PeacePlayers International – South Africa: Opening new doors and improving lives, one coach at a time

PPI-SA coach Gabreila Gocovah, seen here running a clinic at LIV Village earlier in the year.

PPI-SA coach Gabreila Gokova, seen here running a clinic at LIV Village earlier in the year.

This week’s blog is written by PeacePlayers International – South Africa Coach Gabreila “Gabby” Gokova. Gabby joined PPI-SA in February and has never looked back. Her calming and never say never attitude have been felt not only by the players she coached at Carrington Primary school, but the PPI staff and her fellow coaches as well. 

I started with PeacePlayers International – South Africa in February, and this year was my first time coaching basketball and life skills. Not knowing what exactly I was getting myself into, I was so nervous and scared leading up to my first practice. I did not know exactly what to do. We had workshops and trainings, but the thought of implementation had me underneath the covers. Fortunately one of my mentors, PPI staff member Ryan Douwie, started off with me. I would go to his practices, watch what he did and then he would come to mine to help me out. Now looking back, I don’t know what I was afraid of really because the experience of working with children was just too much fun and amazing. The kids at Carrington Primary School always seemed to teach me something new.  This whole year has taught me a lot about myself, including stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Besides coaching basketball and life skills, PeacePlayers International has opened new doors for me. I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town and be part of the Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sports (YES) Programme. Without PPI, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to meet others from across Africa and learn their cultures.

Gabby (back left) and 24th City Wide Champions Carrington Primary School Girls

Gabby (back left) and 24th City Wide Champions Carrington Primary School Girls

My favourite moment of the year was the 24th City Wide Tournament.  In my first City Wide earlier in the year, I had no idea what to do and I was all over the place not knowing where to go. I felt overwhelmed trying to help organize 300+ kids. This last tournament was different.  I took initiative to make sure everything went accordingly on my court.  I was familiar with the location, knew the procedure, and the best way to interact with kids I didn’t know.  On top of that, my girls won the tournament. I still remember that last whistle signaling the end of the championship game. I was ecstatic. It felt so cool seeing all our hard work throughout the year paying off.

Working for PeacePlayers International has been such an amazing experience throughout this whole year. I’ve seen myself and others grow. My communication skills have strengthened tremendously. I’m not afraid to talk to people as much as I was before. I used to be extremely shy, but now I am a very outspoken young lady.

I loved every minute of this year. Not only did I learn a lot of things, but I had so much fun with my colleagues and can say they have become more like family to me. I hope more youths out there can find organizations such as PeacePlayers International to help them learn about themselves and open new doors for them as it has for me. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity PPI gave me this year and can’t wait for 2015!

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