This week’s blog was written by Ryan McGarry, Local Fellow at PeacePlayers International-Northern Ireland.
This year was the first time I became involved in a PeacePlayers Twinning that took place outside of Belfast. I was tasked to take the lead on our programming in Ballymena, a town about 30 minutes outside the city (famous for being the birthplace of Liam Neeson!), within which we have been running Twinnings for 4 years. Having established ourselves here working in conjunction with the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, we have recently began taking steps to further develop our work in the area. Specifically, we are aiming to train and increase the capacity of locally based coaches, to transition our work there to becoming completely locally-led. (As much as I love my weekly pilgrimage up there!)
This approach fits into part of our overarching plan, which is to create and develop local PeacePlayers sites in every council area in the country. Recently, a partnership with the Ballymena Northern Regional College enabled us to take initial steps in this direction. This partnership has given young to volunteer as assistant coaches at our weekly sessions in the area.
While this has only begun in January, these students have already shown their coaching abilities, and their willingness to develop themselves further. While jumping into a coaching role isn’t easy (especially in a high energy environment like a PPI Twinning!) The assistant coaches have been great at quickly adapting to our particular style of coaching, and leading activities not only in Basketball, but also in our Community Relations curriculum.
This has been evident not just to myself and the other PeacePlayers coaches, but also to their own teachers, and also to staff from the participating schools. They impressed the latter so much so that a few of the assistant coaches have been invited to the schools to help out in other ways, and meet back up with their team members!
With the potential to bring some of these prospective coaches to our coaches’ trainings throughout the year – we could be seeing the establishment of a very important foundation for PPI’s planned expansion into the six ‘Super Councils’ of Northern Ireland.
If our efforts to create and develop a bank of local coaches in Ballymena is successful, it could well be used as a template for our work in other areas, and with a great group of potential future PeacePlayers at our disposal, I feel personally responsible to ensure that this becomes a reality!