In-Season Update: Nahariya/Tamra 14-and-Under All-Stars Team

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The team huddles together after a big win against Arabe

It has been a fun and exciting year for PeacePlayers International – Middle East’s (PPI-ME) Nahariya/Tamra 14-and-under All-Star team. This past week they officially moved into second place in their league, and with four games left in the season they are still within striking distance of first place. As we close in on the end of the season, we want to recap some of the memorable moments of the season and take a look at how this team has grown throughout the year.

The 14-and-under All-Stars have made huge strides on the court this year. This past week, with their win over Arabe, they officially moved into second place in their league. It was a very intense game and the team was down by as much as 11 points in the first half before taking control and winning the game by 10 points. It was a whole team effort and showed the determination and resilience the team has. Another thrilling win came a month ago after beating Kaokab, a team that hasn’t lost in two seasons. “It was so exciting! All of the players (including those on the bench) felt the tension and were completely into the game. It was so much fun for everyone and we were so happy,” said Noam (13, Nahariya).


Lilian going for a layup during a game this season

The personal connections between the girls on the team also grew significantly this season. This became especially evident when the girls started planning activities together outside of practices and games. One of the most unforgettable times was when they came together for Roni’s birthday party. “Roni’s birthday was amazing. It was so great celebrating it with the whole team. We laughed and really talked and it was a fun and bonding evening for everyone,” explains Noam.

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Courtney, Alhan and some of the team members on the bench before a game

It has been such an enjoyable year for everyone involved with the Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars. The coaches continue to work hard to help the girls become better both individually and as a team, and it really shows. They have grown so much together on and off the court and it has been special to witness. When Roni was asked about this season, this was her response: “Last year we were just playing together. This year we became great friends. I am just as close to the girls from Tamra as I am to the Nahariya girls.” Noam agrees that their connection has intensified, “It is much stronger this year. We really talk with each other and all of the girls are very open with each other.”


Selfie time! The team celebrating after a win

Everyone at PPI-ME is excited to see what the future holds for these girls. Their determination, compassion, effort and teamwork are qualities that every team should try to emulate. Their togetherness inspires us all.

Belfast Phoenix Basketball Club – “My Friends And a Group I Will Forever Remember”

Last September, a group of 15 girls from all over Belfast came together to form the 2016-17 U-16 girls Belfast Phoenix basketball team. With many of the girls being part of Belfast Phoenix BC for several years, having two new coaches was maybe a daunting thought, never mind having 6 new teammates. The newest members to the team were six PeacePlayers participants who have been part of the Belfast Interface League for more than 3 years. Ready to take the next step, they joined Belfast Phoenix BC in the Basketball Northern Ireland competitive league.

PeacePlayers coaches Joanne Fitzpatrick and Hannah Byrne, worked with the girls throughout the season to end up with a 8-2 record, at the top of the league. But this blog isn’t about scores or stats, Xs or Os, cups or trophies. This week’s blog is about a team, how they formed, stormed, normed and performed together. This week’s blog is written by local coordinator, Joanne Fitzpatrick, with a little help from the team.

When I started coaching these girls last year, I didn’t know what to expect. As someone who has only ever coached in PeacePlayers for the past 9 years, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be what these girls needed. I was a bag of nerves, thinking that these girls needed a coach with more competitive coaching experience. I walked into the gym and introduced myself to the team. Within seconds, Brooklyn O’Hare, PeacePlayers participant and new Belfast Phoenix member, broke the ice by giving the girls my nickname- JimmiJo11. At that moment, Brooklyn reminded me of something I like to teach all our kids, “Just be yourself.”Throughout the year, I’ve watched these girls go on an amazing journey. I’ve asked some of them and their parents to give you their story of the season.

How would you describe the PeacePlayers and Phoenix girls coming together?

