Basketball Crosses Cultures

Sports provide an excellent bridge across cultures. Holli Omori has found this to be true through her many international sports exchange experiences. She notes that, “even though people may differ in many ways, sports can bring people together for the joy of playing and competition. They forget about the differences they may have.”

Holli visited the CCBN for the first time in February as part of the Friends of Batahola annual visit. She led a basketball workshop with 25 youth from the CCBN’s scholarship program, arts programs, and youth from the community. The goals for the afternoon were simple: learn some basic basketball skills, have fun and enjoy being active.

Participants ran the length of the basketball court in the local park, practicing their dribbling, passing, and shooting. But the afternoon wasn’t all about basketball techniques; other lessons were learned as well. Scholarship student Regina Lacayo observed that the workshop emphasized leadership and teamwork skills. She notes, “Sports are often seen as a pastime, not as an opportunity to cultivate values.” Success in sports can increase self-esteem and internal motivation. The personal skills developed, such as resiliency and self-discipline can have ripple effects throughout other areas of life, including family and community.

Holli Omori leading the youth

Two special guests, physical education teachers from public high schools in the Jorge Dimitrov neighborhood, also joined the workshop. The CCBN has an outreach project in the Dimitrov neighborhood, working with a variety of community members and school officials to reduce and prevent violence against women using the arts. The teachers were excited to take new techniques and methodology back to their gym classes, as well as an alternative perspective on the use of sports for violence prevention.

The CCBN and Friends of Batahola are developing plans for Holli to conduct a week long basketball clinic for PE teachers and coaches, with a special emphasis on including women teachers and coaches. Holli also hopes to incorporate other sports options, such as volleyball and yoga. The goal is for these teachers to multiply the skills and techniques they learn with their students and colleagues across the city.

~Jennifer Ruppelt (Mennonite Central Committee SALT volunteer, at the CCBN)

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