During September 2013, 15 high-energy youth futsal coaches from several cities and communities throughout Libya participated in a 10-day Sports Visitors program hosted by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Focused on promoting mutual understanding between our two countries, the program prepared the young men to take their lessons and experiences back to the athletes they coach, creating the “multiplier effect”. During their visit, the coaches – all between 21-32 years old – participated in clinics, games, and training with local soccer clubs. Working alongside their American counterparts, the visitors gained a wealth of knowledge about sports injury treatment and care, youth development and empowerment skills, and most importantly, the value of collaboration and teamwork. A visit to Ridge Ruxton School, a special education institution in Baltimore County, Maryland, marked the first time that any of the coaches worked with persons with disabilities. By all accounts, the visitors were moved by the experience and impressed with how the United States practices equality for persons with disabilities, inspiring greater understanding about inclusion rights in sports.
For most of the coaches, this program was their first trip outside Libya and only a few coaches knew each other prior to leaving home. Their excitement and passion never subsided from the moment they set foot on U.S. soil. During the program’s closing they spoke about their enthusiasm to bring these lessons back home, and emphasized that they were now a team, united to make a difference in Libya.
Through the lens of sports diplomacy, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs continues to strengthen ties between countries on a personal level, which informs our government relationships. Through our continuous alumni engagement and active social media, the understanding established between coaches and athletes from both countries will advance meaningful, productive relationships between the United States and Libya for generations.