“When the PeacePlayers girls all joined the team, I was nervous about what they would all be like, but after I got to know them a bit I love them and I really like playing with them.” – Cassie Taylor

“The girls that came originally from Phoenix are amazing ballers and I was intimidated by this at the start. But, it just helped me improve my skills more and made me a better player…We are a group of girls that are playing basketball and having fun. While playing, never once did I think about if they were Catholic, Protestant or anything else. It didn’t matter and still doesn’t, they are my friends and a group I will forever remember.” – Patrice Fox

“I was quite skeptical at the start when I found out we were joining with the PeacePlayer girls because I didn’t know who they were but it didn’t take long for us all to get along” – Brid Turley

“At first it was a bit awkward, but the girls were super nice. It was nice to meet new people in a great atmosphere that they created” – Anna Duncan

“When I joined Phoenix, I was nervous. So from being in PeacePlayers for a long time, it taught me just to be myself , to accept others and not to change in order to get people to like me.” – Brooklyn O’Hare

“Having all the PeacePlayers join the team has been great honestly, they’re all so nice and very friendly and they’re very easy to get along with. They’re all very inclusive and they are also very hard working and determined and of course they encouraged me to join PeacePlayers myself.” – Sara Mostafa

“At first, I was slightly nervous as I didn’t know if they would mix well together or just stay in separate groups, but after our first game against Dungannon it was clear how much the PeacePlayers girls added to the team and I know they would get along really well.” – Hannah Byrne


Brooklyn O’Hare with an easy lay-up on a fast break

What was the highlight of the season for you and why?

“The highlight of the season for me was our first game against Andytown Tigers. Even though we lost, none of the girls gave up at all and it was the most intense game of the season!” – Hannah Byrne

“For me, the highlight of the season has to be winning the league especially as it was with a bunch of girls who didn’t really know each other at the start but bonded very quickly.” – Brid Turley

“The highlight for me was when we won our game against the Tigers, I think that we worked really hard and definitely deserved the win” – Sara Mostafa

“The highlight of the season has been playing with others in a league setting and building better friendships with those outside of PeacePlayers.” – Brooklyn O’Hare

“The highlight of the season for me was training with the team because I was very nervous coming to U16 alone, but now I feel quite comfortable” – Ayushma Kandel


Cassie Taylor leading the team as point guard

What do you think PeacePlayers has brought to the team? Are PeacePlayers coaches different to other basketball coaches you’ve had?

I didn’t know about PeacePlayers until the girls told me about it and encouraged me to join. Jingle Ball was my first event and I love it. The matches weren’t too competitive and there was music, everyone was dancing, it was just a great vibe.” – Ayushma Kandel

“Having a coach from PeacePlayers is different, other coaches I’ve had were about how to make great players, but PeacePlayers coaches make sure that we all got along well as a team too, which I think is really important” – Sara Mostafa

“Having a coach from PeacePlayers is different because although we all like to win, I think that PeacePlayers focuses more on being a team than just winning. A normal coach would focus on the result and not the progress that the team are making. A PeacePlayers coach would be more interesting in how the team works and that its ok to make mistakes.” – Cassie Taylor

“I think there is definitely a better team bond because of the PeacePlayers influence. I also feel like we can have a bit more fun, not take ourselves too seriously and I think that’s been great for the Phoenix girls to have that influence in their club basketball” – Hannah Byrne


Sara Mostafa easing past the defence

A note from Jolene Fox. Parent of Patrice, PeacePlayers participant and Phoenix BC player.

