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UD, Ireland expand on basketball relationship

UD graduates, front, from left, Lauren Carrigan, Megan Hager and Emmy Schaaf, ran a basketball program in Ireland last summer. A second program is in the works for 2007.

2:16 p.m., March 7, 2007--The University of Delaware's Office of Service Learning, the Sport Management Program and the International Sport Initiative have partnered with Basketball Ireland to secure a 60,000-euro grant from the Irish government to fund a program to promote cultural integration through basketball this summer.

It will be the second straight year in which UD students have worked with basketball programs in Ireland.

“In recent years, Ireland has seen an influx of immigrants from countries such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, China and Nigeria,” Matthew J. Robinson, UD associate professor and director of the sport management, said. “Basketball is a growing sport in Ireland and one of the most popular sports in those countries.”

In 2006, UD undergraduate sport management students Lauren Carrigan, Megan Hager and Emmy Schaaf, in cooperation with Basketball Ireland, the national governing body for basketball in the country, were awarded service learning scholarships for a proposal that would promote cultural understanding among the immigrant groups through basketball.

The program included a day program of basketball instruction and play as well as education on Irish culture and the sharing of the different cultures from the various countries. The success of the pilot program led to Basketball Ireland submitting a grant proposal to the Irish government to expand the concept nationwide and to include a children's clinic and a three-on-three tournament for teenage boys and girls.

That proposal was accepted and two additional UD students will be heading to Dublin this summer to assist in the implementation of the nationwide program. They are Alena Koshansky, starting point guard on the UD women's basketball team, and Adam Wilson, both sport management majors.

The students will be under the direction of Robinson, who also directs the University's International Sport Initiative, through which programs have been carried out on campus and in Turkey, Senegal and Cape Verde. The initiative has received State Department funding for its work.

Karl Donnelly, an executive with Basketball Ireland said, “The mission of the event will be to create awareness throughout Ireland, of the many different cultures that inhabit the country, by bringing them together through a positive medium: sport and specifically basketball. By placing members of different cultures on the same team where they will work together toward a common goal, we will integrate different communities within Ireland, and promote cross-cultural relationships and understanding.”

The culmination of the program will be two-day event to be held in August that will include a reception at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador with ambassadors and representatives from the various countries who had participants in the program. Also participating will be front office staff, coaches and players from the Washington Wizards NBA basketball team who will lead the final youth clinic that weekend.

“This is a testament to Sue Serra and the Office of Service Learning and the great work that they do,” Robinson said. “Having the opportunity to be service learning scholars was a life changing experience for Lauren, Megan and Emmy last summer. I know it will be the same for Alena and Adam this summer.”

Robinson added he hopes “many youths will benefit from the vision and efforts of the students and the support provided by the Office of Service Learning.”

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