The Countdown to the Jingle Ball Tournament Begins at PPI-NI

With less than three weeks to our Jingle Ball tournament here at PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland, we take a look back over Jingle Ball highlights from the past 10 years with project coordinator, Joanne Fitzpatrick.

Jingle Ball is one of our bi-annual tournaments that takes place in December each year. Children and young people from the divided communities around Belfast come together in one shared space, united through their integrated basketball teams. Over the past 10 years, many things have changed in our programming, but Jingle Ball still holds the same spirit that it always has. It really is a time for all of our participants to come together and celebrate what they have achieved throughout the year. Let’s take a look over some legendary moments from Jingle Ball history.

Jingle Ball 2006

It has been 10 years since this photo was taken in Limavady, County Londonderry at Jingle Ball 2006. When we go through our archive of photos, this is the furthest back we can go. This photo was taken at the ‘sit down clown’ station a game that we still play with our participants and is easily one of our most popular games. Behind the girls you can see the sit down clown ‘wall of fame’, something we may just have to bring back to our programmes.

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Jingle Ball 2007

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This was a particularly special Jingle Ball for me as this was when I first joined PeacePlayers. Teams came together from all over Northern Ireland and yet it didn’t matter where anyone was from, they all loved basketball. I refereed the entire day, which is not everyone’s favourite job and I still managed to fall in love with this amazing organisation. After this tournament that I began coaching for PeacePlayers, because I couldn’t resist it. Maybe it had something to do with Harry Morra, former Operations Manager, and his amazing dunking skills. I guess my dreams of being “Air Jo-dan” are what brought me in.

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Jingle Ball 2009

Jingle Ball ’09 was one of my favourite tournaments. It was the first time that I helped to run a tournament and truly understand what needed to happen back stage to make such a huge tournament possible. If you watch carefully you might even spot local coach, Champion4Peace and former Jingle Ball participant, Connor Keenan.

Jingle Ball 2010

This photo sums up what the last six years of PeacePlayers has been about for me. In this photo you’ll find two former Jingle Ball participants, AJ McMinn and Michaela Thompson, accepting their gold medals back in December 2010. AJ, a Protestant from North Belfast, is now a member of our BIL+ programme, a senior Champion4Peace and an assistant coach at our North Belfast Interface League. Michaela, a Catholic from West Belfast, is a lead coach in North Belfast, assists in the coordination of both Junior and Senior Champion4Peace groups and is the current Coach of the Year co-winner. Seeing these young people come through the programme to become great leaders and role models for participants from their own communities is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.

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Jingle Ball 2011

Our biggest Jingle Ball EVER!! 113 participants from all over Belfast. The best thing is, a ton of the people in this photo are still involved to this day.

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Jingle Ball 2014

In Spring 2013, PeacePlayers decided to invest further in our tournaments and turn our after schools programming into an integrated hub for each side of the city. North, South, East and West Belfast would train separately for eight weeks in the lead up to Jingle Ball. They’d get to know their teammates better and compete for the pride of their united side of the city. At Jingle Ball 2014, we had huge numbers representing their newly formed hubs and the kids loved it.

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Jingle Ball 2015

After two years of running our integrated clubs in each side of the city, we knew we were onto a winner. With friendships being forged from both sides of the religious divide, our united teams were leading the way in what our shared future could look like. With players like Christopher and Owen from either side of the largest “peace wall” in Northern Ireland, these West Belfast teammates demonstrated the power of sport in creating peace in “our wee country.”

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Jingle Ball 2016

This year we see a new development to our favourite Christmas tournament. Our participants are separated into three age groups: Junior (8-11), Senior (12-14) and BIL+ (15-18). Jingle Ball 2016 is set to be our biggest tournament yet with 150 participants registered and over 20 teams entered. We’re excited to see, hear and feel the energy that our amazing participants will bring on Saturday 3rd December in Queens PEC. If you’re interested in being involved in this year’s tournament contact Debbie at dbyrne@peaceplayersintl.org or like our Facebook page for more details https://www.facebook.com/peaceplayersni/

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