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Difference Makers: Shamil Idriss

Shamil Idriss Difference Makers

If you’ve been following LeagueApps for a while, you know that we believe in the power of sport to unify people and transform communities. So as a part of our recent OTAs (short for “Organized Team Activities”), we invited Shamil Idriss, CEO of Search for Common Ground, to come and speak to the LeagueApps team about his experiences turning conflict into connectedness.


Search for Common Ground is the world’s largest dedicated peacebuilding organization. In his experience, two facts are indisputable: young people have acted as global change agents for years and years, and sports have long proven to be one of the most powerful ways to break down barriers. For a full recording of his conversation with the LeagueApps team, you can watch the video by clicking here—or keep reading for an overview.


Young People Are To Ready Lead

Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela changed the course of human history and they all began their public journeys at a young age. According to Idriss, the fact that they were so influential in their twenties isn’t a coincidence. Idriss has led efforts to end violent conflict in more than 35 countries globally, including some of the most devastating conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa. When he reflects upon his career, he notes that in nearly every circumstance young people were ready and willing to lead meaningful and necessary movements.


For youth sports organizers, understanding young people and cultivating an environment in which they can take on leadership roles will ultimately bear fruit. “The most powerful thing about young people and their movements is that you can’t predict where they’re going to go. If you give them support, and if you listen to them, they’ll often take it in a direction that’s more exciting and impactful than you could ever have imagined,” he says.


Diluting The Power Dynamic And Leveling The Playing Field

From soccer tournaments in war-torn Africa to an historic thawing of tensions between Iran and the United States courtesy of a wrestling event, Idriss provided example after example of how sports can bring people together in a unique and meaningful way. You even see it in the US today with videos of young people playing basketball against law enforcement officers. 


It’s clear in all these examples that sports can instantly level a playing field by removing disruptive power dynamics. This provides youth athletics with a higher purpose and is one of the reasons why so many LeagueApps partners take pride in the fact that they actively try to remove economic and cultural barriers in their respective sports so that young people can grow in a diverse and inclusive environment. 


The Grassroots Are The Key

The political divide in the US oftentimes makes it difficult to create change on a national level. Both sides dig in, leaving little room for compromise or progress. But the way Idriss sees it is that incremental change at the community level is not only possible but is oftentimes the best way to break down barriers. Youth sports is a vehicle for change and the thousands of organizations that LeagueApps is proud to work with everyday have the ability to make a difference in their communities every day. 


For organizations looking to provide their young athletes with leadership resources, click here






This piece was written by a member of the LeagueApps content team.