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SportsUnited is the U.S. Department of State's sports diplomacy[1][2] division. SportsUnited uses sport to help youth around the world develop important off-the-court skills including leadership, mutual understanding and academic achievement.[3] The four pillars of the program include Sports Envoys, Sports Visitors, Sports Grants, and the Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative.[4] The program began in 2002 and has since reached thousands of participants in more than 140 countries. An overarching theme in most of SportsUnited’s programming is disability sport access and inclusion.[5]


The U.S. Department of State, through the SportsUnited division, restarted sports programming in 2002 with a grants competition focused on Muslim community outreach. In 2003 the State Department brought a group of Iraqi archers to the U.S. to compete in the World Archery Championship.[6] The State Department implemented the first Sports Envoy program in 2005 through a partnership with the NBA and Reebok.[7] In 2006, the “World Cup Sports Initiative” marked the first large-scale sport diplomacy effort of the nascent SportsUnited Division. The World Cup Sports Initiative brought to the U.S. 30 youth from 13 countries to participate in World Cup-related programming around the theme “A time to make friends.” The program culminated with a visit to Germany, where the group attended a World Cup match between the U.S. and the host country.[8] Since then, SportsUnited has involved more than 1500 athletes and coaches from over 140 countries in its programs. [9]


Sports Envoys[edit]

The Sports Envoy program sends professional athletes overseas to conduct sport camps and engage in dialogue about important life lessons such as education, leadership, conflict resolution, and respect for diversity. Since 2005, the U.S. Department of State has sent nearly 300 Sports Envoys almost 70 countries including Afghanistan,[10] Burma,[11] Japan,[12] and Venezuela.[13] Past envoys include Michelle Kwan, Carl Ripken Jr., and Ken Griffey Jr. [14]

Sports Visitors[edit]

Sport Visitors are non-elite youth athletes and coaches who come to the U.S. for two weeks to participate in sport workshops and learn first-hand about American society and culture. The Sports Visitor program gives young people an opportunity to discover how success in athletics translates into the development of life skills and achievement in the classroom.[15] Since 2003, SportsUnited has brought more than 1,100 young athletes and coaches from 140 countries to the U.S. to participate in Sports Visitor programs.

Sports Grants[edit]

The Sports Grants program is an annual open grant competition for U.S.-based, non-profit organizations that work with sport and non-elite youth athletes, domestically and internationally. The grants support programs which address any of the following themes: Sport for Social Change, Sport and Health, and Sport and Disability.[16] Between 2002 and 2012, the Sports Grants program has awarded nearly 90 grants to U.S. based non-profit organizations implementing programs in 60 countries. Previous grants recipients have included Partners of the Americas and Mobility International USA. [17][18]

Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative[edit]

The Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative was launched in February 2011 as a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and espnW.[19] To increase the number of women and girls worldwide who are involved in sports, the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative mobilizes all of the U.S. Department of State’s international sports programming, from Sports Envoys traveling overseas to Sports Visitors traveling to the United States. A cornerstone of this initiative is the Global Sports Mentoring Program which connects women and girls from around the globe with female executives in the sports sector. The 2012 Global Sports Mentoring Program included a diverse group of 17 participants.[20] Between 2012 and 2014, women from 38 different countries have participated in these month-long mentorships, which culminate in an action plan for the mentee to implement in her home country. [21]

Related organizations[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Politics and sports
  2. ^ "New era of sports diplomacy - Puja Murgai". Politico.Com. 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  3. ^ "Singapore women footballers go on US trip to learn about youth development". 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  4. ^ "Sports Diplomacy | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  5. ^ July 20, 2013 (2013-07-18). "Using Sports To Promote Inclusion and Equality for People With Disabilities | DipNote". Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  6. ^ "Iraqi archers back in world competition". 2004-12-31. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  7. ^ "A Slam-Dunk! U.S. Department of State Partners with the NBA and Reebok to Promote Youth Basketball in Africa". 2005-08-31. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  8. ^ "State Department Hosts Youth from 13 Countries for World Cup Sports Initiative: A Time to Make Friends". Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b "Afghan Women Make Their Mark On The Soccer Field". NPR. 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  11. ^ "US sends basketball players, coaches to Burma". Asian Correspondent. 2012-08-26. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  12. ^ a b Heil, Emily (2011-11-02). "Cal Ripken to be our man in Japan - In the Loop". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  13. ^ "Baloncesto y amistad uniendo culturas". Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Sports Envoys and Sports Visitors | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  20. ^ "Global Sports Mentoring Program | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "WNBA, Jeddah United collaborate | Arab News — Saudi Arabia News, Middle East News, Opinion, Economy and more". 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b "U.S. women's soccer stars to Brazil - Kevin Robillard". Politico.Com. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  25. ^ "America's ping pong diplomats - Photos - 6 of 10". Politico.Com. 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  26. ^ "Public Diplomacy Envoy Michelle Kwan Travels to Singapore January 9-15, Will Meet with Youth and Government Officials". 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  27. ^ "Baseball Star Barry Larkin Serves as Long-Time U.S. Sports Envoy | DipNote". 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  28. ^ Press Trust of India (2013-02-12). "American Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin on India trip | Other Sports - More |". Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  29. ^ a b "NBA Legends Sam Perkins and Dikembe Mutombo Travel to South Sudan". 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  30. ^ "One-on-one with Sports Envoy Sam Perkins and Sports Visitor Joseline Kenyi from South Sudan". 2012-11-15. Retrieved 2013-12-08. 
  31. ^ Mitchell, Dawn. "Former World Cup star Sanneh giving back - KMSP-TV". Retrieved 2013-12-08.