PPI – ME welcomes our new American Fellow, Monique. Here is a brief introduction and some initial impressions following her first week in Israel.
Less than a week ago, I traveled about 6,437 miles (or 10,359 km) and 12 hours 30 minutes from the U.S. to touchdown in Tel Aviv, Israel. I couldn’t be more excited to join the PeacePlayers International organization for an opportunity I have dreamed about all of my life. My name is Monique Lewis and I am the newest Fellow with the Middle East team!
Basketball has been a tremendous influence for me for as long as I can remember. As a student- athlete, coach, and business professional, this sport truly has helped me grow and also shaped my view of the world. My earliest memories included imitating Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in the backyard with my cousin in Georgia; wearing my Dad’s Air Force league team jersey; and being the only girl in basketball camp in 5th grade. On a family vacation as a child, I bought a t- shirt that said, “Life’s Priorities: Eat. Basketball. Sleep.” And my love grew from there. I went to high school just outside Washington, D.C. in Prince George’s County, MD at Suitland High School and was a part of 3 state championships in 4 years there. My senior year we were undefeated, finished #1 in the Washington Post, and entered the Maryland Public Schools Athletic Association Record Book for most state championships by one school. Winning on that level really was one for the books! But even more important was the pure fun I had while practicing and competing, the lifelong friendships I built, and the support from family- like my Mom being the biggest and loudest cheerleader when I was on and off the court.
I earned multiple All- County athletic honors, but also tore my left ACL in an All- Star game after my senior high school season. Just prior to the injury, I received an Honors College scholarship and NCAA Division I athletic scholarship at Coppin State University in Baltimore, MD. Though it was a grueling summer of surgery and therapy before I entered the Mid- Eastern Athletic Conference, miraculously I was cleared to play before the season. Looking back on it, I now realize how incredible, speedy, and divine that recovery time was. I’m grateful for a healthy 18-year-old mind and body, for medical professionals, and for the support that allowed me to be able to play at the next level. At CSU, I was fortunate to have more great coaching and teammates to bond with. We improved to being Co-Champions, then MEAC Conference Champions outright. We also received a #16 seed in the 2005 NCAA Women’s Tournament, which was the first in school history! As a collegiate student-athlete, the key to success was discipline, dedication, and a desire to be great (and learn from mistakes). I had plenty of chances to perfect these important characteristics over the years, which I undoubtedly needed when I tore my right ACL/MCL/PCL/meniscus on the 6th day of practice my Senior season.
As a result of that injury, my playing career ended and I began to transition to imagine my life without playing. I received my undergraduate degree in Management Science, followed by some Master’s work in Sport Administration a few years later at Georgia State University. I blended my love for sports and business by working in event management and non- profit with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and Positive Coaching Alliance; I coached youth basketball on the recreation, club, and high school levels; and I had a successful career in sports ticket sales with the Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Mystics (WNBA).
I can tell that so many of the PeacePlayers Coaches and players who I have already met could wear my “Life’s Priorities” basketball t-shirt because they love the game just as much as I do. I’m truly looking forward to learning the stories of all the staff and participants involved with PeacePlayers Middle East. It’s going to be great creating new memories with everyone as we come together each day through basketball!