Meet the Match
A Former Basketball Player Coaches Jordanian Girls to Greatness
As a girl growing up in the capital city of Amman in Jordan, Nour Kayyal approached sport with passion and energy. From a young age, she followed the sports path of her older brother by becoming a competitive swimmer for the national swim team, competing inside and outside of Jordan. In addition to her successes in swimming, Nour earned a black belt in taekwondo before the age of 18. While very engaged in of these two sports, Nour found her way to basketball—what she considers her true love.
Fascinated by the fast-pace and caliber of basketball, Nour would order DVDs of Michael Jordan through her cousin living in the United States so that she could imitate his skills and playing style. The passion and practice paid off. By 1997, Nour was the youngest player to play for Jordan’s under-18 women’s national basketball team. By 2002, she was among the best female players in Jordan earning a full scholarship to play at Al-Ahliyya Amman University, where she would later complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Shortly after finishing university, Nour ended her competitive career in all sports so as to focus on her professional development. Since 2006, she has worked at Jordan Kuwait Bank, where she rose in the ranks to become a senior relationship officer in the private banking unit. Recognizing her ongoing love for basketball, however, she began coaching young players in Amman. She has since been called on to serve as assistant coach for women’s teams at the Arab Games in Doha (2011), Arab Tournament in Tunisia (2013), and FIBA Asia Under-16 Championships in Sri Lanka (2013).
“I love to coach under-16 players because that is the age you can see changes,” Nour says. “Older players have their habits and know how to play. I want to be a role model for my little girls because I can see the changes in their lives. I like that they look up to me.”
With sports-based empowerment for girls and women lacking, Nour feels many Jordanians are left without vital leadership skills sport teaches. She recognizes that in addition to the health and wellness benefits of basketball, the sport develops and improves an individual’s self-confidence, tolerance, and ability to collaborate with others on and off of the court.
“If you want to be a successful basketball player, you have to learn respect for your teammates, your coach, and your opponents,” Nour says. “If you do that, you can gain the love of the whole world because basketball happens worldwide. When we play, we create international friendships.”
Within the past decade, Jordanian women have been able to engage more fully in society. The push for increased equality in education and the workplace has created change—but opportunities for girls and women to take part in sports are still lagging. Women’s sports programs often lack funding, adequate facilities, and teams for girls and women. In order to secure a safe place for her team to practice, Nour must rent courts from private basketball clubs, of which there are only two in Amman. With such limitations, she finds it difficult to organize tournaments for girls. Based on logistical challenges alone, many coaches end up quitting or allowing their coaching license to lapse.
Nour refuses to be disheartened in the face of lacking support and challenges. She looks forward to creating basketball-based projects to empower different segments of Jordanian society, from women in her bank to orphans and refugees. She even has a previous relationship with U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program alumna Dima Alardah, a leader within the Norwegian Refugee Council, with whom she completed the National Coaching Certificate program in 2012.
“I always tell my girls, ‘I need your heart on the court. That’s how we will win,’” Nour says. “If you play basketball by the book, it will be very boring—just like life. You have to think outside the box, trust me. ‘Hearts win,’ that’s my motto!”
In order for Nour to take her basketball vision to the next level, Nour will be mentored by Hilary Shaev, vice president of people experience and innovation for the National Basketball Association (NBA). A marketing and promotions veteran with extensive experience in both the music business and sports world, Hilary was instrumental in rebranding the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and developing the WNBA Pride platform. She understands the challenges that women’s sports face. With the support of her NBA and WNBA colleagues, Hilary will be able to provide Nour with “insider” insights in the areas of marketing, project implementation, and fundraising as they related to basketball. Their partnership has the potential to build international bridges through basketball and empower generations of girls in Jordan.