Featured Participant: Nour Kayyal

By Alicia Malnati, Ph.D. September 05, 2017

The GSMP is an outstanding experience. It brings out the best in you. Through the program I was born again. I became motivated and empowered to believe in myself more than ever before. It made me believe in my own power to be a leader in my country. The program is six weeks of positive energy that feeds your passion with love and peace. After participating in the GSMP, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals; your dream becomes reality and your passion is not a wish anymore. Now I can change the equation, making what is impossible possible.

Nour Kayyal loves her double life. Every morning, she wakes up at 6:30 a.m., drives to the Rumi Cafe for a cappuccino, and commutes into the heart of Amman for her work as a senior private banking officer with Jordan Kuwait Bank. Throughout the day, she contacts prospective clients, builds relationships with existing ones, and gauges the strength of regional and global markets. But, by early evening, Nour transforms into something much different: a basketball coach.

As a former member of Jordan’s national women’s basketball team, Nour was determined to capitalize on the atmosphere created by the 2016 FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup, which had the country moving toward increasing the number of women playing sports. So in May 2017, she launched Swish Basketball Academy, the first woman-led, sport-based non-profit organization in her country. Within four months, Nour and her three coaches have helped 66 youth participants experience the confidence, strength, and leadership development that comes with sport participation, something Nour cherishes.

“I remember this group of girls; they were probably nine or 10 years old,” Nour says. “They all got into Swish knowing nothing about basketball. But after their sixth session with us they knew how to dribble, how to pass the ball, and how to set up shots. They were so happy. Seeing them improve—it was like a dream.”

However, success stories aren’t written everyday, and Nour knows it. During the planning process, she became overwhelmed by the cost of buying equipment, renting practice courts, and obtaining the required legal frameworks. She was also discouraged by those who questioned her ambition and entrepreneurial efforts simply because she was a woman—the World Bank reported in 2014 that Jordanian women are often constrained by gender-related bias and restrictive social norms, particularly in relation to work.

Seeking guidance, Nour turned to the people who understood her situation best: fellow alumnae from the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), an initiative implemented by the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society that aims to empower women and girls through sports worldwide.

“When things got really tough, I remember talking with (five other participants) during one week,” Nour says. “No one around me understood what I wanted to do, but they did.”

With the encouragement of her global sisterhood, family connections to legal guidance, and $9,000 of her own money, Nour connected the dots and gave life to Swish. The academy was the culmination of a plan she and her GSMP mentor, Hilary Shaev of the NBA, had worked to develop months earlier.

“I remember Hilary asking me, ‘Okay, Nour. What do you have in mind? How can I help you?’ I told her I wanted to learn everything I could about a big organization so I could implement something in my country on a small scale. And that’s exactly what I did. Swish might not be as big as the NBA or WNBA, but it’s big enough to fill my heart,” Nour says.

The final component to completing her mission with Swish is reaching youth from low socioeconomic parts of Amman. To gain expertise in this area, this September she’ll collaborate with and host 2012 GSMP alumna Hayam Essam, founder Girl Power Egypt, a basketball program in Cairo with similar goals to Swish. Later in the month, Nour will also return to the U.S. for one week to serve as a guide to a new class of GSMP participants.

For Nour, the impact of the program has been transformational. It is an experience she continues to share with a growing group of changemakers who work alongside her to create a better world through sports.

“Being part of the GSMP, it’s the brightest side of my life,” Nour says. “It’s one of the best things that’s happened to me.”