February 22, 2021

Virtual Sports Visitor Program Connects Coaches and Administrators from Ten Countries

Last month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Sports Diplomacy Division hosted a virtual Sports Visitor Program (SVP) with participation from approximately 60 soccer coaches and sports administrators from ten countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Burma, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Israel, and Nicaragua. 

This virtual multi-country SVP featured sessions on coaching techniques and methodologies, with a particular focus on women's soccer and empowerment (Women Win), human rights (Advocates for Human Rights), mental health (Train the Mind), and positive youth development (United Soccer Coaches).  The program included live virtual sessions with online discussions, some of which were held in conjunction with the United Soccer Coaches Convention, the largest annual soccer coaches convention in the United States.  During the United Soccer Coaches Convention, the group heard from five players and coaches from the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup winning team as well as five other former and current U.S. Women’s National Team Players.  

The Sports Visitor Program, implemented in conjunction with FHI 360, brings amateur youth athletes and coaches to the United States to explore U.S. society, culture, and history through the lens of sports.  Participants interact with American peers both on and off the field, whereby challenging their stereotypes of the U.S. and broadening their notions of diversity, inclusion, and American values.  In 2019, prior to COVID-19, the program hosted approximately 250 coaches, administrators, and youth athletes across eleven exchanges, including three youth sports camps, held in conjunction with an existing American sports summer camp. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person programs were postponed and moved to a virtual format until health and safety conditions improve and allow for safely conducting exchanges.

The program has changed participants’ outlook on sports in their home countries. A coach who attended the virtual program said, “My view of the role of a coach in my community has changed as I now see a coach as someone who is also a mentor, educator, friend, confidant and someone who can help to not only enhance the skills of his/her players, but assist the players in becoming good role models in their community.”

Sports Diplomacy is an essential part of efforts to build ever-strengthening relations between the United States and other nations. It uses the universal passion for sports as a way to transcend linguistic and sociocultural differences and bring people together. Participation in sports teaches leadership, teamwork, and communication skills that help individuals succeed in all areas of their lives.

To learn more about ECA’s Sports Diplomacy Division, follow them on Twitter @SportsDiplomacy.

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