, ‘dead on’ (Northern Ireland slang for ‘nice people’).

Participants from different PPI-NI twinning programmes come together with Coach Joe at PPI-NI's summer basketball camp.

Participants from different PPI-NI twinning programs come together with Coach Joe at PPI-NI’s summer basketball camp.

Jingle Ball was my first 2014 encounter with these players, who were still fresh from Holidays. “Olivia” (That’s what they call me – they still need practice outside the field to pronounce my name correctly – they use Olivia because it is the female equivalent to Olivier, my real name – I know it was said with good intention) ‘Whats the craic?’ ‘You are here!’ ‘Long time!’ they all screamed. Trying to imagine French Canadian delicacies, one participant asked me if I had snails on BBQ over Christmas. We greeted each other with the well rehearsed secret hand shakes that we had practiced weeks beforehand. I thought these handshake tricks would sink into oblivion over the holidays, but that was far from being the case! The children knew them better than I did! Boys and girls went for the ball regardless of the apprehensions they had over the first weeks of the Twinning. They mingled, talked and eventually formed a great group. Had I not known who belonged to which school, I could not have made any distinction between the students from Ballee and the students from Saint-Patricks.  Together they engaged in the game, laughed, shared stories and joked with each other. No one was left out. It’s incredible to think that these children would have never met each other if it weren’t for PeacePlayers.

Coach Joanne Fitzpatrick encourages 'Sharing the Court!'

Coach Joanne Fitzpatrick encourages ‘Sharing the Court!’

The energy levels during twinnings were great! Some participants were keener on chatting than others, but they all fully engaged in each of the matches. During one session, we had an incident where one player fell on another while attempting to take the ball from him, injuring his opponent’s knee. However, thanks to lessons from PPI-NI’s Anatomy of Peace and conflict management curriculum, both of the players were high-fiving each other and playing ball again. Team spirit at its best! I knew I was part of a great twinning when I first met the players from both schools, but I believe the many activities and workshops organised by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland helped the bonds between participants reach such high levels. This isn’t just about basketball. It is about friendship and humanizing the ‘other side.’


One thought on “Not Just About Basketball

  1. Wow my face just cracked with smiles because I can imagine all that you are talking about and I can imagine your smile,the joy that you have of all this achievement. I can not wait to be part of this greatness. To meet the participants and just be the part of these communities.

    PeacePlayers has so much power to really make one feel good I know that with me. Many years ago when I was a participant here in South Africa I called the basketball court my happy place, it some how had a way to make me forget about everything else and just focus my energy on what was going on around me. I call basketball my first and life time love!

    I can not wait to be there and experience this change Oliver!

    Thank you for sharing.

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