After 26 years as an athlete, an international sports career, and a university degree in Sports Administration, sport is far from simply being a pastime for Ana Marinovic.
She says: “Sports has helped shape me physically, mentally and spiritually, and now moves me into the world of philanthropy”.
"As an athlete and a Manager of teams in business, my entire life I have explored how the body and mind function best, and how to create and master a high performance mindset. I have been fortunate enough to share my knowledge with hundreds of clients, communities, organizations and teams. I’ve worked in management positions for Fortune 500 companies and have lived, worked, studied and played basketball across Australia, Europe, and Africa. My mentors have ranged from VP level executives to Qui Gong (shi gong) spiritual masters.
Life’s turbulent times and travelling the world have been fantastic mentors to me
At 29, I started two businesses, one which used sport to develop children living in low socio/economic areas as well as providing young aspiring professional athletes with training and education in the field of business. Fortunately in my short 10 year career I have worked and expanded my credentials across many demographics and sectors, much to the thanks of sport.
I am now Founder and President of a program in West Africa, where I’m working with an NGO called UDID (Union pour le Développment Intégré et Durable - French Translation of Union for Integrated & Sustainable Development), the Guinean Basketball Federation, and a remarkable team from across the globe. I was just recently acknowledged by Guinea's Ministry of Youth, Youth Employment & Sport and granted an official mandate for the programme "Love Guinea Basketball".
What is Love Guinea Basketball about?
Our mission is to create ethnic and social unity in Guinea through sport. We are a non political board of 9 members supported by a qualified technical committee, all of whom are driven toward providing the youth of Guinea opportunities through sport. One of our main aims is to upgrade Guinea’s National Sporting Stadium – “Stade du 28 Septembre” - which is impoverished by poor facilities, infrastructure and equipment. The stadium represents a place of animosity and pride following a violent and bloody outbreak in 2008. The country has come along way since these events as a sporting nation, and the stadium now boasts the showcasing of Guinean sporting talent in basketball, volleyball, karate and boxing.
Basketball is the second most popular sport in Guinea next to football, so the program focuses on increasing the uptake of basketball through promotion in schools and Guinean communities, to also include more women. Although basketball is our driver, the program goes beyond basketball. It serves to create a framework for the intervention and promotion of health, social unity, inter-ethnic peace and to contribute to the emerging commercialization and industrialization of Guinea. With Guinea’s rich resource sector, and overall potential as a West African nation to support developments in Agriculture, Tourism and Trade, the board strongly believe sport can provide a stabilizing effect on Guinea’s Youth who to date have been plagued by violence off the back of a changing political landscape.
Soon Guinea will be heading toward greater economic prosperity, and we believe sport provides a unique opportunity to create a sense of unanimous pride between people and communities. But as one of the world’s poorest countries, Guinea faces a lot of challenges as an emerging economy. Sport is one of the few simple and effective ways to create social peace and unity.
Through Love Guinea Basketball, we also hope to promote the sporting talents of Guinea to the world, and help put Guinea ‘on the map’ through sport.
How can sport really make a difference and how can we use the lessons you learned in Guinea?
Sport has a remarkable capacity to build pride and break down social barriers across ethnic and social groups, as well as promote the equalization of genders. Evidently sport also promotes health and has cognitive related benefits in self -esteem, teamwork, social skills and personal performance.
It is the ability of sport to transcend many controversial boundaries that make it such a powerful and effective method toward social change, not to mention its affordability and accessibility. Sport can aid to create a peaceful forum for individuals to display their unity, pride and self- expression minus any reprimand, punishment or judgement.
The rules of sport equal fair play, a concept challenged, and in many cases opposed within family homes, communities and social systems across the world. For many young people, rules are often seen ‘to be broken’, in order to push those social and family boundaries imposed upon them (as young people do). It’s when young people can create their values around sport, and play within the rules set between the game, the opposition and the diversified support base, that we see the true essence of sport at play. You then see a personal values system created on discipline, determination, ambition, goals, direction, teamwork, belonging, community and the list really goes.
From a low socio-economic standpoint this can correlate directly toward combatting crime, increasing skills for employment, preventing mortality, combatting poverty and creating peace and social justice. Unfortunately many governments and social systems have shunned the benefits of sport as methods toward promoting these types of efforts, but this is an agenda which is now slowly changing as more governments and country NGO’s adopt the benefits of sport to promote humanitarian efforts, and provide influence toward the creation of social policy.
Sport as a Social Tool and a Fundamental Right
My experiences playing basketball in Guinea showed me exactly how sport can create sheer joy and unity between children, communities, families, youth, local business and commercial groups. More than ever before there are international development organizations using sport to promote peace and social development in countries all across the world. Despite this movement of using sport as a social tool, many humanitarians still remain sceptical that sport can be used to really drive change at social level. These arguments however are being challenged as research and study progress in the field of systemic use of sport and physical education for development in reaching humanitarian objectives.
Organizations like the United Nations Sport for Development of Peace (UNOSDP) who in 2003 declared the use of sport for peace - continue to work with countries across the world in providing systemic resolve through sport.
The United Nations and UNESCO has even declared sport a fundamental right. It’s the simplicity, efficiency and homogeneous nature of sport that makes it an ‘only makes sense’ method for G20 countries to promote and activate social reform.
What top tips can you offer the Ogunte network?
1. The most important message I promote to clients and organizations is Be a Leader of Your Life! It sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? But see past the cheesiness it could well leave you feeling empowered. We always admire great leaders of history, those who created phenomenal change by speaking through the filter of their own personal values. So why can’t we do the same?
2. Set up your unique list of leadership values and create a life contract. It’s these fundamental thought field strategies that can really set a baseline toward you achieving everything you’ve ever wanted in your life.
I have created a calibrated list of my own personal Leadership Values, developed over the many years I’ve been fascinated about leadership theory…
3. It’s a short life, so always be guided by your hearts desire and exuberant passions!
What would be your message to your 16 year old self?
For everything you’ve ever doubted about yourself, it will only ever become part of your true power and greatness. Keep smiling and ride the waves with no regrets, it’ll all make sense one day.
Can you share with us the name of 3 outstanding women leaders?
Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), the UK based charity that exists to make physical activity an integral part of women’s lives. An entrepreneurial campaigner and social marketer for fifteen years, Sue is a leading commentator and published specialist on gender equality in society. Sue played a huge advocacy role in the 2012 London Olympics in helping create the games reputation as the “women’s Olympics.
Nawal El Moutawakel (Morocco), the first female Muslim to become an Olympic Champion in the 1984 Olympics. She was also the first Moroccan and the first woman from a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal. She is now a council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations and the first Muslim woman ever to be elected to the International Olympic Committee.
Leila Janah, an award-winning social entrepreneur using technology and lean business methods to promote social justice. She is founder Founder and CEO of Samasource, a non-profit social business that connects people living in poverty to microwork - computer-based tasks that build skills and generate life-changing income, now part of the broader field of impact sourcing. Samasource has moved 3,800 workers and their families over the poverty line in under five years and spun out a domestic program. As a young entrepreneur, Leila is an inspiration for young aspiring women in the field of social entrepreneurship, and has proven the massive commercial opportunities and returns available through well-developed social justice programs.
Read Ana Marinovic’s post about the Princess Warrior
Follow Ana on Twitter: @MizAnnieM