What it’s like to be a PeacePlayer

This week’s blog is written by Jazz Bishop, International Fellow at PPI-Northern Ireland.

There’s been a lot to learn here in Northern Ireland, but so far I feel like it’s been an easy transition and I’m excited to learn more as time goes on. With Jingle Ball right around the corner, there’s so much going on at PPI-NI and I’m excited to be contributing. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you all what I’ve been up to!

RECRUITMENT: One of my responsibilities here at PPI-NI is to coordinate East Belfast teams in our Belfast Interface League afterschool programme. In the beginning, it was a struggle to get the participation numbers up. I had approximately nine kids total for junior, and senior boys and girls teams.  However, this past Wednesday, I had 27 kids show up for my session! You can imagine how excited I was to see the numbers triple. Joanne and I went to Campbell College in East Belfast to do some recruiting and it definitely paid off. Not only was I able to recruit more kids, Joanne was able to recruit participants to join the BIL+ program for our senior participants.

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BIL+ Participant, Bradley West, from Campbell College.

A lot of the new participants we recruited already know how to play basketball and can play quite well. I think our current PeacePlayers’ participants stay involved in PeacePlayers in part due to friendships developed through the program and to have fun, and new participants look forward to the new friendships that are sure to develop, and they know the game of basketball, so it’s a win-win for everyone.  We even had our first ever slam dunk here at PPI-NI by Bradley West. Bradley is about 6’4 tall and he just kept dunking it during the BIL+ session last week.  It definitely made for an exciting day for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing what else this Bradley  and his peers can bring to the program.

TWINNINGS: Other exciting things I am currently involved with include two twinning programmes in East Belfast. I think the twinnings are going well so far, and they bring together participants from different backgrounds. All of the participants are so full of energy and eager to learn from the coaches. I have one young boy that every time we meet he comes up to me and just asks the most random questions, which is adorable.

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Euston Street & St. Teresa’s Twinning.

For one of my winnings last week, I was at a Saint Joseph’s School. There are five Saint Joseph’s Schools in Belfast and I started with selecting the wrong one on my satellite phone. Fortunately, the other PeacePlayers’ coaches I was with helped me correct my error. The morning may not have started off how we planned, but the ending was more exciting than anything. The students kept wanting to give the coaches and I high fives and the teacher even had to speak to them multiple times to get back in line to leave.

THANKGIVING!: Breda Dick, a PPI board member and the Chairwoman of Phonenix Basketball club which I also play for invited me and some of the Americans in the basketball community in Belfast to Thanksgiving dinner. While being away from family can be tough especially during the holidays, I enjoyed the time spent with fellow Americans.

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Thanksgiving dinner with some fellow Americans.

TA PROJECTS: (Also know as Technical Assistance projects) This past weekend I joined Sally on an Open College Network (OCN) residential, where we trained 15 youth from Dungannon and Magherafelt on Promoting Diversity Through Sports. We had a great group to work with all weekend. Sally took the lead with most of the workshops, while I lead some of the energizer activities. This was my first OCN, so I was still new to the idea and was glad to watch Sally and learn from her. She delivered all of the sessions with such great public speaking skills, and confidence. I’m hoping my public speaking will improve, and I can perform my first OCN just as well as Sally did. All of the participants seemed to really enjoy the weekend and understand the concepts that we were presenting, which was very rewarding to see.

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Mid-Ulster OCN Training

We have our big Jingle Ball Tournament on Saturday, December 3rd, which also happens to be my birthday, so I am sure this will be a great day all around. This is my first big PeacePlayers event so I am very excited to see how it all plays out. I can’t wait for the big day and to contribute in any way I can to make it even bigger and better. I’m confident I will learn a lot from the expertise of those that have been running the event over the course of the years and I look forward to bringing back some knowledge.  It is going to be a great event for everyone involved!

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