“PeacePlayers started with basketball being fun, something to do, a way to meet new people and explore life (especially living within a divided society) in a way that sees beyond daily prejudices be it religion, race or socio-economic background. While I don’t feel that Patrice would have had a great prejudice on these issues but, societal normalcy in regards, especially, to religious differences in Northern Ireland may have had an impact. Through working within the West Belfast PeacePlayers team and in the city-wide teams and events and Champions4Peace programme, Patrice has had a platform to see other young people as just that, young people. There is no Catholic/Protestant, black/white, rich/poor, she has friends. They’ve learned lessons on the importance of inclusion and how isolating excluding or simply not including people can be. PeacePlayers has made the journey to playing basketball competitively a smooth transition. There is no requirement to know her friends religions etc, she is only concerned about how well they pick up the different plays and if they’re working well as a team. Some of them are even taller than her, that’s about the height (pardon the pun) of her noticing differences within her Phoenix teammates.  Since Christmas, it is very evident that she has forged new friendships and has grown within herself exponentially. Patrice is more comfortable giving her opinion on things, she is willing to put herself forward and take a more assertive role when carrying out tasks. She has become more competitive, especially over the past fortnight and I’m sure that will continue over the coming month in the build up to the All-Irelands.”

Coaches Conclusion

I’ve had the most amazing experience coaching these girls. I’ve learned more than I could ever imagine. I’ve watched them play, in awe, every game, getting stronger as a team. Many of these girls are right, I did focus on them becoming a team and it took a while. But to see these girls win the league with heart, soul, and compassion for their teammates and the game of basketball, is the best reward I could ever receive. I’m prouder than ever of what they’ve achieved together and I can’t wait to see them wrap up this year in the All-Ireland play-offs next month. Onwards and upwards, rise the Phoenix!


Belfast Phoenix U16 2016-17, a group I will forever remember

PPI-SA – Introducing Our Coaches: Thobani Ngubane

Last week we heard from Thando Msweli, our very own “selfie queen”, Laureus YES Expert and area-cordinator. But we thought you should have the opportunity to meet ALL our coaches, so the series  is making a comeback. Every week you will hear from another one of our 22 amazing coaches. Today, we hear from one of the newest additions to PPI-SA’s coaching staff – Thobani Ngubane. Thobani was also a part of the Laureus YES Programme, which is a great achievement for a first year coach. Thobani is also a past LDP participant.  His an outgoing bright young man, who is making noise in Durban, and in his community. Here’s his story about how he joined PPI-SA and his reflections on the Laureus YES Camp.

Thobani having breakfast with Laureus Ambassador Deshun and Merecedes Benz Manager Margaret.

My name is Thobani Ngubane and I am 21 years old. I was born and raised in uMlazi L- Section . Last year, I matriculated from Vukuzakhe High School and I also played for the Umlazi West Community Team.  In 2013, for the first time, I was introduced to PPI-SA, by my friend who invited me to a practice. I never stopped playing after that day.

Thobani (far left) at last years City Wide Tournament.

It was my coaches TT & Janda who really made an impact on me to decide to apply to be a coach at PPI-SA this year. I was already volunteering in other sports at my high school, such as netball and cricket. So when the opportunity came for me to join PPI-SA again this without having to be a participant I was so excited. What I love the most about  being a coach is working with the kids and empowering them with life skills that can help them make social change in their school and community. I know how my coaches helped me change my life and become a better person, and now I want to do the same for others.

The Laureus YES Camp was such a surprise to me. I did not know what to expect. But, I don’t regret applying, because I learnt so much about myself. I met other young leaders from across South Africa, which was great. After I left the camp, I learnt something very important. Resilience. I came out stronger and knowing myself more. Another highlight was going on the Cape Wheel at the V& A Waterfront. The views of Cape Town were beautiful and I will always cherish that moment.

PPI-ME Wishes Everyone A Happy International Women’s Day!


Three PPI-ME participants having fun at a practice in Tamra

On March 8th each year, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD is a day to reflect on the circumstances of women around the world, to commit to helping women and girls achieve their dreams, and to help forge a more gender-inclusive world. IWD brings attention to the fact that millions of women around the world face discrimination and hardship every day. IWD encourages all of us to help build and maintain more inclusive societies.

