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The Story Behind the Program

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX in June of 2012, the U.S. Department of State and ESPN joined forces to officially launch the Global Sports Mentoring Program. For the first four years of its existence, the initiative included three pillars: (1) the Empowering Women and Girls through Sports program; (2) Sports Visitors; and (3) Sports Envoys.

Specifically from 2012 through 2015, the five-week, Empowering Women and Girls through Sports mentorship program focused on women’s empowerment in partnership with espnW and the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. During the program, international delegates were paired with female senior executives at leading U.S. organizations in the sports sector. Mentors from partner organizations recruited by espnW included senior executives in the business, education, media, non-profit and sports sectors that are committed to supporting young female leaders.

Since 2012, female sports leaders across the world have graduated from the program and returned home to launch NGOs, affect public policy and legislation, and transform communities by providing access and opportunity to girls and to increase access to sport-based careers. The GSMP was so successful that in 2013, it was named one of the top 10 diplomatic achievements in the world by the Public Diplomacy Council.

In response to the GSMP’s success, the Department of State restructured their existing programs to include a second, five-week mentorship experience to positively affect additional populations. So, in 2014, the Department of State teamed up with Partners of the Americas to launch the inaugural Sport for Community, a co-ed mentorship program designed to compliment the U.S. Department of State and espnW GSMP model.

Through this mentorship program, men and women are chosen based on thematic priorities, with the 2014 class focused on the Olympic legacy and the 2016 classes and beyond focused on empowering persons with disabilities and expanding disability rights worldwide. Now, the GSMP exists as two mentorship programs—U.S. Department of State and espnW GSMP focused on empowering women and GSMP: Sport for Community focused on disability rights.

Participants for each program are selected by the U.S. Embassies overseas based on their accomplishments and drive to make a substantial impact in the sports sector in their home countries. These individuals demonstrate an ability to achieve exceptional success in their profession as well as share lessons with others so that they may also benefit from sports.

Mentors and host organizations provide participants with opportunities to cultivate management, business, networking, and leadership skills in an American sports environment. For the mentorship to play into a long-lasting positive impact worldwide, each delegate crafts a strategic plan with his or her mentor to put into action upon return home with the common goal of creating sports opportunities for underserved populations. As a result, the program creates a new global network of game changers who strive to make positive change in their communities through sports.