From August 11th to August 16th, Full Court Peace, in partnership with the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, brought its first-ever women’s delegation to Havana, Cuba, to carry out sports-diplomacy work. Specifically, the delegation worked in the small, seaside barrio of Cojímar.
A total of six women traveled to the island as basketball players and basketball diplomats. Upon arrival, they were greeted by the local women of Cojímar, who were between the ages of 18 and 35. Each day, the American women began to transform a local basketball court, stating outright that the project would result in the area’s – perhaps the country’s – first-ever women-only basketball court.
The mission of this project was to give young Cuban women a comfortable place to play, with adequate facilities and with the physical tools necessary to continue to compete beyond the Americans’ departure.
In total, 52 Cuban volunteers came out to help with the project. The court was repainted with approximately 10 gallons of paint; brand new rims were attached to the court’s backboards, which were also repaired with the purchase of new screws, bolts and nails. The delegation commissioned a local carpenter to fix the backboards, and the organization also commissioned a local artist to draw a symbol in the courts’ center.
At the end of the week, the American women organized a basketball tournament for six teams of eight players (48 female athletes), which approximately 100 people attended to watch. At the tournament’s end, Jordan Smith, former WNBA player, University of New Mexico player, and now Assistant Coach at Pepperdine, gave out 200 basketball jerseys to the women who played and to the volunteers who helped refurbish the basketball court. Delegates also handed out 50 basketball pumps, 100 youth-sized jerseys for the young girls in Cojímar, whistles, 10 new basketball nets, and about 20 pairs of brand new basketball shoes for women.
A two-person professional camera crew also accompanied the trip. The cameraman and producer both currently work at Bloomberg News in New York. Before the year’s end, they will be producing a short documentary about this exciting project.