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Catching up with Chad Ford: From ESPN to “Dangerous Love”

This blog post was written by PeacePlayers’ Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Mandy Murphy.
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Jerusalem April 2019

PeacePlayers gathered in Jerusalem after planning meetings in April 2019, pictured left-to-right: Chad Ford (Board member), Gareth Harper (Northern Ireland – Managing Director), Karen Doubilet (Executive Director), Joseph Smith (Director of Programs and Organizational Development), Mandy Murphy (Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer)

“Aloha!”, you can almost feel the gentle waves of the Pacific Ocean and the warmth of sunshine as you listen to the soothing voice of Chad Ford welcome listeners on the podcast for his new book that he has been taping from his home in Hawaii. 

While the book podcast may be new, for the last 15 years, Chad, an expert in conflict resolution and a professor at BYU-Hawaii, has been a passionate supporter of PeacePlayers.  What started as a skeptical fascination as a reporter at ESPN has developed into a life-changing commitment, now serving as a longtime international board member for PeacePlayers. 

A long time coming, Chad is set to debut his first-ever book, “Dangerous Love” published by Berrett-Koehler, of which he says: “so much of it was inspired by PeacePlayers.”  

The book officially launches on June 23, but Chad is running a special pre-order campaign during May to provide all of his proceeds (up until this Friday, May 15) to directly benefit PeacePlayers.

Chad in 2006


Chad gives a high five to a PeacePlayers youth participant, during 1 of his 50 trips to the Middle East over the past 15 years, which he documents in his inspiring new book “Dangerous Love”

I spoke with Chad to help share with our PeacePlayers’ blog readers more about the inspiration behind the book (which you can – and should! – preorder now) – excerpts from our conversation below:

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Q:  Chad, to prepare for this interview I re-read your original story published on ESPN.com in 2006 about PeacePlayers (at the time ‘Playing For Peace’) and it got me thinking about how you came to write the story in the first place – can you tell me a bit about the history of how that article came to be?

Matt Minoff with PeacePlayers Middle East

Matt Minoff, currently a member of our global Leadership Council, pictured during his time helping to launch PeacePlayers Middle East in 2006, alongside Palestinian and Israeli teenagers

I was covering NBA All-Star Weekend in Denver for ESPN back in 2005 and I just remember Sean Tuohey tracking me down in the media workroom.  How he found me, or knew about my work in conflict resolution, I’m not sure, because I was mostly known for my NBA coverage, but Sean had done his homework.  As he talked to me about the organization that he and his brother (Brendan Tuohey, current Co-Founder and President of PeacePlayers) had started, I was fascinated by it, but had to admit I was a bit skeptical about their attempt to achieve peace in the Middle East through basketball.  From my work I had found that most such peacebuilding projects were usually conducted in post-conflict settings, which is where PeacePlayers had started work in both South Africa and Northern Ireland, but the Middle East – especially at the time – was a hot conflict setting.  I found it hard to believe they could make a project like that work in the Middle East at the time, but Sean’s enthusiasm and charisma eventually had me on a plane to Israel in May 2006. 

Q:  So you spent a week with PeacePlayers in Israel in 2006 and have since been back to visit more than 50 times, which is just incredible!  Why do you keep going back?

You know, when I first visited, PeacePlayers had only just launched in the Middle East.  The program was really only about four months old, with great energy and enthusiasm but not really a plan or formal curriculum to sustain it. Yet after the time I initially spent with the coaches and staff who were so passionate to help these young people I left with an overwhelming desire to help them.  

After I wrote the ESPN.com article in 2006, I had two more visits to the Middle East that were not related to PeacePlayers.  I was doing a project with The Arbinger Institute and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.  

During my second trip back later in 2006, I tried to find time to meet back up with the PeacePlayers team and see how they were doing.  I had coffee with one of the coaches and also met back up with Karen Doubilet, who had just been named the Managing Director for PeacePlayers Middle East.  They were telling me about the tremendous challenges they were facing in trying to get Israeli and Palestinian coaches to work together.  

