As part of her portfolio, Assistant Secretary Royce oversees the U.S. State Department’s Sports Diplomacy exchange programs. Sports Diplomacy has emerged as an integral part of ECA’s efforts to build and strengthen relations between the United States and other nations. ECA sports exchanges increase dialogue and cultural understanding around the world, while helping to teach leadership, teamwork and communication skills.
“It is my honor to be part of the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Women’s World Cup Final. As Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, I have witnessed firsthand the power of sports in building diplomatic relations between the United States and countries around the world,” said Marie Royce. “I am particularly grateful to members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team who have participated in our Sports Diplomacy exchange programs. Go Team USA!”
Recognizing the powerful role that sports can play in women’s and girls’ empowerment, the State Department supports sports exchange programs to advance gender equality around the world. Alumnae of our ECA Sports Diplomacy exchanges include many current and past Members of the U.S. Women’s National Team, including U.S. Team Captain and Superstar Alex Morgan (Tanzania 2017), current Head Coach Jill Ellis (Liberia 2016), Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (Liberia 2016), and former Captain and Women’s World Cup Champion Julie Foudy (Brazil 2013).
Alex Morgan said of her Sports Envoy experience in Tanzania, “I went to try to lend a helping hand, to give advice…but I feel like what…ended up happening was I learned so much about their stories…and how people around the world are trying to increase the respect for girls and women in sports – like we are respected here in the U.S.”
Leveraging the popularity of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, ECA launched the “Step In, Dream Big” initiative to encourage women and girls around the world to step into their potential and realize their dreams. The initiative kicked off in March with a Facebook Live Q&A with Alex Morgan and screening of her movie Alex & Me—a film geared for youth about the power of dreaming big—with 21 viewing parties at U.S. embassies and American Spaces worldwide. During this webinar, Alex Morgan answered questions about role models in sports, the values of sports in building leadership skills, and gender equality from the grassroots to the professional levels in soccer.
Throughout 2019, ECA is supporting a series of exchanges as part of the “Step In, Dream Big” initiative, including a Sports Visitor program from June 30 to July 13 that brings together young female athletes from 13 countries for a Women’s World Cup-themed soccer program in New Jersey. The athletes will interact with American peers in the Julie Foudy & espnW Sports Leadership Academy to celebrate the lessons of Title IX while developing plans to empower their communities at home.
Continuing our longstanding partnership with espnW to empower women and girls at home and abroad through sports, the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) will kick off its eighth edition in the fall of 2019, bringing international leaders in the sports sector to the United States for a month-long mentorship with senior female American sports executives. The alumnae of the espnW GSMP are active in over 60 countries propelling positive social change through sports, especially for girls, with a cohort reuniting in Lyon, France for the Women’s World Cup.
ESPN Senior Vice President Laura Gentile says, “We are grateful to the U.S. Department of State for its leadership and commitment around the world to advance the status of women and girls, and especially for its partnership with us to create more opportunities for women to lead on the pitch, in the classroom, and in the boardroom.”
In 2018, GSMP was honored with the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award. Soon after the GSMP this fall, ECA’s International Visitor Leadership “Women’s Empowerment through Sports Journalism,” will welcome participants from every corner of the world. This program will demonstrate the positive strides in sports that American women and girls have witnessed in the decades since Title IX while addressing the obstacles that female sports journalists still face.
For press inquiries in the United States, contact ECA-Press@state.gov. To learn more about State Department sports diplomacy, follow the program on Twitter @SportsDiplomacy and Facebook @sportsdiplomacydivision. See more about Alex Morgan’s Sports Envoy program to Tanzania here.