Location: Washington, DC
After graduating from college, Brendan’s brother Sean played professional basketball in Northern Ireland and operated basketball clinics for Protestant and Catholic children in Belfast. The clinics showed Sean that basketball – one of the few neutral sports in Northern Ireland – could help overcome deeply entrenched barriers between the two groups. Sean recruited Brendan, who had played basketball professionally in Ireland, to his cause, and together, the Tuoheys established PeacePlayers International [PPI] in 2000, grounded on their own life experiences that showed that “children who play together can learn to live together.”
While Sean led PPI’s efforts in the field as it started its first operations in South Africa, Brendan built the organization from Washington, DC. He has led the organization in its expansion to Northern Ireland (2002), Israel and the West Bank (2005) and Cyprus (2006), and launched PPI’s first domestic program in New Orleans (2008), which was transitioned to full local ownership in the summer of 2009. Brendan lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Jody, and three children. He is a 1996 graduate of Colgate University where he majored in Philosophy and Religion and played basketball. He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Master’s Program in Sport Management.
Location: Middle East
Prior to being named Executive Director of PeacePlayers International in October 2019, Karen Doubilet spent 13 years serving as Managing Director of PeacePlayers Middle East. In this role, Karen led programs that have used the game of basketball to unite and educate more than 10,000 Palestinian and Israeli youth; she managed more than $12 million of funding from large institutional donors over that time; she led curricula development utilizing basketball to teach peace education and leadership; she oversaw the first randomized control trial research study in the field of sport and inter-group relations; and she spearheaded the first academically-accredited professional certification course in Coaching for Conflict Transformation in cooperation with Wingate Academic Institute, Israel’s leading Physical Education University.
An expert in inter-group relations, Karen has numerous years of academic and field experience in the area of cross-cultural facilitation, Arab-Jewish relations, and in particular, in the development and evaluation of integration programs.
Prior to joining PeacePlayers, Karen worked for several peace-building organizations, including Peace Child Israel, War Child Holland, and the Peres Center for Peace, where she conducted impact evaluations on the organization’s sports initiatives.
Karen holds a Master’s degree from Bar Ilan University’s program on Conflict Management and Negotiating, where she also completed her PhD course work and conducted research on the impact of inter-group encounters in the intractable conflict setting. Karen is a certified mediator and Arbinger Institute Facilitator.
She grew up in Toronto, Canada, and has lived in Tel Aviv Israel since 1997 where she currently resides with her husband and two children.
Location: Washington, DC
Haley joined PeacePlayers in December of 2017 as the Associate Director of Development. She is a graduate of George Mason University, where she earned a B.S. in Health, Fitness and Recreation Resources and an M.S. in International Sports Management. Born and raised in Virginia, Haley has worked in community focused non-profits across the country for eight years overseeing youth programs, large-scale community events, and revenue generation through local partnerships and fundraising. She joined PeacePlayers after serving as Development Manager for the Greater DC-Maryland market of the National MS Society, overseeing the Bike MS campaign. Haley is excited to join the team in Washington, D.C. and apply her experience implementing fundraising and donor cultivation strategy to support the growth and sustainability of PeacePlayers programming.
Location: London, U.K.
Ange has over 16 years’ experience specialising in research and evaluation in the international development and sport for development sectors. Her expertise lies in developing research, monitoring, evaluation and learning systems, processes and tools. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Ange has a Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Cape Town and has supported sport for good programmes for children and young people across the globe. She is passionate about sport and the role sport can play in positively impacting people’s lives and wellbeing.
Location: London, U.K.
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Born and raised in São Paulo (Brazil), Auro played basketball since his early ages till college. His education includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from the University of São Paulo (1994), and an MBA from FIA Business School (2008), both institutions located in Brazil. Between 2015 and 2017, he lived in Bethesda, MD, and during this period he also completed Georgetown University’s Master of Sports Management program (2016). During his tenure there, he became aware of PeacePlayers’ sportive and social work in different locations, and developed his admiration for the organization, joining it in November, 2020. He developed his career in different finance and administration positions, mainly within the media & communications industry. As a volunteer, Auro worked as a coach and manager in a kids’ soccer team for 5 years (2010-2014). He also partnered in the creation of a futsal team in Washington, DC, called DC Hyper (2016)
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
In addition to her passion of peacebuilding, Bailee has a background and experience in digital communications and web development. She is excited to support the organization in website and digital communications efforts and to amplify the mission, efforts, and amazing youth of PeacePlayers to the world!
Location: Middle East
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Emmett was born and raised in Williamstown, a small town in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts with his parents, Karen and Jim, who are both fiction writers and professors at Williams College, his older brother, Aidan, who is an insanely talented drummer living in New York City, his younger sister Lucy, who is by far the funniest person on the face of the earth, and the three beagles: Dino, Teddy, and Cosmo.
Emmett loves and thrives in groups, on the kind of teams and with the kind of collaborators who can help each other discover and evolve. He believes where you end up is a mix of luck and the ability to recognize that luck, and teams seem like the best places for those two things to happen.
Basketball has been a part of his life since he could stand. He wasn’t good at it in the beginning, but he never stopped practicing, and eventually, he played for Pitzer College, a small liberal arts school in Southern California. Playing at the collegiate level was a dream come true, and it allowed him to participate in PeacePlayers as a summer volunteer at PP Belfast which is where he caught the PP bug–he still has the team photos from that summer on his bedroom wall. However, Pitzer also opened his eyes to a wide variety of pursuits other than basketball to explore. He had always been a film buff, but he didn’t study it in a serious way until he majored in Media Studies. He had a new dream, to work for the man who inspired him the most in the world of cinema, Jordan Peele. Through the same dogged persistence, he managed to intern at Peele’s MonkeyPaw Productions–a different kind of collaborative team. (Mostly, this dogged persistence involved various forms of cold-calling and cyber-stalking. Ask him about the details!)
He is thrilled to be back at PeacePlayers, back on yet another kind of team, exploring his first true passions, basketball and working with others, especially kids, and he’s excited to keep his eyes open for the luck that is coming his way and the luck he can help create for others.
Clark was born in one of the largest sports markets in the US: New York City. Then he quickly moved to an even BIGGER sports mecca, Buffalo, NY. Winning as many championships as the Buffalo Bills, Clark participated in cross country, track, crew, badminton, soccer, tennis, and basketball during high school. After high school he attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, majoring in Spanish and minoring in Psychology. He had the opportunity to play basketball for 4 years, becoming a captain during his senior year.
After graduating, Clark moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work for City Year, an educational non-profit. He focused on running small-group sessions in English and Math for a bilingual 8th grade classroom. After two Americorps years in Milwaukee, Clark moved to Boston to attend Northeastern College of Professional Studies, earning his Master’s of Sports Leadership with a concentration in Sports & Development. While in school, he worked for Scholar Athletes, a sports-based educational non-profit, running intramural sports for high school students and making sure varsity athletes stayed eligible and on track to graduate.
From Buffalo to Boston, Clark saw how sports not only brings people together, but can help build confidence, positivity and community activism in our youth. Joining Peaceplayers has been a dream come true for Clark, and he’s excited be a part of something bigger than himself in Cyprus. He is the Leadership Development Coordinator and Monitoring & Evaluation expert.
