For the inaugural month of PeacePlayers’ 20th anniversary, we thought we’d get the straight story about how our global movement got started. PeacePlayers’ Play It Forward Podcast host Chinny Nwagbo and co-host Emmet Shephard sat down with founder Sean Tuohey and co-creator Thibault Manekin, who 20 years ago ran with a seemingly wild idea, a whim, to quote Sean himself, to use basketball to try to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing countries around the globe.
Sean got the idea to start PeacePlayers after coaching cross-community basketball in Northern Ireland. He recognized the unique role sport could play in bringing people together across societal divides. While in Belfast, Sean befriended a police chief who suggested that what worked in Northern Ireland could also help in post-apartheid South Africa. With seed money raised from family and friends, Sean and his brother Brendan launched PeacePlayers (then Playing for Peace) in 2001.
Sean Tuohey is the co-founder of PeacePlayers, and most recently the founder of Intellectual Athlete, a new initiative that fuses sports, play and mindfulness to elevate youth. A D.C native, Sean now lives in Solana Beach, California.
A Baltimore native, Thibault Manekin is the co-founder of Seawall Development and Co-Creator of PeacePlayers. He is now leading an initiative called “Larger than Yourself.”
Emmett: How did you get the idea to start something like PeacePlayers, and then how did you end up making that idea just come to fruition?
Chinny: Why sports? Why sports in conflicted areas? Why sports when we talk about bringing people together? Why did you guys choose sports basketball in particular?
Emmett: If you were batting 1,000, were there any challenges that you faced, or did you have any fears starting something like this and what were they?
Chinny: Was there an “aha” moment where you guys were like, “Okay, this is working, we’re on the right track, let’s stick with it.” Was there a specific moment where you’re like “We are exactly where we’re supposed to be; let’s keep going”?
Chinny: Sean, any ‘Aha’ moments for you?
Emmett: What about PeacePlayers separates from other organizations in the world that are using sport to try to enact positive change, like what makes PeacePlayers different?
Chinny: Tell me how you feel from where you started to where we are now 20 years later. What are your thoughts?
Chinny: Absolutely. Thibault, how would you describe the journey from then until now?