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Media Contacts

Joby Wright
IU Department of Recreation and Park Administration

Don Mitchell
Indiana Center for Cultural Exchange at Purdue University

Rashied Omar
Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame

Last modified: Sunday, November 28, 2004

Reaching the hearts and minds of Lebanese through basketball

Indiana universities collaborate to address strife in Lebanon

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- To some basketball enthusiasts in Lebanon, the game is more than just the national sport. Basketball may offer the game plan for peace in a country gripped for decades by ethnic and religious strife.

Coaches and the executive manager of the Lebanese Basketball Federation have traveled to Indiana -- where basketball is king -- to learn best practices in coaching and sports management at Indiana University and to tap the expertise at Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame on youth leadership and building peace. The Lebanese Basketball Federation coordinates leagues for players of ages 8 to 24.

The Lebanese coaches, all of different religious faiths, will spend three weeks absorbing this expertise as they try to reverse an increasingly disturbing trend of violence at Lebanese basketball games -- where security personnel can outnumber spectators and where fans shout each other down with verses from the Bible and Koran. Basketball games have become a flashpoint for tensions that have brewed for decades, since the country's civil war. When the coaches return to Lebanon, they will spend the rest of December conducting 10 workshops to share what they learned with other coaches before basketball season begins.

"They all agree this is a possible solution," said Don Mitchell, director of the Indiana Center for Cultural Exchange at Purdue University. "This could help the Lebanese sporting events become more peaceful, but it could also ripple into the homes, hearts and minds of the people involved."

Next summer, 12 Lebanese youth basketball players will visit Indiana to attend basketball camps at IU Bloomington and to meet with faculty at Purdue and Notre Dame. The project, coordinated by ICCE and funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs, involves three components.

IUB, Nov. 29-Dec. 10, coaching skills and sports management

The four coaches and league official will learn coaching best practices and sports management skills from IUB's Department of Recreation and Park Administration, where faculty increasingly have become involved in research projects in which recreational sports are used to address socio-cultural issues in war-torn or otherwise stressed countries. Lecturer Joby Wright, for example, has conducted coaching clinics and certification programs in eight countries. Wright, who will oversee the coaching instruction in this latest project, is a basketball veteran with experience as both a player for and coach of college, professional and international teams, including a stint coaching the Harlem Globetrotters.

The coaches will receive classroom instruction, coaching materials and hands-on coaching clinics. They also will observe basketball practices and games at a variety of levels, including middle school, high school, university-level and professional sessions. In addition to watching some NBA games, the coaches will meet with NCAA officials in Indianapolis. Wright can be reached at 812-855-3089 and Department Chair Lynn Jamieson, whose research interests include sport violence, can be reached at 812-855-8676 or Tracy James, IU Media Relations, can be reached at 812-855-0084 and

Purdue University, Dec. 11-14, youth leadership skills

The visitors will be able to take advantage of the youth leadership expertise found in Purdue's Department of Youth Development. Jerry Peters, a specialist in youth leadership training, will show the coaches different techniques for conveying communication and other important leadership skills. The techniques have been translated and adapted culturally, Mitchell said, and the coaches will be able to customize the information to their needs.

ICCE, which is coordinating the grant program, is a partnership between Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, with the support of the Indiana-based Islamic Society of North America and other collaborating institutions and organizations. The Purdue-based center seeks to advance understanding, appreciation and cooperation between the United States and the Muslim world. Mitchell can be reached at 765-494-4281 and Amy Patterson-Neubert, Purdue News Service, can be reached at 765-494-9723 and

University of Notre Dame, Dec. 15-16, tolerance skills

The Lebanese visitors will work with faculty such as Rashied Omar from the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, which conducts research, education and outreach programs on the causes of violence and the conditions for sustainable peace. They also will work with Nicole Lavoi at the Center for Ethical Education and Development, which teaches the highly regarded "Play Like a Champion" program. For more information, contact Rashied Omar at 574-631-7740 and Julie Titone, Joan B. Kroc Institute, can be reached at 574-631-8819 and

A big part of Purdue's and Notre Dame's efforts will go toward helping the coaches develop "Time Out for Unity" mini-lessons to incorporate into practice sessions. The coaches will use these 30-minute breaks to convey life lessons involving tolerance, unity, responsibility and leadership. "Time Out for Unity" is modeled after a similar and successful concept developed in the United States and used primarily during interfaith sporting events.