In his free time, Clark likes camping, reading, and watching the Buffalo Bills. He’s very excited to travel and try any/all new foods he finds!
Sharon Rubinstein has been working as a resource development professional for grassroots service organizations for the last 15 years. She joined PeacePlayers Middle East in April of 2012 as a Development Associate when she made Aliyah to Israel. Over the years, she grew into the role of Senior Resource Development and Compliance Manager – leading the organization’s fundraising and development initiatives, providing support to the marketing and communications team, and serving as a compliance specialist for the organization’s work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). After more than a decade, Sharon and her family moved to her hometown of Beachwood, Ohio in June 2022. She continues to work half-time working for the Middle East site (they can’t get rid of her!), while splitting her time as a member of the PeacePlayers Global development team. As part of her work on the global support team (GST), Sharon is working on developing and implementing new grassroots fundraising initiatives that will be streamlined across all five sites.
Sharon is a graduate of The Ohio State University (OSU). Her focus in minority studies, among other experiences at OSU, led Sharon to shift her career focus to the nonprofit sector. She received a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration (MNA) from John Carroll University in 2009, and has served as an active member of both AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network’s (YNPN) Cleveland chapter.
Location: Middle East
Neta Patrick joined as Managing Director of PeacePlayers Middle East in March 2020. She is an Israeli lawyer with 13 years of experience working for the third sector as a lawyer and an executive director.
Neta served as Executive Director of Yesh-Din, an Israeli human rights organization working to enhance the rule of law in the occupied territories and protect human rights.
Prior to Yesh-Din Neta worked as a lawyer specializing in Israeli constitutional and international human rights law in a private law firm and later as the head of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the Hebrew University School of Law in Jerusalem.
Neta holds an LLB from Tel Aviv University in Law and Gender Studies, and an LLM from Columbia Law school, both with honors. Just prior to joining PeacePlayers, she was most recently a program manager at the Tel Aviv University Entrepreneurship Center, where she focused on Social Entrepreneurship.
Location: Middle East
With a BA in Social Work from Bar-Ilan University, Shlomit joined the organization in early 2012 after living in New York City for six years. After gaining experience in bookkeeping in the US, she started running the finance department in the Middle East and has continued to do so to this date. Her financial work involves not only local responsibilities but also a global collaboration with the US staff and finance team. Over the years, Shlomit has also been essential in many other parts of the organization, including administrative work, ongoing office management, and using her incredible talent in anything related to graphic design. Shlomit lives in Tel Aviv with her husband Avner and adorable son Eytan.
Location: Middle East
Tahila was born in Maputo, Mozambique, and moved to South Africa at the age of 16 to pursue her studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Tahila holds an Honors Degree in Gender and Transformation and a Master’s Degree in African Studies from UCT.
Prior to joining PeacePlayers, she worked as a researcher and writer for a number of Southern African human rights, gender, and LGBTI rights nonprofits and foundations, such as the Heinrich Boell Foundation, The Other Foundation, and Iranti-Org. In the Spring of 2017, Tahila moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, where she completed a Professional Fundraising Course from NGO Catalyst. She joined PeacePlayers Middle East in the summer of 2019, and now works in the resource development, communications, and marketing departments.
Location: Middle East
Alona was born in Russia, and moved to Israel in 2011. She played professional basketball in Elitzur Ramla for four years, and then found her passion for coaching. She joined PeacePlayers as a coach in September of 2018,and has since been coaching the younger All-Stars mixed teams. In the last few years, Alona hasalso played a significant role in coordinating activities with program managers, and most recently, she has become responsible for coordinating attendance, scheduling games.
Location: Middle East
Muhammad was born and raised in Jatt, a city in the North of Israel. From an early age, Muhammad has always loved sports, particularly basketball, which led him to not only play for his team in Jatt but to eventually start coaching. He joined PeacePlayers in 2017 and has since been coaching, and running twinings between boys’ and girls’ teams in Meiser, Binyamina, and other cities in the North. In 2020, Muhammad completed his degree in Sports Education from the Wingate Institute and began teaching sports education at a local school to youth from grades 10 to 12.
Location: Middle East
Malak is an Arab young leader from East Jerusalem, who has been with PeacePlayers for about nine years. She joined the PeacePlayers Basketball Clubs when she was only 10-years-old, and though she was skeptical at first, her father’s encouragement and her love for basketball motivated her to stay. In 2012, Malak became one of the founding members of the PeacePlayers All-Stars, and at the age of 13, she joined the Leadership Development Program (LDP) through which she received training as a coach and peace education facilitator.
Today, Malak is a leader, a peacebuilder, and a role model for hundreds of youth leaders in and around Jerusalem. She is currently pursuing her post-secondary studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Communication, Journalism and International Relations. At PeacePlayers, she is currently working with the global team as a member of the Leadership Academy Steering Committee and is due to begin coaching again.
Location: Middle East
Duha is a leader, peacebuilder, basketball player and coach, who was born and raised in a conservative village in East Jerusalem. She joined PeacePlayers in 2006 when she was only 10-years-old and has grown from being a participant to becoming an essential pillar of the program. She was a founding member of the Jerusalem All-Stars, the first and to this date, only mixed Arab-Jewish team to play in the elite Israeli league, and she was also one of the first certified female basketball coaches from East Jerusalem.
Over the past 14 years, Duha has also worked with several international peacebuilding initiatives worldwide and has shared her story to inspire others in many parts of the world including the White House and the Laureus World Sports program in both Germany and Monaco. Today, she is PP-ME’s Program Manager in Jerusalem and is also a critical member of several PeacePlayers projects around the globe.
Location: Middle East
Neta Daniel is a PeacePlayers alumna who recently joined the PeacePlayers Middle East team as a Program Manager. Neta is a true representation of PeacePlayers’ leadership pipeline, having grown up in the program and now leading several activities. Her relationship with PeacePlayers started almost a decade ago when she joined as a participant in 2012. She is a graduate of several PeacePlayers Middle East programs including the Jerusalem All-Stars and the Leadership Development Program. She was also a member of the first-ever All-Stars team to win a championship back in 2014.
Prior to joining PeacePlayers, Neta had never met an Arab and only based her perspective of “the other side” on what she saw in the media. It was when she began playing basketball with her Arab counterparts that her perspective around the conflict changed, and specifically, that she realized that Arabs and Jews have much more in common than she ever realized.
Over the years, Neta has passed on this message to those around her, including her friends, family, and members of her community. Now that Neta has completed her compulsory national military service, she has joined her PeacePlayers family and is excited to take on the role of manager of several programs in Jerusalem. Neta will also work jointly with her Arab colleagues in coaching and facilitating several joint activities.
Location: Middle East
Musa is a PeacePlayers alumnus who has recently become a coach and program coordinator for some of PP-ME’s programs in Jerusalem. He has been a part of the PeacePlayers family for over 12 years and was one of the pioneers of many PP-ME programs, including the PeacePlayers Basketball Clubs and the Leadership Development Program.
When Musa joined PeacePlayers 12 years ago, he joined to play basketball and was reluctant to interact with his Jewish peers. But after a few mixed activities, he started opening up and slowly began working together with his Jewish counterparts to achieve common goals both on and off the court. With time, Musa built life-long friendships with Arab and Jewish youth in the program and found himself standing up for peace and cooperation at home, in school, and in his community.
