My name is Courtney Boylan, and I am the newest member of PPI-ME! I officially started working with PeacePlayers a little over two weeks ago, and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and tell you how I was able to get involved with such an amazing organization, where in the coming year, I will be providing support to coaches in Jerusalem and the north.
Originally I am from Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 lakes”, but I have also lived in Maryland, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana. I attended college at the University of Michigan, where I majored in Sport Management and was a 4-year letter winner on the basketball team. Choosing to go to school so far from home was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but it proved to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
At Michigan, I was able to earn a degree at one of the greatest Universities in the world while playing basketball in one of the toughest conferences in the country (The Big Ten). I made countless memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, and most importantly: I fell in love. I met Stuart Douglass my first day on campus my freshman year at Michigan, and we have been dating ever since (over 6 years now). The reason I bring this up, and why he is so important in talking about my journey to the Middle East and working for PeacePlayers, is because he is the reason that I am even living in Israel.
After college, I was fortunate enough to get a job as a Division 1 Assistant Coach at Northern Kentucky University, and Stuart set his sights on playing professional basketball. Since last year, Stuart has been playing professionally in Israel, and after two years apart, we decided that the following season I would join him in Israel!
It was such an exciting time for the both of us to finally be together, but it was also very scary. I had to leave my job as an assistant coach, and my friends and family were very concerned about me living in country going through so much conflict, much of which I didn’t even understand myself. But, what I did know was that I wanted to stay involved with basketball.
One of my Sport Management professors at the University of Michigan, who is Jewish-American and has family living in Israel, was the one who told me about PeacePlayers International. After he told me about PPI and I did some research, I knew that I wanted to join them in their mission. PPI isn’t just about basketball; it’s about educating and inspiring children from areas of conflict to create a more peaceful world.
As a player and coach I saw first hand how sport, specifically basketball, could be used as a tool to bring so many different types of people together. Basketball has given and taught me so much: discipline, respect, acceptance, self-worth, humility, friendships, mentors, love… and the list could go on. I am extremely excited to be apart of something so special with PPI and hopefully I can pass on some of the things I have learned to members of PeacePlayers.
What I have found out already, in my short time with PPI, is how much I am going to learn. Before coming to Israel, I really didn’t know much about the conflict going on here. I had no idea how big of a deal it really is to have Arabs and Jews playing together on the same team, and not only that, but becoming friends. These players break down countless years of prejudice, fighting, and history, and it is basketball that is bringing them together.