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Former US basketball players train local female coaches

By Sara Gharaibeh - Oct 19,2017 - Last updated at Oct 19,2017

Former WNBA/NBA players Sue Wicks and Neal Meyer train female coaches of the Reclaim Childhood organisation on the Riyadi Aramex court on Thursday (Photo by Sara Gharaibeh)

AMMAN — Female  coaches of the Reclaim Childhood organisation from east Amman and Zarqa on Thursday got together with former WNBA/NBA players for a coaching-for-coaches clinic where they learned drills from professionals with the aim of transferring them to the young girls in their communities.

Organised by the US embassy on the Riyadi Aramex court in west Amman, Thursday’s clinic was part of a one-week programme during which WNBA/NBA veterans Sue Wicks and Neal Meyer coached training sessions and held workshops for university physical education students, PE teachers from different governorates, and youth from local basketball clubs, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.

Reclaim Childhood is a non-profit organisation that empowers girls through sports by hiring women from local communities with no requirements of previous athletic experience, according to Jessie Wyatt, programme director at Reclaim Childhood. 

These women then recruit and coach underprivileged girls from their neighbourhoods, including Jordanians and refugees from Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen in an after school basketball programme.

“These are the girls who need it most”, Wyatt noted.

 “Sports provide an avenue for personal improvement, better health, critical team working skills and crucial leadership skills. These skills sports are applicable to all sorts of domains in life,” Alica Lejlic, counsellor for press and cultural affairs at the US embassy told The Jordan Times on Thursday.

“A person who is a great leader on the basketball court… will one day be a great leader in the board room or in their business,” Lejlic, who is also a former basketball player herself, added.

For Sue Wicks, a former WNBA player, coaching and playing basketball also has another indirect form of empowerment that tries to convey during the clinics.

“The sport is great, and the kids learn how to practise the skills, but, more importantly, they learn from other women who are strong, know what they are doing and are teaching them. This is a powerful stance because a lot of women don’t stand strong often,” Wicks said, adding that it helps the children feel empowered.

Neal Meyer, who has been working in youth empowerment through basketball in different parts of the world over the past six years, said that the most important values boys and girls learn on the court is the absence of differences between people.

“By bringing different groups, different religions, different people from different cultures together, basketball just unites people, and, I think, it shows that you can connect with people through a simple game,” Meyers said, encouraging people to make use of those connections and values outside the court.

Rasha Ghweiri, who has been coaching a team of young refugee girls with Reclaim Childhood, described the drills she learned at the clinic as “new, powerful and quick”.


With a considerable amount of laughter and joking around on the court, both Wicks and Meyer said they believe that fun is an important factor for the success of the session, as it is “good for our bodies and spirits”.

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