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SportsUnited: Bringing People Together Through Sports

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 17, 2012


The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Division leads the U.S. Department of State’s international exchange efforts to bring the global community together through sports.

Using lessons learned on and off the playing field, SportsUnited focuses on empowering young people and underserved populations worldwide. Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power diplomacy,” which embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools – in this case sports – to bring people together and foster greater understanding.

SportsUnited engages people from around the world in four key ways: the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative, the Sports Envoy program, the Sports Visitors program, and Sports Grants that focus on empowering athletes with disabilities and underserved youth.

  • The Empowering Women & Girls Through Sports Initiative is a new effort that utilizes all of the Department’s international sports programming to engage underserved girls and female coaches. In addition to Sports Visitor and Sports Envoys components, this initiative will include a sports mentorship to connect women and girls from across the globe with their American counterparts. This initiative aims to increase the number of women and girls worldwide involved in sports and benefit from greater academic success, stronger leadership skills, and improved health.
  • Sports Envoys are current and retired professional athletes and coaches that the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sends overseas to conduct drills and team building activities, as well as engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of education, positive health practices and respect for diversity. Since 2005, SportsUnited has sent more than 150 U.S. athletes to more than 50 countries to participate in sports envoy programs.
  • Sports Visitors are youth and coaches who travel to the United States for an exchange. Sports Visitor programs give young people an opportunity to discover how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom. Since 2003, SportsUnited has brought more than 900 young athletes from more than 50 countries to the United States to participate in Sports Visitor programs.
  • Sports Grants are awarded annually to public and private U.S.-based non-profit institutions. These programming initiatives create ties between young people, youth coaches, and youth sports managers from overseas and their American counterparts. Participants on the two-way exchanges share ideas about four key themes—Youth Sports Engagement, Sport and Health, Sport and Disability, and Sport for Social Change Since 2002, SportsUnited has awarded more than 75 grants for programs conducted around the world.

In addition, SportsUnited partners with professional sports leagues, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the National Sports Federations on youth-focused programming in sports ranging from baseball, basketball and volleyball to ice hockey, soccer, and swimming. SportsUnited initiatives highlight the importance of teamwork, self confidence, hard work, and respect for others.

For more information on sports diplomacy, please log on to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ website at


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