Meet the Match

An Educator Building a Web of Empowerment

Paula Korsakas grew up in São Paulo, Brazil. Her mother, father, brother, and sister, were all sports enthusiasts. Every weekend, they would meet in the garden and play games together. If they didn’t have the proper equipment, they would make racquets, nets, bases, and hoops from items around the house. They played basketball, volleyball, handball, tennis, and even games they created from scratch.  When Paula was old enough to participate in organized sport, her parents encouraged her to play them all.

Paula’s mom was extremely influential in her life. She was a strong woman who believed in gender equality at home. She split the chores between the boys and girls, making no distinctions between them. Paula always admired her mother for making her brother help, and in many ways, this understanding of gender roles and equality influenced Paula’s life and career.

Paula began her career as a basketball coach while attending the University of São Paulo. Through her love of basketball and passion for spreading the game, she realized the opportunities to play basketball for girls paled in comparison to the opportunities for boys.  As a second year student in the Sport Sciences Master’s degree program, she took on the role of head coach for a girl’s team in a project created by the University in partnership with the Ayrton Senna Institute aimed at increasing female exposure and access to sport. She was determined to ensure that girls had the same great experiences with basketball that she did growing up.

“For me, basketball allowed me to express myself. It helped me form my identity and develop new friends. I learned to train, to compete, and to be disciplined. The structure, the hierarchies that exist in life, disappeared on the court. As a player, I realized that sport can be a powerful tool for human development – physically, mentally, and socially. It has the ability to transform people and realities and to me, that is exciting.”

This understanding of sports and its ability to inspire individuals and transcend cultural barriers led Paula to her current work in the field of Sport for Development and Peace. Presently, Paula is a Program Manager of Sport for Human Development at the Sports Center of the University of São Paulo. Paula works as an advocate in the Sport for Social Change Network and as an expert leading training programs and seminars for sports practitioners interested in this field.

Paula’s dream is to create a nationwide network of women leaders in the sports movement in Brazil. She seeks to unite government entities, NGOs, and universities to tackle social issues facing women and girls and to build a new foundation for the democratization of sports within the country.  With all eyes on Brazil in the coming two years, Paula is uniquely positioned to mobilize community stakeholders and create real change.

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