The U.S. Department of State’s ECA has conducted several track and field programs, but none quite as unique as this most recent one with the Pacific Islands. From May 1 to 12, nineteen young track and field athletes and six coaches from the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Micronesia, and Samoa) joined forces in Washington, D.C. for a fast-paced track and field exchange. What was unique about this program? It was ECA’s first sports diplomacy visitor program with deaf athletes.
While in the United States, the visitors took part in a series of sessions focused on inclusion, teamwork, and leadership with activities including a ropes course and TOPSoccer training of youth athletes with disabilities. The group also interacted with their American peers at deaf schools in New York City and Washington, D.C., primarily Gallaudet University, Maryland School of Deaf, and New York School of the Deaf. Throughout the program the group demonstrated that there are strong links between using academics and athletics as a means of empowerment and inclusion.