In response to the success of the GSMP: Empower Women through Sports program, in 2016 the U.S. Department of State restructured the GSMP initiative to include a disability sport component. Continuing its cooperative partnership with the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, it launched Sport for Community (S4C), which uses a similar immersive mentorship and cultural exchange model to focus on empowering people with disabilities through community-based sports initiatives.
Through S4C, U.S. disability sport leaders and their organizations provide emerging leaders from around the world with the opportunity to cultivate sports management, marketing, and business skills in a U.S. sport-related environment. In 2016, the first S4C program hosted 15 emerging leaders from 13 countries (an earlier version of Sport for Community organized by Partners of the Americas was held in 2014). The 2016 group included Paralympic executives, world champion athletes, disability rights advocates, coaches, and educators, who all returned home to spark significant and positive social impact in their communities.
Despite progress over the years, accessibility challenges, social exclusion, and a lack of educational and sports opportunities continue to keep people with disabilities marginalized. Evidence shows that people with disabilities who are given opportunities to participate in sports experience an increase in self-confidence, social inclusion, economic empowerment, employment, and independence. With the growth in prominence of the Paralympic Games and the increasing development of adaptive sports worldwide, the time is right to empower leaders with a passion and commitment for promoting equality and opportunity so that everyone receives the opportunity to get in the game.