Today, Musa is not only a coach and coordinator but is also a prominent leader and role model for the younger youth in the program. In addition to his work at PeacePlayers, Musa is also pursuing a degree in Medicine.
Location: Middle East
Galia was born and raised in Mexico City. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA). As part of her studies she has worked at different sites including pediatric and psychiatric hospitals, schools and community centers. She did an internship and social service program with undocumented Mexican women immigrants in Chicago, USA.
In 2018 she moved to Tel Aviv to do a Master’s program in Crisis and Trauma studies at Tel Aviv University, where she wrote a thesis on student’s perceptions towards prostitution. During this time she did an internship at an art collective for asylum seeking women.
Galia completed a certification on Sports Psychology and a training in Trauma Sensitive Yoga. She is a passionate runner and enjoys participating and watching different sports.
An expert in program management and strategic development, Jale has several years of experience working within the fields of civil society and reconciliation, peace-building, conflict resolution, gender and diversity, project development and capacity building. She was born and raised in South London in the United Kingdom and has been living in Cyprus since 2007. Before joining PeacePlayers Cyprus in March 2014; Jale worked at the Management Centre of the Mediterranean as the Civil Society and Reconciliation Program Manager dealing with all operational and fiscal matters for the program. Since April 2020 Jale has been supporting the global development team as the Global Resource Development Manager, supporting the development and writing of proposals, awards and grants. She continues to support civil society organizations and initiatives and volunteers her time at various NGOs across the island. Jale is married with three children.
Stephanie was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. Prior to joining PeacePlayers Cyprus she received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Bedfordshire (UK) in Sport Science and Coaching and her Master’s degree in Globalization and Sport from Loughborough University (UK).
Stephanie was a member of the ENAD women’s professional basketball team in Cyprus for 5 years before leaving for her studies in the UK. Upon her return to Cyprus she joined her team once again. While studying in the UK she was a member of the University of Bedfordshire and Loughborough University Women’s Basketball team and a team captain. She was named MVP by the University of Bedfordshire women’s basketball team in 2008-2009 and Player of the Year in 2009-2010. Stephanie is still an active basketball player, playing in Cyprus Women’s first division league.
Her involvement in basketball led her to participate in bi-communal camps that began in Cyprus in 2005. Even since her bi-communal involvement Stephanie got the opportunity to represent Cyprus in the World Scholar Athlete Games hosted in the United States of America in 2006 with a full basketball scholarship. Stephanie then became a young leader in the bi-communal camps that were held in Cyprus in 2006 and 2007, and then in 2008 and 2009 she became an instructor.
In 2011, Stephanie volunteered for PeacePlayers Cyprus as a coach during their summer camps, twinnings and Leadership development programs. When she finished her master’s degree she joined the PeacePlayers Cyprus family as an Assistant Coordinator, in 2013 move to Program Coordinator and since September 2019 she’s the Internal Operations Manager.
Born in Nicosia, Cyprus, Ozgul has attended bi-communal camps during her teenage years and was one of the co-founders of a youth club that organized bi-communal youth activities in high school. After graduating from University of Hull (UK) she moved to Ankara, Turkey for her master’s degree. During her studies she worked with NGOs voluntarily. After moving back to Cyprus in 2016 she continued her work in NGOs and participated in peacebuilding activities. Being a swimmer herself, she is a believer in team work and the power of sports for bringing people together.
Prior to joining PeacePlayers Cyprus, Ozgul worked in European Union Projects for youth entrepreneurs and apprentices programs as administrative. Ozgul joined the PeacePlayers Cyprus family in 2019 as Project Coordinator.
I was born and raised in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Sports dominated most of my younger years and at the age of 18 I accepted a tennis scholarship for a University in the USA. Having studied a combination of politics, philosophy, economics and international relations in various countries (USA, Netherlands, and China) for my Bachelor degree, I developed a strong interest in peace and conflict. For that reason, I enrolled in a Master program in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. It was here that I became acquainted with the Sport for Development and Peace sector. Not only does this field allow me to combine my passion for sports (education) and my interest in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, but it also means I could contribute to a cause I strongly believe in. My internship at PeacePlayers Cyprus gives me a valuable insight in this line of work.
Athina was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. She studied Business Administration – Management at the University of Cyprus and completed a Master’s degree in Sport Business Management from Sheffield Hallam University, UK. She has been playing basketball for 15 years, while she has recently gained a C’ Level Coaching Qualification from Cyprus Basketball Federation Coaching School. Athina has joined PeacePlayers Cyprus as a basketball coach in 2019. And as of September 2021 Athina joined PeacePlayers Cyprus as the Basketball Coordinator. She is very excited to be part of the organization and believes that sport can bring people together and have a huge impact on their lives.
Onat was born in Morphou, Cyprus. He started playing basketball from the age of 6 and for more than 15 years played in all the different age categories, including the super league in the northern part of Cyprus. In 2018, he got his basketball coaching certification and started coaching kids in academies and teams in the northern part of Cyprus, before graduating from Middle East Technical University’s Business and Administration department in 2019. After that he moved to Germany, Cologne to study M.Sc. Sport Managements, in the German Sport University of Cologne. He did several internships in basketball clubs managing sale departments, social media, etc. and also gained more experience in coaching while in Germany. During summer 2020, he did an internship with PeacePlayers Cyprus. In summer 2021, he volunteered in Euroleagues Final Four that was held in Cologne, Germany. In addition to that, he coordinated two teams from the northern part of Cyprus to join him at basketball development camp in Serbia. Lastly, he worked as an assistant coach in a U15 team before joining PeacePlayers Cyprus as the Basketball Coordinator.
Location: Northern Ireland
Gareth took up the position of Managing Director with PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland (PeacePlayers) in March 2009, having previously worked as Programmes Manager with a regional rural community development organization. He has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Geography, and an MSc in Town and Country Planning, both from the Queens University Belfast. Gareth also has a Post Graduate Certificate in Management and a Master in Business Administration (MBA), both from the Open University. Gareth is a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic programming and holds additional qualifications in Executive Coaching and Sustainable Investment for the 3rd Sector. Gareth has expertise in strategic planning; people, project and financial management; and a focus on outcomes based accountability. Gareth has over 15 years’ experience at Senior Management level and over 25 years of experience of managing teams and change for sustainability in the community / voluntary and Not-for-Profit sector. Gareth is married, has two teenage daughters and hails from Co. Down
Location: Northern Ireland
Debbie Byrne took up the position of Operations Team Leader in Peace Players International – Northern Ireland in November 2013. Debbie previously worked for Youth Initiatives, a cross-community youth work organization for 17 years. Debbie also worked for the Bytes Project for a year as a Cross Community Worker. Debbie has a BA Honours in Political Science and later worked and studied at the same time to obtain a Diploma in Informal and Community Education. Debbie starting playing basketball at age 12 and went on to play for her school, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland and Sporting Belfast who who played in all Ireland National League. Debbie is connected with Phoenix Basketball in Lisburn where her children play and compete. Debbie is married with 3 children and loves the work of Peace Players International – Northern Ireland because it is a marriage of two of her passions: basketball and community relations work.
