The aim of the program was to increase awareness through basketball of the many different cultures that now make up modern Ireland and to promote communication and cooperation among those cultures. The event was held on several weekends at eight different sites across the country and included basketball instruction and play as well as education on Irish culture and the sharing of the different cultures from the various countries. The program reached more than 700 children, and nationalities represented at the events included Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, China, Taiwan, Cuba, Peru, Spain, Russia and the Philippines.
“Sport is a universal language that cuts through language and culture and promotes cooperation,” Matthew J. Robinson, associate professor of sport management, said. “The immersion of immigrants is part of the American identity. My grandparents experienced it when they came to the United States from Ireland in the 1920s. Ireland is experiencing it today. This event demonstrated the power of sport to bring diverse people together and the program is a small part of a larger initiative in shaping the future of modern Ireland.”
The overall program was funded through a grant provided by the Irish governmental initiative National Action Plan Against Racism. Undergraduate sport management majors Alena Koshansky, a women's basketball guard who played on UD's NCAA Division I tournament team, and Adam Wilson spent the summer in Dublin planning, organizing and implementing the event. They were funded through the UD Office of Service Learning's Service Learning Scholar program.
“On behalf of everybody at Basketball Ireland I would like to express our sincere gratitude to everybody at the University of Delaware who has contributed to the cultural diversity program, in particular Sue Serra of the Office of Service Learning and Dr. Robinson,” Karl Donnelly of Basketball Ireland said. “The students who worked with us this year, Adam and Alena, were an integral part of the tremendous success of the initiative; we simply could not have done it without them. The messages delivered through the nationwide events have provided a solid foundation for the sport of basketball in Ireland to deliver real and valuable cultural integration.”
The program culminated with a finals weekend that included Tim Connelly, the director of player personnel for the Washington Wizards, and players Calvin Booth and Roger Mason Jr. They led a clinic and discussed the importance of education and respect for an individual's ethnicity.
“Tim played such an instrumental part in the success of the program,” Robinson said. “I met Tim last year in Senegal and told him of the program and he said he wanted to assist. He went way beyond assisting. Calvin and Roger are true gentlemen who connected with the kids at the clinic and communicated a positive message. It was a pleasure working with them.”
Also, Thomas Foley, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, hosted a reception at his residence to recognize the program and guests included representatives from the various embassies and the leaders of sport in Ireland.
During the summer of 2006, three UD students initiated a pilot program in Dublin through funding from the Office of Service Learning. The success of the pilot program led to Basketball Ireland submitting a grant proposal to expand the concept nation wide.
“This could not have been done without the support of Provost Dan Rich and Sue Serra and the Office of Service Learning,” Robinson said. “The people at Basketball Ireland are great friends who work with the students to make sure it is a positive experience in the work place but they also make sure the students experience all of the culture, traditions and beauty of the country. The students had a life experience that went beyond classroom walls while making a difference in other people lives.”