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Nitsan, Jinan and Aya keeping score at a PPI-ME activity

At PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME), we are keenly aware of the myriad obstacles that women face to full and equal treatment and participation in many societies around the world. In both Palestinian and Israeli societies, women face numerous barriers which often prevent their participation in sports and other community activities. Many girls are lacking the support systems they need to get involved in programs like PPI-ME. For every 100 Palestinian boys who play at sports clubs, only 28 girls do the same. In Israel, women aged 13 and older make up only 12% of athletes and less than 8% of trainers.


Yasmeen enjoying a Big Friday Twinning in Jerusalem

These shocking statistics are one of the many reasons that we at PPI-ME focus on engaging females in our programs and are proud to say that 70% of our participants are female – many of whom come from conservative and underprivileged communities where opportunities are scarce. PPI-ME gives female participants the opportunity to participate in sports programs that may not be available in their communities, to develop skills and experience that boost their confidence and increase their employ-ability, and to meet people they would most likely otherwise never have the chance to meet.

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Githa (PPI-ME Project Manager in the North) at a bowling activity with participants from Meiser and Kfar Saba

IWD is a chance to celebrate the courageous, powerful and beautiful women who make choices everyday that promote gender equality and it’s a chance for us at PPI-ME to celebrate the young girls and women who combat social norms in Palestine and Israel. IWD is about unity, inclusion, bridging divides and changing perceptions – all of the things that PeacePlayers advocates for on a daily basis. We at PPI-ME are so proud of our participants and everyone we work with, who actively contribute to women’s equality and who strengthen their communities by doing so. Happy IWD to everyone!


Courtney (American Fellow) with PPI-ME participants after a Twinning in Northern Israel

#WhoRunTheWorld #Girls

Introducing: The Together: Building a United Community Reunion in NI!

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

Last Saturday, 4th March, over 40 PeacePlayers participants gathered together for the Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) Camp Reunion. This event highlighted youth summer camps sponsored by Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). The purpose of the summer camps were to contribute to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united shared society. From an African drumming session to a Bollywood dance workshop, the event truly celebrated diversity in Northern Ireland.


Florence from (South Belfast)  Patrice & Anna (from West Belfast) pose for a picture with PPI-DC participant during South Belfast BIG Camp last summer!

To give you a quick recap – T:BUC funded our Camp Beta where we had our first ever monitoring & evaluation training with our participants and our first ever youth-led evaluation thereafter. Our BIG Camps also known as the Game of 3 Halves (GO3H) where governing bodies coaches from the International Football Association (IFA) Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), and Ulster Rugby spent three days with our participants sharing the culture of the 3 traditional sports in Northern Ireland.  The fourth half in the camp, participants took part in activities and discussed community relations topics such as prejudice and diversity in Nothern Ireland.The camp culminated with a Flagship night which brought together PeacePlayers participants alongside our participants from the PPI-DC Leadership Development Programme in their integrated teams from all sides of the city to compete

OK Fast forward to Sataurday! ——>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The Reunion Event was filled with fun and games for everyone.  We started the morning listening to participants from all of the different T:BUC camps as they were interviewed about their experiences at the camps.  Maud Tinsley and AJ Mcminn from our Senior Champions4Peace programme represented PeacePlayers and shared with everyone what it was like to be a Champion4Peace. They both represented PeacePlayers very well as they spoke in front of the large audience.

After the interviews and welcome speeches, we broke out into three different groups so that we could split up the day. In the first session, we were in the “Discover Zone”, which consisted of a lot of sports activities such as Rugby, GAA (Gaelic Sports), disability sport NI.  I tried Hurling during this session.  I was never very good at softball-type sports so I was even given a smaller stick thinking it would help me to hit the ball better.  It didn’t help.  One of the participants, Sam Keery told me how he had the privilege of meeting a professional Rugby player.  That seemed to be the highlight of his day. I was happy to see the pleasure it brought him to meeting the Rugby player.  Sam was extremely excited.  It seemed to have made the day complete for him.


Me attempting some Hurling.