Location: Northern Ireland
Joanne was born and raised in Co. Down and attended St. Louis’ Grammar School in Kilkeel, where she discovered her love of basketball. Joanne played for the Southern Education and Library Board basketball team during the Golden Cow Youth Games in 2001 and later went on to play for the Ulster Basketball Association (UBA) for 4 years. Alongside her love of basketball, Joanne has always had a passion for working with children and young people. In 2001, Joanne joined the Down Youth Council and was a member for two years. In 2007, Joanne helped to start up the Down Vikings Basketball Club, where she met Dave Cullen (former PPI board member) and Will Maloney (former PPI fellow).
Joanne officially joined the PeacePlayers team in 2008. Her passion for basketball and working with young people has allowed Joanne to grow within the organization. Joanne now coaches the PeacePlayers U12 girls team and coordinates programming in North Belfast and the Junior Champions4Peace programme. She is currently completing her degree in Youth Work and volunteers in Whiterock Youth Club in her spare time.
Location: Northern Ireland
Aoife started working with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland in 2017 on placement as part of her degree where she was challenged to explore Youth Work in a new context. She has been working as a Youth Worker across Northern Ireland for the past 8 years and now has a BA Honours in Youth and Community Work.
As the first ever junior member of her school’s Sports Committee, Aoife has always been involved in and advocated for team sports. From Dublin, she uses her unique position as an outsider to the conflict in Northern Ireland as a tool to open up conversations and learn alongside participants. As a coach Aoife has been able to journey alongside various groups of participants as they engage in sport, informal education, team building and leadership opportunities.
Location: Northern Ireland
Alex Mosley took up the position of Scaling Project Coordinator in Peace Players
International – Northern Ireland in August 2022. Alex has worked in Cross Community based
youth work in Belfast for the past 14 years after moving from Dublin, where he also had
experience in youth work and counselling teenagers and children. Alex originally studied
Electronics in University but after graduating found his passion for people and working in
local community outweighed the desire to work on machines. He retrained and gained a BA
Honours Degree in Youth and Community work. Alex played University and men’s league
basketball in Dublin and still likes the odd pick up game when given the chance. He is
married with 3 children, and his initial contact with PPNI was as a parent volunteer.
Stuart joined PeacePlayers Northern Ireland in October 2022. Stuart is married and has two
young daughters and lives in the picturesque town of Carrickfergus. Stuart has worked
within the sports industry for over 12 years, with two charitable youth organisations. Stuart has BCs Honours degree from Ulster University in Football Coaching with Business Management.
Stuart is passionate football and a general sports fan and has seen firsthand how the tool of sport can open up opportunities to help young people grow and reach their full potential. He is excited to be part of an organisation that is passionate about bringing about positive change in communities through sport and changing the lives of young people.
Location: Northern Ireland
Yamkela has been with PeacePlayers for 21 years as a Primary School Participant (PSP),
Leadership and Development Program Participant (LDP), as a basketball coach, Area
Coordinator and is now currently a fellow in Peaceplayers Northern Ireland.
Yamkela Nako is an aspiring coach from South Africa who is driven to impact young people
and fulfil a purpose. His interest in sport began at a young age, winning his first gold medal
in a 100m at age 9 and trying out other sports like soccer. Yamkela always longed to play
sports and fell in love with basketball when it was introduced to his school in 2001 by Sean
and Brendon Tuohey with an organisation which was then called “Playing for Peace.”
Yamkela was one of its first participants. He always felt that being a participant in
PeacePlayers was different because the coaches and leaders didn’t just teach basketball,
participants were also introduced into a world of “playing together and living together”. At
first, students were confused because they all went to the same school, and saw each other
every day however, post-apartheid had left a legacy behind, a way of life filled with division
and tittles, ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘Indian’, ‘coloured’, ‘black schools and neighbourhoods’, ‘white
schools and their suburbs’, etc; a divide which we as the youth had not paid attention to but
lived around and grew up in.
Playing for Peace, now PeacePlayers International, introduced a new and fun way to get to know and break down such barriers that participants and students like Yamkela knew and grew up around. PeacePlayers gave young people opportunities to play with other young
people who they never knew they could play with or be in their social network because they
attend “white schools, or indian schools”.
Participants were brought from different
environments to play with one another and in the same teams. The first ever city wide
tournament had hundreds of participants from all racial backgrounds, both girls and boys
where coaches treated everyone equally and fairly whilst playing “the most exciting sport
I’ve come across, basketball.”
Location: South Africa
Location: South Africa
Nasiphi ‘Nas’ Khafu, was born and raised in the Province of the Eastern Cape and now resides in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She was a participant at PeacePlayers South Africa Leadership Development Programme, then later became a Coach, an Area Coordinator, an International Fellow at PeacePlayers – Northern Ireland then returned to South Africa to be the Strategy and Operations Manager and then the Executive Director at PeacePlayers South Africa. Nas now resides as the Director of Strategy and Partnerships.
She has done a lot of work in the sport for the social development sector that varies from being an implementer in schools and communities. Recently, she has graduated in the Women and Sport Leadership Training through the Women and Sport Leadership Academy and the South African Women and SportsFoundation, she has given presentations at the Women in Business Conference hosted by Bolton Burdon Solicitors in London, UK, at the Impact Sustainable Development and Product Development hosted by Mojere Invest Hub in East London University, UK and the Scaling up sport’s contributions to the SDGs: Partnership for impact focusing on SGD 5 and 16 hosted by Wilton Park in the UK. Some of her achievements include being one of twelve young South African basketball coaches that attended the US State Department’s skills development exchange programmes in 2012, she attended and was a youth speaker at the Laureus Youth Empowerment through SportsProgramme (YES) Summit in Barcelona in 2012, Spain, she attended States Department and the NCAA Women Coaches Academy in Colorado, Denver in 2014 and co-facilitated leadership training as a Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport mentor at PeacePlayers – Cyprus in 2014 & 2015 and she was a panellist at the One Young World Summit in Bangkok, Thailand in 2015.
Previously, she worked as a Fitness Instructor at Virgin Active Classic, volunteered for the Siyabathanda Abantwana Youth Organisation as Marketing and Communications Manager, and served as the Vice President of the From the Roots board. She graduated with a three-year National Diploma in Sport Management from the Durban University of Technology in 2010.
Nasiphi is a young woman who has dedicated her life to social development to help advance youth and women’s advocacy through interactions and sport. She is passionate about travelling to different parts of the world to learn and share her experience with people that come from diverse backgrounds and find solutions to some of the issues that the youth face.
Location: South Africa
I was born in Richards bay and grew up in Molweni in the Durban West Region known as “The Valley of Thousand Hills.” I was raised by a single mother with 3 brothers and one sister. I was a soccer player growing up, but got injured early in my career. When I got involved with Peace Players–South Africa my life changed for the better. I got the chance to learn about different cultures and communities and made a lot of friends both within South Africa and abroad. Basketball and PeacePlayers has brought out the best out of me and it makes believe that winning more than just gold medals. It’s about helping yourself to help one another to change this world. Sport has the power to unite and educate people and I am grateful to be a part of PeacePlayers.
