Why does the U.S. Department of State support sports diplomacy?

While the United States leveraged the power of sports even before the ping pong diplomacy era, the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Diplomacy Division—formerly SportsUnited—was established in the wake of 9/11 as a means of reaching out to youth in the Middle East through soccer. Our scope has expanded to include all regions, thousands of participants, and the full spectrum of sports. Housed in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), our people-to-people sports exchanges open doors in hard-to-reach places and engage communities at the grassroots level.

We believe that if we can sweat it out together on the field or court, then we can see eye-to-eye with one another. When leveraged thoughtfully and strategically, we know that sports can be a platform to champion foreign policy priorities—inclusion, youth empowerment, gender equality, health & wellness, conflict resolution, and entrepreneurism.

The Sports Envoy Program

The Sports Envoy Program is comprised of elite American athletes, coaches, and educators who travel abroad on short-term (7-10 day) sports exchanges. Sports Envoy programs are designed to reach underserved communities, inspiring youth and coaches alike, with stories of resilience, teamwork, and education. Sports Envoys lead sports clinics, speak at universities, and meet with senior level officials to discuss the role of sport in improving individual lives and transforming societies.

The Sports Visitor Program

The Sports Visitor Program brings youth athletes, coaches, and administrators from around the world to the United States for a short-term (approximately two-week) sports-based-exchange. During the program, participants engage with American peers and sports practitioners, participate in clinics and sessions on leadership, team building, and conflict resolution as well as inclusion and equity in sports. Sports Visitor programs show young people how success in athletics can translate into achievements in the classroom and in life. They also provide Americans an opportunity to interact firsthand with people from every region of the world. 

The International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI)

The International Sports Programming Initiative (ISPI) is an annual sports grant competition for U.S.-based nonprofits to administer two-way exchanges that engage underserved youth, coaches, and sports administrators.

Through sports, ISPI supports youth around the world to develop important leadership skills, achieve academic success, and promote tolerance and respect for others. The programs highlight the theme of Sport for Social Change and advance foreign policy goals while reaching key audiences, including at-risk youth, women, girls, minorities, persons with disabilities, and non-English speakers

The Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP)

The Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) is a professional development exchange that pairs international leaders with American executives in the sports sector for a mentorship that promotes inclusion and gender equality. The GSMP has two thematic areas: the espnW GSMP on women’s rights and Sport for Community: GSMP on disability rights. During the program, GSMP delegates develop in-depth action plans aimed at leveling the playing field for women and girls and increasing sports access and opportunities for people with disabilities.

Olympic and Paralympic athletes
have participated in Sports Diplomacy Programs over the years.
different sports
represented on Envoy programs, from disc golf to sledge hockey to basketball & soccer and everything in between.
Envoys have traveled to every continent (except Antarctica) and over 125 countries around the world.
states, plus the District of Columbia, since 2002.
ISPI two-way exchanges have taken place
In 2020-2021
ISPI partners
have implemented 25+ virtual exchanges for 2,000+ Foreign and American participants around the world.
Since 2016
16 ISPI partner organizations worked with 42 subaward organizations
in the implementation of two-way exchanges around the world.
Countries around the world.
ISPI two-way exchanges have taken place on every continent (except Antarctica)
Foreign and American participants
Have been involved in the two-way International Sports Programming Initiative since 2002.
catalyzed by GSMP alumni
1.5 Million
reached by GSMP alumni

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