PeacePlayers Got Me Curious About What the Future of Northern Ireland Could Look Like
Catching up with Marc Wilmot, a PeacePlayers participant turned coach
June 7, 2023
How did you first become involved with PeacePlayers?
I first became involved with PeacePlayers when I was seven or eight years old. I was first part of the Twinning Program, where PeacePlayers brings two schools together; One from a Protestant background and one from a Catholic background [93% of schools in Northern Ireland are segregated by religious affiliation]. That was my first introduction to basketball, and I have played ever since. I know for a fact if PeacePlayers didn't come to my school that I probably wouldn't be playing basketball today.
But I was also introduced to the idea of community relations. I live in a community with all these people, but we have different ideologies, different ideas, but [before PeacePlayers] I didn't really know that there was a difference between people my age. This experience really got me curious about what I want my community to look like and what the future of Northern Ireland could look like, even at a young age. I'm really thankful that PeacePlayers came to my school when I was younger because it really helped to cement who I am today.
How do you think PeacePlayers helps kids with their lives?
PeacePlayers gives participants the opportunity and experience of playing basketball. The reason that that’s important is because we use basketball as a tool to bridge the gap between Protestant and Catholic traditions, as it's a neutral sport. 99% of participants haven’t played basketball before so they all start at the same level. I think that’s a really great way to bring people together as one cohesive unit. Being introduced to a new sport also means there is always an element of fun.
But I think the biggest thing for us is that we get to equip participants with the tools to become leaders for peace. When I was a participant, I used to be quite shy, but now I'm very outgoing and I credit that to my PeacePlayers experience. PeacePlayers program gave me the opportunity to be myself and to learn, and that's what all our participants get; our programs provide an environment where they feel safe, they can be themselves and they can learn.
How do you think their lives would be different if PeacePlayers didn't exist?
I think the PeacePlayers creates an environment where children can be themselves. They can feel safe and they have an environment to learn. I don't think that's very common necessarily around the world, but especially in our community.
I know as a coach myself when the children are in our session, it's the number one priority that they can be themselves, that they feel safe and they can connect and discuss topics in that safe environment that we create and uphold. It's so important because that's where they grow the most. There's not many opportunities where children can be in that environment to grow as people, as leaders and to feel safe within their community.
How do you feel about the PeacePlayers community?
My idea of the PeacePlayers community is one in which there is mutual respect for each other and one where if someone falls that we pick them back up. But really, the PeacePlayers community is just one big family.
I think at the end of the day, all it is about is being in a place where you can be yourself, grow, learn and you can have fun; that is the end goal. Whatever color, creed, race, religion, sexual orientation you are, it's just all about being yourself and being in community with everybody around you.