After the “Discover Zone,” we moved on to the “Live Zone.”In this session, there were Chinese dragon lion head martial arts, dance and a Bollywood dance workshop. Of the Live Zone activities, everyone seemed to have enjoyed the Bollywood dance workshop the most.  Some PeacePlayers participants even dressed in traditional Bollywood clothing. One of our participants, Gary Duffy volunteered to get on stage with the instructors. I was a little surprised that Gary did this because Gary is normally very shy and reserved.   It was great to see him having a blast dancing up there.  It demonstrated to me how much his confidence has grown just in the short time period that I have been involved with PPI.  Great job Gary! Yes, I too, even took part in some of the dancing.  I figured if I can get up there, a girl with absolutely no rhythm what so ever, then it would encourage all other participants to get up and join in on the fun as well.   Everyone had a blast!

In the last station, we got to partake in what was called the “Active Zone”. In this zone, there were quite a few team building activities that included some inflatable games and a farm/petting zoo. I was going to attempt some of the inflatable games but I think all of the kids had the same idea and the lines were extremely long so I stepped back since the day was for the kids after all. However, I was able to go out and pet some of the animals that they had. There was a llama, some goats, sheep, rabbits, and even a wallaby. The wallaby was very cool to see.  At first, everyone thought it was a baby kangaroo, but the handler corrected us.

All in all, the day was a great fun for everyone involved. The kids appeared to be
having a blast all day long, which was great to see. I’m glad I was part of it as all well.  It truly was a wonderful event.  Being able to see the smiles on all of the participants’ faces was amazing and made the day complete for me.


PeacePlayers T:BUC Camp Group

Thank you to T:BUC for putting on such a great event! If you missed our Instagram Stories on the day off, we have included a compilation video below. Be sure to follow our Instagram handle @PeacePlayersIntl and LIKE our Facebook Page — ( 

PPI-SA Area Coordinator,Coach Thando, Talks Laureus YES 2017

Thando doing what she’s best know for on Chapman’s Peak

This weeks blog features an interview on Thando Msweli, one of the most experienced coaches at PPI-SA. Famously known as the “selfie queen”, Thando is having a great year so far. She just returned from the week long Laureus Youth Empowerment (YES) Programme Camp that was held in Cape Town this past week. Below she shares with us her experience at the camp as a Laureus YES Expert.

When did you first join the Laureus YES programme?

I joined the Laureus Yes programme in 2014 as a protégé. I didn’t know much about Laureus but little did I know it was going to be one of the greatest things to happen to my life. In 2015 I was invited back to be a pioneer, which encompassed mentoring the protégés and also growing personally through a number of skills development trainings.

The laureus YES Programme equipped me with some of the skills I possess today. It has been a great experience and a great platform to find more opportunities. Finding a new home with people who share similar life goals as you and people who work as hard as you are one of the fulfilments of YES.

What were your expectations going into this year’s camp?

Going into the camp this year I was ready and excited to start yet another chapter with Laureus. I knew I was being given a platform to shine and showcase all that I’ve learnt and gathered throughout the years working with Laureus, my expectations were exceeded. The past week, being with people who have fallen but have risen and use their stories to inspire others, has been amazing.

What was your role at this year’s camp?

At the 2017 Laureus YES camp, I was an Expert, which involved facilitating a few sessions for the protégés, mentoring and finding my own personal journey. I would facilitate small group sessions with protégés which encompassed us mentoring, listening and guiding them throughout the entire training. We were like their team leaders, people they could look up too and talk too on a professional or personal level. We are a family above all.

Thando and a few leaders sharing a moment with Laureus SA Chairman and Laureus Global Academy member, Morne du Plessis.

What have you learnt about yourself as well as a leader in your own right, at this year’s camp?

The programme has had such a positive impact in my life within the sporting arena and outside sport. It has taught me to have a growth mind-set, always thinking forward and positively. The trust and support from the programme has made me more confident in myself and has made me a go-getter. It has taught me to grab all opportunities and run with them because I have the power to do anything I put my mind and heart into.

