Story by Christina Cracolici, USM Assistant Director of Athletic Communications
GORHAM, Maine – For more than three decades Project Harmony International has worked diligently to connect diverse cultures and populations through sport and exchange programs, and this week the University of Southern Maine Huskies' basketball programs are taking part, hosting a youth basketball clinic for 15 exchange students from Russia.
The 14 cities and towns that make up the Greater Portland area have had an official sister city in Russia – Arkhangelsk in the Northwest area of Russia - and with the work of PH International, hundreds of people have traveled between the two nations with a commitment to the idea that connecting people in meaningful ways could break down walls and make a difference in cultural relations.
One of the new PH International programs, funded by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs/Sports Diplomacy Division, involves both girls and boys high school aged basketball players. Southern Maine head basketball coaches Karl Henriksonand Samantha Allen, as well as assistant coaches Peter Rodwayand Rachele Burns, are coordinating the athletic component of the program, hosting a week-long skills clinic, and two-day workshop experience for Russian coaches and administrators.
This Tuesday, clinic attendees will also be have the opportunity to learn from one of the top shooting instructors in the country, Dave Hopla. An NBA shooting coach and consultant, Hopla has worked several teams including the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and New York Knicks as well as individual instruction with numerous NBA, WNBA, college and high school teams and players.
During the two-day Coaches and Administrator workshop, participants will have the chance to explore the many facets of a University Athletic Department, meeting with coaches, administrators including Athletic Director Al Bean and University President Glenn Cummings, as well as professors from the Department of Exercise, Health and Sports Sciences, and representatives from the Maine Sports Commission.