This week’s blog recaps PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland’s Jingle Ball basketball tournament. This year’s tournament was particularly special as participants remembered the Christmas Truce.
The Christmas spirit was on full display last Saturday, 6th December, when 140 young people took over the Stranmillis College’s sports hall for PPI-NI’s annual Jingle Ball basketball tournament! This year Jingle Ball had an added poignancy as the event recognised the 100th anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce that took place on the Western Front on Christmas Day 1914. The tournament was one of several events sponsored by PeacePlayers globally to celebrate the courage of those first Peace Players who stepped into “No Man’s Land” during a time of conflict to show a different way. The truce was celebrated and commemorated in a positive way through our tournament.
The Jingle Ball participants had been polishing their basketball skills for 12 weeks during the Belfast Interface League programme in their respective sides of the city. While playing on these integrated teams they were able to not only develop practical basketball skills, but also take part in community relations discussions where they developed an understanding of the communities and backgrounds their new friends were from. After 12 weeks of growing into tight-knit, competitive teams the BIL programmes came together – girls vs boys and juniors vs seniors – to prove they were the side of the city to beat, to show off their skills and of course to catch up with friends from the other areas.
With everyone eyeing a coveted Jingle Ball award, the competition level was high. But so was the Christmas spirit with Coach Joanne working her Christmas glasses and Coach Joe pulling off a Santa hat. It’s debateable whether the participants had more fun than the staff team this year! DJ Topper provided fantastic tunes and the volunteers from Google, Study USA and Young Adult Volunteers were on hand to keep the energy levels high. PPI-US Director of Development Brian Lemek’s natural coaching talent also shone through as he refereed some intense games, and members of the PPI-NI Board of Directors stepped up to the almost impossible task of choosing the winners of the spirit and hustle awards! Although there was no overall winner of the tournament, North, South, East and West were all represented in the awards ceremony, either as a team or with individual players receiving awards, which made it a winning day for everyone. Jingle Ball is always a huge success and the 2014 edition was the best one yet! Friends were re-united, new friendships formed and we can’t wait to do it all again next year because everyone had a ball – no pun intended!