Location: South Africa
Noluthando ‘Thando’ Msweli, was born and raised in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She was introduced to the PeacePlayers South Africa Family through the Leadership Development Programme in 2011, then later became a Coach, an Area Coordinator, and is now occupying the Operations Manager role.
Thando was born and bred in Durban, finishing her undergraduate in Housing at UKZN (the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Throughout her schooling career, she has been involved in sport and youth Empowerment through organizations such as Peaceplayers, Laureus, UDOBO and UNOSDP (United Nations Office on Sport for Development). Noluthando has proven herself to be quite a hard worker, passionate and always eager to learn young lady. She was chosen to attend the United Nations on Sports Development and Peace Camp in 2015 which was hosted in Sweden. She was invited back in 2017 to mentor the new intake of young leaders and to be part of the conference hosted by UNOSDP. She has been quite the advocate for the equity and empowerment of women in all spheres and spaces. Thando has done a lot of youth and empowerment work not only through sport but also in her endeavours in the commercial and property development field.
Previously, she worked as Chief of Staff for a successful Holdings Company which focused on property, commercial and retail developments. She also recently graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal with her Masters in Housing and planning and is still looking to further her studies. Noluthando is passionate about travelling to different parts of the world to learn and share her experiences with people from diverse backgrounds and is always willing to contribute to addressing issues and finding solutions, whilst uplifting individuals and communities.
Location: South Africa
Enicia is a young and vibrant lady, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a City called Lubumbashi. She and her family moved to South Africa in 2001 fleeing from the heated war that was present in Congo. She started her primary education in 2004 at Carrington Primary School, and High School education at Brettonwood High school, where she completed her matric with a Bachelor’s pass. She recently completed her Marketing Diploma and Bachelor of Technology in Marketing at the Durban University of Technology and is still furthering her qualifications. She works at PeacePlayers South Africa as a Basketball coach, coaching Carrington Primary school which falls under their Primary school program. Enicia has been part of the organisation for the past 13 years where she joined as a participant in our primary school program then moved to high school and joined the leadership development program. She later became a coach in 2017 coaching Carrington Primary School for the past 4 years. She is no stranger to the vision and mission of the organisation and portrays the true meaning of being a PeacePlayer. In 2019 she took part in the Young Emerging Leaders Programme (YEL) where she was trained on mental health and intelligence. Enicia is in the process of starting her own Digital Marketing Company where she wishes to share her skills in order to help Develop Small upcoming business digitally.
Location: South Africa
Sanele Zondi is the Area Manager in Lamontville and Wentworth townships in Durban. He manages a highly trained team of coaches whose main objectives are to spark lights and change people’s lives hence, Bridging Divides, Developing Leaders and Changing perceptions. His area of expertise includes recruiting suitable candidates, conducting interviews, facilitating the induction process and delivering distinct training. A few of his other roles include program planning, analyzing budgets for programs calendars, data capturing, and holding area meetings.
Sanele Zondi has won the Area Manager of the year 2019 award, completed a Facilitators Certificate Level 10, and he’s a First Aid graduate level 1. Sanele has worked within the organization for 11 years, starting off as a participant then growing into a Primary School Program Coach and a Leadership Development Coach. Laureus Sport for Good Sport for Good Foundation has added lots of value by enabling him to attend training accredited with Sport Event Management Certificate. Sanele has always been eager to grow and with his current role as an Area Coordinator, he has more responsibilities than he takes pride in. Among other credentials, Sanele is looking to venture into other areas of work such as writing proposals, fundraising, and building relationships with multiracial schools to help strengthen the rainbow nation and to encourage a culture of social cohesion to benefit the organization’s interest Sanele Zondi is a sportsperson who plays Basketball, loves to read, and enjoys the lifestyle in Durban.
Location: South Africa
Thobani Ngubane received a Certificate in Administration and Sport from ETA College and is currently an Area Coordinator at PeacePlayers South Africa. He’s a strong advocate for personal development, taking risks, and building personal brands. Thobani is a core founder of Smart Gold NLLP company with his partner Sboniso Andreas that focuses on business development, career development, cash flow management, personal development, and digital transformation.
His professional interests focus on helping people reach their true potential selves, and his current projects include leading the Leadership Development Program (LDP) with Douglas Nedab at PeacePlayers SA. In addition to his love for the game of basketball and work at PeacePlayers, he also plays basketball, plays cricket, and coaches netball in Vukuzakhe High School. He is a level 1 1st Aider and a Qualified Facilitator.
Location: South Africa
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Location: United States
David joined PeacePlayers in May 2019, as the new head of US strategy and operations.
David came to PeacePlayers from the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, where he oversaw the strategy and program development of the start-up violence prevention/intervention organization in Chicago. In that role, David facilitated local partnerships while gathering best practices in violence prevention and intervention from cities around the country to adopt and implement in Chicago. During David’s tenure, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago expanded efforts to end violence in three of Chicago’s most violence communities.
David grew up in a community of 79 families designed to welcome people of diverse backgrounds to live and interact together in an intentional way. Members of the community were culturally, racially and religiously diverse. As the community developed, people who grew up in Japanese Internment Camps, escaped Nazi Germany, fought for their civil rights in the US, lived in rural farming communities as well as urban communities lived together in harmony. It was in this context that David learned to play basketball at the local park with young people of different races, ages, backgrounds and experiences.
Prior to his work at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, David served as a leader at the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago after serving as the executive director of the Alliance of Local Service Organizations on Chicago’s Northwest Side. David is a 1998 graduate of Juniata College with a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies/Communications and earned his MBA from University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2009, David was named “35 Under 35” by the Community Renew Society for his community work in Chicago on social justice, violence prevention and community collaboration.
Location: United States
As a Los Angeles native, Mikayla has been inherently connected to the intersectional needs of those suppressed by structural impediments, although it wasn’t until her adult years that she recognized the innate power that exists in harnessing sport to incite community impact and social change. While Mikayla grew up playing a variety of sports including basketball, she narrowed her focus to soccer and volleyball in high school, and her work ethic eventually landed her a scholarship to play soccer for her dream school, Loyola Marymount University (LMU). The former NCAA division 1 student athlete went on to earn her B.A. in Business Administration – Entrepreneurship with a minor in African American Studies in 2017. Her studies and her realization of the intersection of sport and community impact would influence her interest in social entrepreneurship.
Arguably no stranger to the sports-based youth development landscape particularly in Los Angeles, Mikayla began her work in sport for social change at LA84 Foundation (led by trailblazer and LMU alum, Renata Simril) and considers this to be a highly formative experience in her journey. Mikayla went on to lead the establishment of Street Soccer USA (SSUSA) in Los Angeles, a grantee of LA84 Foundation, autonomously building out grassroots programming and later transitioning to lead the local chapter’s development efforts as the first Program Development Manager in the region.
During her time with SSUSA, Mikayla had the unique privilege of collaborating with PeacePlayers LA in 2018 and 2019 on their annual MLK Day Celebration where her team would employ a soccer activation as a component of the event’s programming, further introducing the sport to youth across Watts and South Los Angeles where her work focused. Little did she know this relationship would influence her to join the PeacePlayers US team in 2021 as the Development and Communications Manager.