PeacePlayers Middle East game action during Chad’s first visit in 2006

They invited me to do the same Arbinger workshop with their coaches that coming weekend, but I was getting ready to get on a plane back to Hawaii.  On the way home, I kept thinking about what Karen had said and felt I should really help.  When my plane landed in Hawaii, I called and asked if they still wanted me to come.  She said yes, so I bought a plane ticket back to Israel and never even left the airport.  I was either in the airport or flying for a crazy 60 hours.

I kept going back because after that first workshop and subsequent ones alongside Brendan, Karen and team, we wondered if we could make a PeacePlayers curriculum out of our work together?  How could we help these Israeli and Palestinian coaches find a way to sustain PeacePlayers for the good of the young people they were bringing together?

Q:  How did you eventually come to write Dangerous Love all these years later?

Dangerous Love

Preorder Dangerous Love now to support PeacePlayers! Be sure to place your order by May 15

I was really busy with my work writing for ESPN and working on a curriculum with PeacePlayers as a volunteer, so I never had time to write a book.  I had talked about it with Brendan and Karen over the years though.  

My experiences with PeacePlayers over the years convinced me that the work we were doing was both impactful and a bit revolutionary.  Every time I spoke about it in class or at conferences, people would come up to me and say you need to write a book. Over time between seeking to help PeacePlayers establish their own formal curriculum and also looking for my own to share learnings with my students, I wrote my own textbook which eventually became the basis for what is now “Dangerous Love”.

It’s been a dream of mine to build out a PeacePlayers curriculum. Now that we have this book, that was so heavily influenced by PeacePlayers, it will help model formalizing the build of a PeacePlayers curriculum grounded in PeacePlayers three core values:  inside out transformation, seeing people as people and fostering a culture of collaboration.  

I am so excited to continue to serve as a board member and support PeacePlayers’ leadership around the world in using the learnings from this book to establish a formal, global coaches’ curriculum.

Q:  Tell me about the title of the book “Dangerous Love”, where did that come from?

My all-time favorite book is “The Strength To Love.” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I have been quoting MLK for years in my peacebuilding work.  In the book he talks about love and strength and unselfishness to ensure the well-being of all people.   I have always been inspired by that book.  

My book was accepted to publish without yet having a name, which is pretty rare.  I had been working on this manuscript for years but could not put my finger on the right name. I had been using the phrase “Dangerous Love” in my classes and work and thought it came from King’s book.  It felt like the perfect fit for the book after years of searching for a title.  I went back and paged through MLK’s works and while the exact phrase ‘Dangerous Love’ is not something MLK used, it came to me as the right summary of what he meant by his life’s work.  

Toot, a former participant with PeacePlayers Middle East, continues to mentor the next generation through her leadership with current PeacePlayers young people

I landed on ‘Dangerous Love’ as the title because it’s the perfect embodiment of everything that PeacePlayers has come to mean to me.  It’s not just about tolerance or co-existence.  Feelings run deeper than that.  PeacePlayers participants have forged meaningful bonds with each other, where your success is my success.  They are inextricably linked together in friendship despite the real, dangerous risks they face in being vulnerable to being connected to someone from the ‘other’ side of a real divide.  Everyone that walks away from a visit to a PeacePlayers basketball game is struck by the love.  

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While the current COVID-19 crisis means you might not be able to visit a PeacePlayers game in-person in the near future, what you can do now to feel struck by your own inspiration of ‘Dangerous Love’ is to support us by preordering your own copy of Chad’s new book.  

PeacePlayers has been a major inspiration for Dangerous Love as he tells many stories about his experiences with us throughout the book.

When you buy Dangerous Love through this link, the portion of the book sales Chad receives will go towards PeacePlayers to support our continued efforts in building a global movement of young leaders for peace around the world.

PeacePlayers has been affected by COVID-19 in ways that are difficult for the youth we serve. The basketballs have had to stop dribbling, but PeacePlayers hasn’t stopped. We need your help more now than ever – please order a copy of Chad’s new book today!

Max MancherCatching up with Chad Ford: From ESPN to “Dangerous Love”

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