December 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky

Gulf States Volleyball Sports Visitors Program

The University of Tennessee welcomed 10 female volleyball coaches, athletes, and administrators from Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar through the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative. Facilitated by Drs. Sarah Hillyer and Ashleigh Huffman, these women caught a glimpse of American culture and athletics to the tune of “Rocky Top Tennessee.”

The University has been an integral part of the program’s success. At the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Dr. Joy DeSensi spoke to the program participants about her experience living through Title IX and the gender discrimination she experienced in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. Although she was denied full participation, she did compete with her fellow athletes as part of a demonstration team. Dr. DeSensi’s story resonated with the audience. Learning about how the situation for women has changed over the past 40 years gave the participants a new perspective on how even small change in their communities can lead to significant change in the future.

The ladies also toured several of UT’s athletic facilities. They learned to tape ankles with Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak, athletic nutrition with Allison Maurer and college athletic recruiting with Assistant Volleyball Coach Rachel Cooper.

Therapeutic Recreation students facilitated an entire morning of teambuilding activities, breaking down cultural barriers and bringingeveryone together in a fun and challenging way. Throughout the team’s time in Knoxville, several graduate and undergraduate students in the Kinesiology, Recreation and Sports Studies Department have also contributed by planning and coordinating different activities that have created a welcoming environment for our new friends from the Gulf.

Maryville High School also hosted the ladies for volleyball skills training led by Deedee Harrison and Kayla Jeter, our own Lady Vol volleyball players.

And of course, their Tennessee experience could not have been complete without a day of shopping at Tanger Outlets in Pigeon Forge followed by decorating Dr. Huffman’s Christmas tree after a traditional turkey dinner.

The women will spend the rest of their time in Louisville, Kentucky where they will attend the 2012 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four Games, visit the infamous Ali Center, and attend different workshops and events in the area.