Mikayla brings with her a particular passion for health, wellness, and movement, and believes deeply in the notion that movement inherently drives liberation and provides a unique opportunity to effect cross-cultural healing. As a NASM – Certified Personal Trainer and soon to be registered yoga teacher (RYT 200), she acknowledges herself as both a student and a teacher who empowers her clients to use movement as a tool in developing self-awareness and navigating adversity with confidence. Mikayla seeks to create community-centered opportunities through her work by inspiring, educating, and cultivating communities rooted in culture, diversity, and movement. Her holistic approach to health and wellness is informed by her plant-based lifestyle and affinity for bodily-agency through communal healing.
Rashawn Martin was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and has attended Baltimore inner-city school systems all her life! As an outstanding student at the top school in her city, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, she accomplished many personal and academic accolades. Her older brother Raheem Martin has played a pivotal role in her upbringing related to sports, providing enthusiasm for athletics and a competitive spirit that Rashawn has mimicked throughout her life. As a result, she excelled in many different sports in high school, such as in indoor and outdoor track & field, and dominated in chess.
Rashawn‘s ability to align her purpose with destiny has positioned her throughout life. Her indomitable will to succeed and desire to persevere in the face of adversity allowed her to acquire an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and a minor in philosophy. She currently serves as the Program Coordinator of Peaceplayers Baltimore while obtaining her Master’s in Negotiations and Conflict Management at the University of Baltimore.
She is very excited to be a part of the team and help build capacity, as this fulfills both her lifelong desire to make a difference in Baltimore and her primary passion for building developing youth into future leaders and problem solvers.
Alesha is the newest addition to the PeacePlayers team and is excited to continue her career in Brooklyn as the Brooklyn Program Director.
Alesha was born in Brooklyn, NY but was raised in Athens, GA. Her love for basketball began early when her mother and father introduced her to the game. She grew up playing basketball with her brothers and the other boys in her neighborhood until she was old enough to play on an organized team. Her work ethic and skill earned her a scholarship to play Division I basketball at Mercer University, but after an almost career- ending injury, Alesha would later transfer to Xavier University of Louisiana (an HBCU in New Orleans) where she would finish her collegiate basketball career with two conference championships and a B.A in Political Science in 2016.
After graduation, Alesha turned down the opportunity to play professional basketball overseas because of her strong commitment to social justice. She instead decided to move to Brooklyn, NY and began her career as a Community Organizer at one of the largest nonprofits in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Community Services, where she worked in partnership with various mental health facilities, homeless shelters, community centers, and after school programs in some of Brooklyn’s most under resourced neighborhoods with the goal of creating a better Brooklyn for all.
After three years as an organizer, Alesha returned to sports as a Program Manager at Up2Us Sports. At Up2Us, Alesha helped train and support over 100 coaches on best practices in mentorship and sports-based youth development.
Alesha recently completed her M.A at New York University in Steinhardt’s Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy program. She is dedicated to the intersection of sport and social justice and centers the transformational power that sport has to build and maintain community.
Matt’s coaching philosophy: I believe that it is a coaches’ job to educate their players on the game of basketball as well as life. I believe that a coach should be encouraging, uplifting, gentle yet truthful, firm when necessary, but above all, loving.
Jasmine Cooper is a passionate mentor, coach and leader who believes “it is easier to build strong children than repair broken men” (Frederick Douglas). Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Jasmine has experienced firsthand the benefits of participating in youth development programs and she plans to dedicate her life to be a resource for youth to reach their full potential.
Jasmine grew up on the eastside of Detroit and graduated from academic standout, Detroit Renaissance High School. After high school, Jasmine moved to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University where she earned her bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and MBA in finance. Upon completion of her collegiate education, Jasmine moved back to Detroit where she began to work in the financial industry and coach girls’ basketball. Jasmine immediately recognized the deep passion she had for mentoring and coaching youth and she has spent the last 5 years coaching high school and travel AAU girls’ basketball.
With a desire to make a full-time impact on youth development, Jasmine joined PeacePlayers International as the Program Coordinator for Detroit in the summer of 2018. As the program coordinator Jasmine will be overseeing the Peace League and Leadership Development Program, working to build and maintain local program partnerships as well as recruiting and training support lead coaches and staff. Jasmine is excited to be able to mesh her passions for basketball, youth development and mentorship to help continuously grow the impact PeacePlayers has on the youth in the city of Detroit.
Le Baron Dock Leath II was born and raised in Detroit, MI. Dock was raised in a single-parent home with his mother and older sister. His mother was very business savvy and refused to settle for less. She did her best providing for him and his sister, ensuring that they lived the best lives possible with limited resources. His mother would always find better opportunities in her career and as a result it caused them to relocate often.
Throughout Dock’s years growing up in Detroit, he attended 9 different schools from Pre-K through 12th grade. Relocating had its pros and cons; on one hand he had the opportunity to make many lifelong friends and build a network that he can often rely on until this day. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he has never felt as if he had a solid foundation at home growing up. The opportunity to attend many different schools forced Dock to develop people skills at a very young age; helping him to become more outspoken, comfortable with public speaking and less afraid to try new things.
Dock still vividly remembers every neighborhood he has lived in, beginning with the projects in Detroit off of Trumbull and 94 freeway. It was an affordable town home and apartment complex that his mother managed back in 1992. There were often times when the news truck would be in their residence parking lot, covering a shooting at their complex. He remembers a moment when his friends who lived two doors down, home was riddled with bullets. His family was fortunate enough to have not dealt with any of those incidences firsthand but it will always be a part of his childhood memories in which would help mold him into the person he is today. It wasn’t until the summer of 2001 going into Dock’s 8th grade year that he began putting his focus into basketball.
One day while leaving the flea market in his neighborhood, him and his friends were shot at. Although, they all got home unscathed that one incident changed his life for the better. He focused on basketball in hopes of creating a better opportunity for himself and changing his mentality. Basketball gave Dock the focus, drive and desire to strive for more in life than just surviving. That fall, he tried out for the basketball team his 8th grade year where he became a starting forward and it has been a part of his life since then.
Dock’s diverse background and experiences have helped mold him into the man that his is today. Having the opportunity to share his experiences and mentor the youth has always been a goal of his; understanding that his upbringing is similar to those that he has been blessed to mentor. Dock is pleased to have this opportunity with PeacePlayers and looks forward to the next chapter in his life.
Siyeh Frazier is a native Detroiter, who is a new addition to the Peace Players Detroit Staff. She has been heavily involved with many sports for her entire life. Early on in her life she solidified her connection to basketball and played through high school and college. She played four years at Penn State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2020.
Siyeh enjoys using sports to make connections to youth about life lessons and leadership, more importantly to youth from her hometown. Prior to joining the PeacePlayers Staff, she mentored high school student-athletes as part of a Detroit internship in the summer of 2020. This was her first look into connecting with the youth through sports, which led her into her new current role as a Program Coordinator in Detroit.
Michael Hundley joined PeacePlayers as a part time coach in February 2022. He eventually got hired full time as a program coordinator on July 1st, 2022. Michael was born in Detroit, Michigan and eventually moved out to Farmington Hills, MI with his family where he was the youngest of 3 brothers. Michael grew up loving the game of basketball from an early age. He was coached in AAU by former NBA player Tim McCormick most of middle school and all high school. He attended Detroit Renaissance where he graduated from in 2011 with many collegiate basketball offers from NCAA division one and two.
