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The Wow Factor of PPI-NI

This week’s blog comes to us from Joanne Fitzpatrick. Local staff member from Belfast that is responsible for programming, Curricula and the Junior Champions4Peace Programme.

Jay-mee, the assistant coach referred to in today’s blog, is a part of the Coaches Development Programme (CDP). This opportunity is designed for PPI-NI’s older participants to train and gain valuable leadership skills within a basketball coach context.


The ‘wow’ factor. This is how Jay-mee Gillen described what she experiences each week when she walks into Boys Model at the start of our Belfast Interface League (BIL) in North Belfast. “It’s hard to describe, it’s just like a massive family running around a big hall together playing basketball.” What Jay doesn’t know is that I get the same wow feeling walking in behind her, watching her eyes light up when she steps into the hall each week. Let me tell you why.

Having worked with PeacePlayers for nearly 10 years, you can imagine I’ve worked with a lot of kids. There’s one group of kids that I’ve worked with continuously for the last 8 years, the North Belfast crew. I’ve coached most of them since they were 8/9 years old and some of them celebrated their 16th birthday this year, which makes me feel incredibly old.

One participant is Jay-mee Gillen. I coached her from primary 5 and still coach her today. Jay (as she’s known to her friends) was one of the quietest girls I had ever worked with. Trying to get her to contribute in sessions was like getting blood from a stone. Being coached by me on “team invisible” suited her perfectly as she preferred to shy away into the background.

Skip forward 10 years and Jay is leading a group of 15-20 girls, delivering material I had once delivered to her. All eyes attentively on her and everyone listening eagerly for the wisdom she was sharing with them this week.

Jay alongside Nora Sullivan, a fellow North Belfast participant (originally from Connecticut, USA) have taken full control of my Junior Girls team. As assistant coaches, they have planned and delivered the last three sessions without any issues. Cooperating, supporting each other and delivering with confidence, the young North Belfast junior girls look up to Jay and Nora and aspire to one day be where they are standing, as coaches. Acting as role models, the younger participants, sitting where Jay once sat, idolise the two assistant coaches.

As do I.

So when I walk into BIL on a Wednesday and see Jay look across the hall with pride, looking at a family on the court that she helped to create, delivering sessions and using methods that I once used with her, I get that wow feeling too. Because I know, someday, she’ll be where I am, watching one of those girls coach the next generation of little leaders.

nornironThe Wow Factor of PPI-NI

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