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THE LITTLE THINGS - On Sports & Connection


Sekelani Primary School Umlazi Township Durban, South Africa, 2018

There’s been a recurring theme in most conversations I’ve had since the pandemic started -- a greater appreciation for the little things. It’s almost as though that prior to the interruption of our “our normal," the little things were just that -- little, unnoticed, a constant. On social, we’re constantly and instantly served with posts on "gratitude" with every scroll and swipe. And this appreciation for the little things is in some way, our attempt to zoom in on the bigger picture and find wins to hold on to in the face of life throwing its fair share of lemons.


I think I speak for many New Yorkers that we’ve been looking for something, no matter how little to grasp on to, some hope. The drop in hospitalizations and drop in new cases has shined some glimmer of hope that we are slowly making our way to the other side of this gloomy experience.



Home in Enugu, Nigeria 2017

Three months ago, the little things for me were hooping every week, spending time in my home in Nigeria, working out of my neighborhood coffee shop when I needed a change of environment, or checking out our boys and girls teams practice on Thursday nights. These were things I did because they were part of my routine and more importantly, because they added some balance to my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise. 


At the heart of the little things that make me tick (and probably most people) is connection. Even lone wolves value human connection around a shared belief, shared experience and heck, even a favorite TV show. We’re tribal by nature and the idea of working with others to win or to create something bigger than ourselves adds some intrinsic value to our lives. 


Nothing really creates an environment for organic connection like SPORTS. This is why for as long as I can remember, sports, particularly hoops has always been my compass, anchor, and connector. While I cannot coach my girls or have an in-person conversation with my guys, being able to stay connected through virtual platforms have allowed me to maintain that balance. 


I can't imagine how this experience may feel for young people - the pressure to still attend school virtually when everything has stopped, staying safe while still trying to see your friends, trying to figure out WTF is going on when our leaders barely have a grip...I digress.


I’m excited about the future of #sportforgood space and youth sports in general. Youth sports, especially at the grassroots level will be key in addressing the implications of social isolation during and after the shutdown. 


I come back to the little things... Little things like going for a jog to get some fresh air seems harmless until I heard about the killing of Ahmaud Arberry in Georgia. In the face of the tragedy, seeing people across the globe come together in #IRUNWITHMAUD social campaign to raise awareness about this injustice takes me back to sport and how it connects us. If we cannot be safe while exercising or participating in sports, are we really safe? There's something about he freedom to participate in sports without fear of harm that resonates with our shared humanity.


Yet in the midst of it all, I remain a firm believer in the power of sport to inspire, unite and connect us especially during times like this. I cling to the examples of this conviction I’ve seen throughout my different experiences as an athlete, coach, fan, etc. I've included a few below:  



Fitness Trainer, Coach Mary joins our girls peace league for a HIIT SESH. She also led a conversation on body image and shared her story on how fitness helped her build confidence not only in her physique but in other areas of her life.


Few years ago, while in Durban South Africa, I visited Sekelani Primary School in Umlazi Township with our PeacePlayers team. It touched me to see African girls participating in sports and to know that a space like this exist to meet other young people and role models.

Coach Allie, Nike Community Ambassador and our fav volunteer coach! Our girls always look forward to Allie's warm personality and passion for the game!


My college basketball team - 2007 CUNYAC Champs. Our team came into the post season as the third seed but belief in our ability to win brought us together. Side bar - the last13 minutes of game, neither team scored. Final game score was 52-51. POOR shooting, sheer will, and DEFENSE!



St Pat's Grammar School from Armagh, Northern Ireland visit Brooklyn and join teams with our boys Leadership Dev Program for our first ever PeacePlayers BK International Invitational - a friendly tournament promoting intercultural exchange between Brooklyn and Northern Ireland. Still one of my fav hoops moment of 2019!



Hoop York City Team! Finding a space to share the court with other women who love the game as much as I do is something I never thought I would find. Growing up, I got very comfortable with going to the park and calling "next." Playing with the guys, you had to show you were tough enough to run with them or to even get the ball! Playing with HYC, hoops has really become a way to unwind and compete without pressure. And everyone's so dope!!


Early days starting up PeacePlayers program in Brooklyn. Young people from across Brownsville and Flatbush coming together on Saturday afternoons to participate in free basketball clinics and to learn about PeacePlayers. Side bar - these clinics were supposed to run for 2 hours but some days, we wind up hooping for 4hrs. Love of the game can't be bought!


After decades of estrangement, it was a touching moment to witness Isiah and Magic reconcile!





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