Mike Evans '05 Tells of Founding Full Court Peace

Mike Evans ’05 presented a lecture during Fallcoming detailing his formation of Full Court Peace, a non-profit organization that aims to use basketball as a means of bringing together youth in sectarian communities.

Evans told of his postgraduate plans to play basketball on a national traveling team in Northern Ireland. Upon arriving, he soon became familiar with the violent conflict waging between Catholics and Protestants in the country, and within his first few months became involved in a nonprofit that attempted to break the sectarianism by bringing both groups of primary school children together to play basketball. The program only lasted six months, leaving Evans to question whether he "had even made a difference” in the children's lives. 

Evans subsequently moved into a neighborhood with a strong Protestant resistance presence and began volunteering to coach basketball at high schools in neighborhoods on “both sides of the wall.” In an effort to become closer with the players, he networked with Irish Republican Army members and Protestant forces to understand the roots of the conflict and ask their opinions on integrating a basketball team. With full support for the idea, Evans began raising money for the players to take a trip to America. But the trip came with one provision: the players had to agree to integrate their team.

With the prospect of going to America, the two groups of players formed one team, the Belfast Blazers. Evans detailed how excitement for the game helped foster unity and friendship among the players and allowed them to “communicate their feelings through basketball.” After months of fundraising, the Belfast Blazers traveled to the United States and played in Evans’ hometown of Weston, Conn.

In 2008, Evans formed Full Court Peace with partner Dave Cullen, a close friend and co-winner of ESPN’s 2007 Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Today, Full Court Peace’s mission is to use team basketball to cultivate and inspire enduring friendships between teenagers from rivaling communities in war-torn regions of the world.

Evans ended the presentation with a short documentary on his time in Northern Ireland. The documentary outlined the conflict and introduced audiences to members of The Belfast Blazers, including testimonies to the effectiveness of Evans’ strategy in forming bonds among players from two “different sides of the wall.”

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