Michael attended The Citadel University for two years 2011-2013 then transferred to Ashland University to finish out his playing career 2013-2016. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in sports management. After college he got the opportunity to play professional basketball overseas for four to five years in places such as Spain, Australia and Albania. As he was spending time overseas, he had a lot of time to reflect on what career path he wanted to try and which direction he wanted to go in.
Michael always loved being around the game of basketball while also teaching kids certain life/leadership skills they might not learn in school. He worked for summer camps and recreation facilities part time anytime he would return home from basketball. In the beginning of 2022, he was searching the internet and came across PeacePlayers. He emailed the director of Detroit Jasmine, and everything instantly connected from there. Michael looks forward to all the amazing opportunities PeacePlayers has to offer!
Benjamin Vazquez led various projects focusing on community development to identify assets that contribute to positive community growth. Benjamin assisted in developing the creative arts charter school, Art in Motion, which serves 7th-12th grade students in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing community. He also helped implement a partnership network on the southside of Chicago that consisted of 28 community business partners that helped launch the Chatham Center Chicago and The Chance Center, a community center that focuses on workforce, housing & economic development in the southside of Chicago. He also founded Urban Mission Chicago, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing scholarship opportunities to youth of color that reside in economically marginalized communities to travel abroad and immerse themselves in cross-cultural learning and engagement.
Previously to his role at PeacePlayers, Benjamin worked as Director of Social Enterprise. He was the consultative and technical lead on market analysis, research, program design, and business development projects for Covenant Enterprises based out of Chicago. He supported the development and helped launch collaborative social enterprises that engaged in broad issues of poverty and economic injustice in the US.
Benjamin earned his Master’s in theological studies and a certificate in Urban Studies & Intercultural Dialogue from North Park University, Chicago, IL, and his BA in business management from Bryant & Stratton College.
Benjamin is a diehard Chicago Bulls fan! He thought you should know.
Andrea Johnson joined PeacePlayers in the spring of 2018 as operations manager in Chicago. A native of Chicago, grew up on the southside and attended academic and basketball powerhouse, Whitney Young Magnet High School. After high school, she continued her education and basketball career at Palm Beach Junior College in Florida. Her first year at Palm Beach, the team finished 7th nationally in the NJCAA championship and 3rd her second year. After earning her Associates of Arts degree, she decided to return home to attend the University of Illinois-Chicago, where she finished her playing career and earned a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology.
Andrea found a new love for basketball as a coach. She was asked to join the coaching staff at her alma mater, the University of Illinois Chicago, where she coached 5 years. During her time at UIC, she was asked to volunteer working with at-risk kids at a local elementary school in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. This is where she learned the value in teaching kids life skills through sports. After 5 years at UIC, Andrea was offered a coaching position at Northwestern University, where she continued coaching for another 5 years.
Andrea then made the difficult decision to leave the world of coaching, to start a new career. In 2005, she landed a job at Nike INC, as an EKIN (tech rep/Brand ambassador). This job led to a 12 here career at Nike in various marketing positions. Andrea truly enjoyed her time working at Nike, which she considered her “dream job” coming out of college. She learned so much and grew personally and professionally during her time there. At Nike, she was able to work on basketball projects as well as working with at-risk kids from low income and underserved neighborhoods.
Andrea is so happy to join the PeacePlayers team and excited to get back to doing the two things she is most passionate about; coaching and helping kids reach their full potential. Andrea has seen first hand how the game of basketball can inspire kids, teach them life lessons, and ultimately change their lives
“I remember my first basketball camp as a coach. I was 16 years old, it was at Wheaton College hosted by CURE, The Chicago Urban Reconciliation Enterprise, and The Fellowship of Christian athletes. The camp was a week long stay on the Wheaton College campus. We partnered with an organization from Englewood Chicago and it was one of the several most impactful experiences of my life.
The training I received prior to the camp was minimal but very valuable. More importantly, to me, I was an athlete and I knew what style of coaching I responded better to and that is how I approached the youth I was trusted with. As I got to know my team over the week and I learned that I had the privilege of training the younger versions of myself. These 9-12 year olds had experienced the same trauma I had and had the nearly identical journeys to adolescence as I did. Whether it was domestic, learning challenges or cultural stigmas, we were the same kids living different lives and the opportunity I had was to help these youth understand the game of basketball, train them in the better character of the game and encourage them to work on their game everyday and make good life choices. And I promised them I would be there every summer to be their coach.”
I grew up in the Abbott Homes of Chicago. At that time my entire family lived in different projects housing around the city of Chicago—Cabrini Greens, Altgeld Gardens, Lathrop Homes, Jane Addams Housing and Circle Park. I later learned it wasn’t because we were poor, it was because my grandmother was very active in providing community services through her church, she was an activist and the family supported her in everything she did so we stayed close until she was unable to serve.
Back then we played basketball on the monkey bars because we didn’t have basketball rims on the courts because the parks were to dangerous play in. We eventually got creative and used crates and bike rims and attached them to wood for a backboard, nailed it to a tree or a 2×4 and had someone hold it while we shot the ball and it was the worst because the target was always moving.
My uncle played for the Chicago Bulls in the 70’s and I grew up going to watch him, my dad and their friends play. I remember the ball hardly ever touching the ground, non-stop running, they hardly ever missed shots, everyone called their shots, no one made calls, no one called fouls, fouls were only given, you pretty much only heard screeching shoes and players calling out screens. THAT’S THE GAME I FELL IN LOVE WITH. I literally never dribbled the ball when I started playing because I thought you were only supposed to pass and shoot.
As I grew up I became pretty good at the game but I also wanted to go my own way and rebel against the rules of my parents household. With many opportunities to play at a higher level I was determined to live a street lifestyle and that was my pursuit.
At the age of 46, I am a father of three and married to my high school sweetheart of 23 years. I am still very active in basketball leagues of all ages and it has been the greatest blessing to play the sport with my now 20 year old son. I am also a huge volleyball fan. I play that regularly too.
Pre-COVID, my family and I had a very active faith-based charity named Flirt w/ Life where through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges, DePaul University, we hosted an awesome mentoring opportunity for youth, high school and pre-professionals at the infamous Gold Coast Dave & Busters in Chicago. We also host a motorcycle safety and awareness initiative where we partner with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department, and several other State ran motorcycle licensing and training entities to encourage riders to take free State ran training courses. Through our great partnerships we also co-host a series of other awesome events.
I am also a the proprietor of a transportation and logistics entity.
I am a firm believer in entrepreneurship, education and mentoring.
With all the gifts, talents and passion in me, I am honored to be apart of the awesome initiatives to encourage our communities live out the core-values at PeacePlayers and to serve the city I love the most.
Location: Los Angeles
Evan joins PeacePlayers as the new Director of PeacePlayers, Los Angeles. Evan comes to PeacePlayers after serving as the Manager of Youth Basketball for the LA Clippers since the 2018 season. With the Clippers, Unrau was responsible for overseeing all youth engagement including the organization and facilitation of a robust year-round Clippers Youth Basketball camp schedule and was also responsible for helping grow the Jr. Clippers program into one of the NBA’s largest youth basketball programs with over 100,000 kids in the Southern California region.