Thando facilitating a workshop.

What can you take back with you that you can use in your role as AC?

Through all the trainings that I’ve done with Laureus, they are all relevant for my everyday life including the AC role I am currently in. it has taught me that we all have different opinions and views and it’s always essential that you respect another’s views. It has taught me better communication, to express myself confidently in the right, proper manner, seeing that I am the mode of communication between staff and coaches. It has also played a role in how I critically and logically address situations faced with in the work space. Overall the level of confidence I have gained throughout this experience is definitely something I’d want to share with my coaches. Lastly branding myself, it is essentially that you are aware of how you brand yourself as a person, as a leader and as a role model.

We are so proud of Thando, and the way she represented PPI-SA. Whats more, Thando has been invited to attend the upcoming United Nations Sport for Development Youth Camp in Sweden. She is going to be attending as a member of the elite Alumni that were invited.

Coaching for Outcomes – Enhancing Local Capacity in Northern Ireland!

This blog was written by PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland’s International Fellow, Sally Nnamani.

Many moons ago, during my onobarding training before moving to Belfast to start my fellowship, I met with Gunnar Hagstrom, (PPI Chief Program Officer) and when I asked him what were the key needs at PPI-Northern Ireland, he answered “developing local capacity.” This week was all about investing in our local talent. We delivered trainings with coaches, teachers, and principals from Belfast, Armagh, Ballymena, Magherafelt, and Lurgan.

We kicked off the week with a full day of teambuilding/training with our Belfast coaches. The training introduced our brand new Belfast Interface League Curriculum which integrates “Beyond the Court”(life skills-focused)  “Sharing the Court”(community relations-focused) “On the court” (basketball-focused) activities and outcomes.  With this newly revamped curriculum, we know our participants will be excited to take part in absorb fresh content all while reinforcing previous learning.

Our coaches teambuilding day in Belfast was centered around building positive culture in our twinnings and the idea of a purpose-driven coach. We dug into why we coach, what do we want the young people we are coaching to get out of the time spent with us, and what we will do to make sure we reach our outcomes.  Our coaches and staff truly embodied the positive culture that we want to bring to our day in and day out to participants in our twinning programme. We ended the day with some hoops and a lovely dinner together!


St Oliver Plunkett & Derryhale teachers working on twinning session plan

On Wednesday, Debbie (our Operations Leader here in NI) and I spent the day in Armagh, a town about 45 minutes from Belfast where we delivered a training for a group of teachers and principals from St Oliver Plunkett and Derryhale Schools. The idea behind the partnership is to train the teachers who will then organise and deliver a twinning programme involving  P4, P5, P6, and P7 kids from their schools. The schools are planning on putting together another joint bid for a twinning next year.

Today, Joanne (our Project Coordinator) spent the day in Lurgan with our coaching staff there. The training reiterated positive culture and also covered facilitation techniques for delivering twinning games.


Susan (Teacher at Derryhale) & Jimmy (Principal at St Oliver Plunketts) working on shooting form!

We have really stepped up our game in the capacity-building front. Our Champions4Peace participants are even involved. They were trained last August and led our first ever youth evaluation. Earlier this year, Emma Gibson on the PPI-NI board and Fundraising professional led a fundraising training workshop for the C4P’s.  They are currently working on teams to develop a fundraising idea and put it into action. Joanne and I also led a series of social action workshops at the start of the year for our Lead4Peace participants. Our aim was to support our young leaders to leverage their experiences from the international exchanges to impact their communities locally. The Lead4Peace participants are currently working on teams to raise awareness around homelessness in Belfast and young people affected by mental health.

We’ve received lots of positive feedback from the additional trainings and what makes the trainings and support we give our participants, coaches, and other stakeholders particularly unique is the “experiential learning” activities immersed throughout the training content. This approach has helped our coaches feel more comfortable and confident because it allows our trainees to experience the PPI way and culture before coaching in an actual PPI programme.