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Ibrahim Ismail

Sports teacher

Ibrahim Ismail studied sports science at the Ruhr-Universität from 2002 to 2008. He already worked as a sports teacher while he was a student, with disadvantaged youths. For his diploma thesis, "Street work in deprived areas – views on modern social work”, he was awarded the Bochum-Hellweg Rotary Club University Prize. Today, he coordinates the project resulting from this, "Rückenwind” (“Tailwind”), is managing director of the educational facility Paidaia e.V. and works as a sports teacher at the Professional College of Opladen.

Sport is very important in this field because it is often the only level to communicate with these youths on.

RUB Alumni: Mr Ismail, you occupied yourself with disadvantaged youths while you were still a student; this activity then became first a prize-winning diploma thesis, then an ambitious project. Would you like to tell us something about it?

Ismail: In 2005, I started to work with socially disadvantaged young men in Wuppertal-Vohwinkel, a deprived area. At first I did everything we know from traditional social work: sports and leisure activities, football, Phantasialand, etc. But as time went on I noticed that this fun was only keeping the youths from facing their real problems. But I wanted to do something positive, generate positive social contact. So first of all I used baseball and other sports to strengthen my position as supervisor and educationalist. And then I transferred this to another area which is key to taking youths away from their disadvantaged position: education. This is how my project "Neue Wege" (“New Ways”) came about.

The next step was to train eight youths to be “multipliers”. These lads then continued the project as “multipliers” and eventually continued to supervise more than 64 children in groups, organising events and carrying out projects in the district etc. As a consequence, the consciousness of the children and adolescents in the entire district was changed, and the local police also noticed a considerably reduced willingness to commit violence by the end of the project.
Out of the original eight boys, one went on to do training and seven attained the gymnasiale Oberstufe (upper level – the final three years – at the Gymnasium) of whom four have already done their Abitur (school leaving certificate) and one has enrolled to study law.

RUB Alumni: That is an incredible success! And is there a part for the sports scientist in this social work?

Ismail: Sport is very important in this field because it is often the only level to communicate with these youths on. They have no education; the only thing they do every day is use their bodies to prove to everyone else how strong they are in order to get recognition. This is a desperate act to stay in touch with their surroundings. And when they instrumentalise their bodies every day, no longer display any sensitivity to their own bodies, the sports scientist's task is to try and re-establish this sensitivity to the body. Not only the head, but also the body belongs to the development of identity and personality - this is something that many people forget today, unfortunately.

RUB Alumni: What did you do when you finished university?

Ismail: I currently teach at the Professional College of Opladen. I do a lot of teaching about personality development there. I also now have a lectureship at the RUB Faculty of Sports. I have developed my diploma thesis further to create the "Rückenwind" concept. Together with many of my fellow campaigners from the Sports Sciences Faculty and other people from the field of didactics, private enterprise, the judicial system and public sector cultural organisations, we founded Paidaia e.V. (editor's note: paideia, Greek for education or upbringing), whose aim is to make "Rückenwind" well known all over Germany and to establish it nationwide.

RUB Alumni: Is Paidaia e.V. an interdisciplinary association?

Ismail: Yes. It has psychologists, lawyers, sports scientists, social workers, police, journalists, dancers and artists, who will all help the youths to distinguish themselves.

RUB Alumni: How did your studies at the RUB prepare you for your work?

Ismail: Very well! As far as I am concerned, the sports faculty in Bochum really is the best faculty in Germany for sports science and in particular sports teaching. I now travel a lot and therefore have the opportunity to compare it with other sports faculties, and I notice that we had the opportunity to learn a lot in peace here. The professors even knew us by name and the seminars were not too big, which meant we could really develop a connection to our lecturers. And the faculty is also heavily involved in the "Rückenwind" project.

RUB Alumni: We know you haven't been away for that long, but is there something you already miss when you think back?

Ismail: I will certainly miss the closeness to my fellow students. It was incredibly nice to be a student at this faculty. The students got to know each other very well and we even did sports together with the lecturers. I always had the feeling of being part of things. It was also very practical to be able to do a lot online at the RUB.

RUB Alumni: Do you have any nice anecdotes from your time at the RUB?

Ismail: When I went swimming once, a lecturer said to me, "Ismail, you swim like a combine harvester." Fortunately, he was able to teach me a few things as well, so that I was able to improve later.

RUB Alumni: Thank you for talking to us!