Also with the Clippers, Unrau continued her commitment to engaging girls in sport with the delivery of “Her Time to Play” events that are a national NBA and WNBA initiative dedicated to championing change on behalf of girls and women. Unrau was asked to speak at the 2019 Jr. NBA conference on the topic of Girls Participation. In 2019 Unrau was selected as one of 9 women to represent the Clippers organization at the 2019 NBA Women’s Leadership conference hosted in New York City. Unrau was also a subcommittee leader for the Clippers diversity and inclusion task force LACED-UP (Leadership & Action for Change, Equality & Diversity, United for Progress) where she and team members were focused on career path planning and hiring strategies to support the organization.
Before transitioning to the Clippers, Unrau spent time with the Positive Coaching Alliance, Los Angeles Chapter as the Project Support Manager where she helped support community partners in the delivery of PCA Coach Education programming. Unrau had the opportunity to work with PeacePlayers multiple summers starting in 2014 serving as the VIP of its youth basketball camps held in Cyprus.
Unrau also enjoyed an extensive career at various levels as a college women’s basketball coach. Unrau spent 3 years with the UCSB Gauchos where she served as the Associate Head Coach under Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson and as an assistant under former Gaucho Head Coach and current Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Coach Lindsay Gottlieb. During her first run on the UCSB sideline back in 2008-09, she helped the Gauchos to a 22-10 overall record, a Big West Tournament title and a berth in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
Unrau arrived in Santa Barbara after serving as the Special Assistant to Hall of Fame Head Coach, Tara VanDerveer, at Stanford for the 2014-15 season, during which the Cardinal secured a Pac-12 Championship and a Sweet 16 appearance. Her history with the Cardinal dates back to the 2007-08 season when she was the team’s video coordinator during a historic season that saw the Cardinal win the Pac-10 championship and secure Final 4 and title game appearances.
Unrau is no stranger to Los Angeles basketball. She coached at the University of Southern California, from 2012 to 2014 as an assistant coach in charge of post-player development while also aiding in recruiting and scouting efforts. She also oversaw the Women of Troy’s academic supervision. Most memorable from her USC experience was Unrau’s instrumental role in the Women of Troy’s historic run at the 2014 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, in which the Trojans won four games in four days to claim the championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to USC, Unrau was the recruiting coordinator for the Santa Clara Broncos from 2009-2012 where she worked with the post players and was the program’s recruiting coordinator. Before the 2011-12 season, Unrau helped SCU sign one of the NCAA’s top recruiting classes when ESPN ranked the Broncos’ incoming class No. 55 nationally, a huge accomplishment for a mid-major university with no football program.
Unrau maintains close ties to the players she coached to this day, writing reference letters, engaging them in programs and being a mentor as they navigate their post-basketball careers.
A four-year letter winner at Missouri, she earned Honorable Mention All-America honors after guiding the Tigers to their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance her senior season. A two-time first team all-league selection, Unrau captained the United States team at the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, South Korea, which was comprised of an all-star cadre from the Big-12. Unrau was also a 3-time Big-12 Academic 1st team selection, Kodak/WBCA All-American Finalist and the recipient of the Athletics Director Post Graduate Scholarship award. She was drafted by the WNBA’s Washington Mystics in the third round in 2004 and played professionally overseas for two seasons. Most recently in 2017 Unrau was inducted into the SEC Legends Class.
A native of Fort Collins, Colorado, Unrau graduated from Missouri in 2004 with a degree in psychology and went on to earn her masters in health education and promotion from Missouri in 2006. Unrau currently resides in Los Angeles with her wife and spends her free time traveling and coaching a local girls AAU team, the Cal Sparks.
Location: Los Angeles
Natalie Gutierrez joins PeacePlayers as the new Program Coordinator for PeacePlayers LA.
Natalie was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and has always had an attachment to and love for the game of basketball. Her desire to lead and inspire others began the first moment she touched a basketball and got on the court with her teammates. She graduated from Granada Hills High School in 2014. During her 2012-2013 season with the Highlanders, Gutierrez won a Division 2 City Championship and was named Second Team All-City and First Team All-League. In her 2013-2014 season, she was named Most Valuable Player All-League.
Following high school, Gutierrez attended Glendale College and played for the women’s basketball program for the 2014-2015 season. After her first year, she then transferred to Citrus College for her 2015-2016 season where she played under WNBA and Tennessee Alumni, Loree Moore. She graduated from Citrus College with her Associate’s Degree in Behavioral and Social Sciences.
Gutierrez continued her educational career at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she graduated in 2018 with her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a minor in Sports Management.
Since 2015 and while in the process of pursuing her educational goals, Gutierrez, most commonly referred to as “Coach Nat” or “Nat”, has been coaching basketball as a player development specialist, club coach, high school & college coach. Her purpose has been to utilize basketball as a driving agent to inspire, motivate and empower athletes to become the best version of themselves. She focuses on instilling confidence within her players and is always servicing those in need of positive direction.
Listed below are the programs she’s assisted/assists:
TVT [The Valley Team] Club Basketball (2015-current)
Calabasas High School (2018-current)
LA Youth Clippers Basketball (2019-current)
LA Valley College (2020-current)
Harvard Westlake School (2016-2018)
Crossroads School in Santa Monica (2017-2018)
In addition to working for the programs and organizations listed above, Coach Nat has led multiple Nike clinics for the communities in Los Angeles. During the summer of 2019, she led Community Basketball events in East LA, coached alongside San Dixon for the Jr. Drew League and had the pleasure of leading her own team for Kobe Bryant’s Mamba League.
Location: Los Angeles
Wayne Freeman grew up playing basketball in Chino, CA, playing at the Park East neighborhood park, Briggs fundamental school, and the Neighborhood Activity Center before helping lead the Don Lugo Conquistadores boys varsity high school basketball team to the CIF playoffs as the starting point guard, co-captain, and 2005 leadership player of the year. He then moved on to coach youth basketball and serve as a Community Service leader and specialist for the City of Chino for 8 years, working in various after school, athletic, educational, and community service and outreach programs. After receiving his BA degree in Anthropology from the University of California Riverside, he went on to earn his MA degree in Communication, and his PhD (ABD) degree in Ethnic Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder. In Colorado, he also served as an Athletics specialist for the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, coordinated and conducted qualitative research on community-based sports, education, and mentorship programs at the high school and college level, and spent 8 years as an instructor for the University of Colorado Boulder, teaching multiple courses for the Communication department and the Ethnic Studies department, especially Critical Sports Studies, which examines the interplay of sports and society. He also served as a basketball clinic instructor for the Boulder Empowerment Center in Lafayette, CO, a tutor for the CU Boulder athletics department, instructor and Critical Sports and Movement coordinator for the CU Boulder Aquetza program, and Boys and Girls club boys 16-18 basketball coach. Most recently, his roles have included the Critical Sports coach for the SoCal Heat basketball club, integrating teachings on basketball history, sports and society, and community service projects into basketball training and conducting research on the program, and an Outreach Worker for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment in Los Angeles. Wayne lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children. He is very excited to join Peace Players Los Angeles!