Over the last week PeacePlayers was very excited to hold two of our most popular events! First came ‘The Super Sports Day’ on Wedneday, May 27, and then the ‘Summer Jam’ event was held Saturday, May 30. What made it even more exciting was that we had students and coaches all the way from DePauw University (in Indiana, USA) to help with interacting with the children and coaching them in basketball. The children got an excellent opportunity to be coached by Bill Fenlon, who has been Head Men’s Basketball coach at DePauw for 23 years.
On Wednesday, the Super Sports Day brought together 190 young people of different backgrounds from Catholic and Protestant primary schools across Belfast. The young people had a great time exploring culture and identity by participating in four different sports (basketball, rugby, football and Gaelic football) as well as team-building games. The day was clearly a huge success, with the children being able to develop their skills and knowledge in sports which they may never have experienced. They were coached by volunteers from the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Ulster Rugby, Irish Football Association (IFA) as well as the DePauw students, giving them a great insight of each code from people who represent their sport at a high level. The day was a great success with amazing enthusiasm from everyone involved.
A few days later on the Saturday the big event that the children and coaches look forward to all year took place…..SUMMER JAM! This is what the last few months had been leading up to, with coaches from PeacePlayers hosting twinning sessions for every side of the Belfast Interface League in order to prepare for the big day. The children came together Saturday to represent their side of the city as they gathered at Lisburn Racquets Club to show off the skills they had been developing over the last 3 months.
Walking through the door there was an immediate buzz about the place. The music (provided by DJ Topper) was blaring and the kids and coaches all practiced together before their matches with their faces painted and wearing colour-coordinated clothing to represent their teams. There was a great turnout by PeacePlayers coaches and volunteers, DePauw Students and representatives from The Study USA Project all doing a brilliant job at getting the children excited and motivated for a day that they would never forget. Even when their teams weren’t playing, you would see the children all dancing and having a ball. Once the basketball finished there was even more riotous behaviour as coaches led dancing to songs like ‘Rock The Boat.’ The day ended with the winning teams receiving their medals and individual participants (specially selected by Coach Fenlon and Breda Dick) being awarded the coveted Spirit and Hustle awards.
Around 130 kids and 40 coaches and volunteers made this superb event possible. The amount of effort and preparation put into the whole event was astonishing, and PeacePlayers is very excited to return next year with an even bigger turnout.
PeacePlayers would like to acknowledge the fantastic fundraising efforts of the alumni association of the Study USA programme for supporting the Super Sports Day event and Coach Fenlon, his wife Gigi and the amazing students from DePauw University for their generous support of the Summer Jam tournament. PeacePlayers would also like to thank Comic Relief for its year round support for our Primary Schools Twinning Programme.
Events like these show how big an influence sport can be in bringing children from communities with a history of conflict together and get the chance to establish strong relationships and friendships with people whom they may never have had the chance to. “If you can learn to play together, you can learn to live together”.