A Return to Blogging: What’s Been Up with the CSPS?

soccer players celebrate together

Brazil Soccer Sports Visitors with CSPS staff and volunteers at the Knox Kicks World Cup fundraiser at Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

The past two years have been a whirlwind for all of us at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. But, after a long absence from this blog we’re looking to get back in action!

Since our last post in February 2012, we’ve welcomed two more classes of the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) and nine different groups of Sports Visitors from Mongolian sitting volleyballers to Jordan’s U-17 women’s national soccer team. We’ve continued to partner with the amazing people at the U.S. Department of State and espnW to carry out the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative (check the website: globalsportswomen.org). And, we continue to provide UT students opportunities to connect with diverse populations right here in Knoxville, Tennessee.

We’ve done our best to keep all of our followers updated through our different social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. And, we’ve recently created an instagram (@sportandpeaceUT) to share the amazing photos taken by our staff, highlighting incredible athletes, coaches, students, and sports professionals from around the world.

Drs. Hillyer and Huffman with Yasmin Helal, founder of Educate-Me Egypt and member of the GSMP class of 2014

Drs. Hillyer and Huffman with Yasmin Helal, founder of Educate-Me Egypt and member of the GSMP class of 2014

So flash forward, Jan. 2015, where are we now? Some members from Team CSPS are in Washington, D.C. leading a Sports Visitors program with the national female taekwondo team from Tajikistan. The others are working hard to launch a new web presence and preparing for an exciting semester teaching the Service-Learning: Sport and Community Development course.

In the coming months, we’ll host even more Sports Visitors from around the world, continue to establish and expand our Knoxville presence through service-learning and volunteer projects, and by September, we will welcome the amazing women that will make up the GSMP class of 2015.

Trust us, we’ll be as busy as ever working hard to support and encourage underserved communities, promote women’s empowerment, foster diplomacy between nations, and encourage development and peace both here and abroad.

So please join us on this exciting journey. Let us know you are with us by sharing, commenting, posting, and tweeting to any of the social media channels above. And look for live updates here on the blog. We look forward to an amazing year of sport, development, and peace!

Senegal Basketball Girls Meet New Heroes: The Lady Vols


Our Senegal Basketball visitors spent ten unforgettable days in Knoxville becoming true Tennessee Volunteers. These 15 to 18-year-old French-speaking basketball players trained with UT athletics, engaged with students in university classes, ate at KFC (their favorite), and cheered louder than anyone else in Thompson Bowling Arena during two Lady Vols basketball games.


During their first few days, they explored the beauty of the Smoky Mountains on a day hike and visited the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame – a highlight for most of the team.

“This (WBHoF) is not something we have in my country,” said Coach Henriette, the first female basketball referee in Senegal. “We don’t know what you all had to go through to play basketball, so that was a very good experience for me.”

IMG_6394Once the week began, it seemed these girls never stopped! They spent time in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex working on their endurance and strength with Coach Heather Mason, learning ACL prevention techniques from UT’s Jenny Moshak, and trying some homemade peanut butter and protein smoothies from nutritionist Allison Mauer. And of course, they played a lot of basketball.


In the afternoons, they visited a few after school programs including Girls, Inc. and the YWCA. At Girls, Inc. the Senegalese team transitioned from students to teachers as they were asked to lead the girls of Girls, Inc. in a series of basketball drills and games. This was a great opportunity for the Senegalese team to showcase their leadership abilities and to serve as role models for the younger girls participating in the after-school program.

IMG_7386On the last day, at end of the last Lady Vols game, these girls had a surprise in store for them. Lady Vols Strength Coach Heather Mason ushered them down stairs, past curtains, and through doorways until they had reached the locker room of the Lady Vols. Their excitement could hardly be contained, and as soon as the first Lady Vol entered the room, our girls burst into cheers, hugs and tears. When the first emotional wave had passed, the girls circled around the locker room to show the Lady Vols their team cheer. Before long, the two teams were dancing together, despite language and cultural differences. Through their love for basketball, they were united.

IMG_6846We will miss the energy and eagerness these girls had for anything we planned for them. From them, we have learned to appreciate each other in new ways, and to remember that we don’t need to share a language to share our love.

The Sports Visitors program is a part of the Empowering Women and Girls through SportsInitiative through the U.S. Department of State. As facilitators of these programs and cooperative partners of the grant, we carry out the planning and implementation to make sure these athletes and coaches receive training andresources that can help them become strong women in their communities.

“17 Voices. One Story.” Video Launch!

At the close of the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, our team put together a video of interviews we collected to show on the final day of the program.

We want to say a big THANK YOU to the mentor organizations who took 3 weeks out of their hectic schedules to spend time with our emerging leaders, helping them develop their action plans and sharing cultural experiences with them that extend beyond the walls of their office building.

A Lasting Impact in Action!

Our emerging leaders all successfully completed the 2012 U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program!

All of our ladies, with the help of their mentors, finished their action plans. Some totaled over 70 pages listing vision, mission, timelines for implementation, networks and financial resources. They shared their plans with each other with 10-minute power-point presentations, then celebrated a couple days later with a formal luncheon at the State Department!

Now they have bid farewell to the U.S. and returned home, but the story doesn’t end here. This past month has been full of great memories of the women bonding together as sisters and encouraging each other in this challenging step forward. The work starts now, and we trust the rewards will come with a future of girls who feel strong, confident and empowered to reach their goals without letting cultural norms bring them down.

17 strong women. 17 countries about to be turned around for the better.

Isn’t that incredible?

Just begin to imagine when their visions start to take root and gain momentum, the impact that these women’s action plans will have not only in their communities, but around the rest of the world.

This is their mission.

To create opportunities for young girls to develop their skills and talents through weekly Basketball Training sessions.

To address a lack of respect for women and girls and subsequent inequalities facing female footballers by providing adolescent girls with equal opportunities to participate in high performance football development and competition programs.

To create a values-based swimming academy for ages 11 to 16 to empower girls and women to reach their potential and strengthen their communities within a nurturing environment.

To create a Commission in the Russian Olympic Committee dedicated to strengthening positions of female athletes and female ROC employees by developing their professional, educational and networking opportunities.

To provide disadvantaged young girls with exceptional opportunities to develop their confidence, improve academic performance, maximize their personal potential and strengthen the community using sports as a tool.

To face gender inequality by introducing legislation that will give all Brazilian girls the right to learn and practice sport in schools and colleges, similar to U.S. TITLE IX.

To develop sports opportunities for girls at the borders of Colombia by introducing the GoGirlGo! curriculum and Ultimate Frisbee.

To develop a social enterprise that will provide various sport services and to embark on projects that will uplift the economic plight of the National Athletes and promote sports and fitness nationwide

To empower women and girls with life skills through sport workshops, tournaments, leagues and focus group forums.

To set up a program dedicated to giving girls ages 9-11 more opportunities to play basketball and advance their lives. The program will provide a healthy and positive environment for girls to get more active, confident, and become more involved in the community.

To create a CSR program dedicated to empowering women through sports in my local community and educating them to have a balanced life.

To address gender imbalance in the media and empower more women in the male-dominated field.

To empower women with leadership skills through sports initiatives in a creative and healthy environment.

To partner with the SOS children’s village in Lagos to provide a sports curriculum for the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Primary School through the introduction of basketball.

To create and implement educational and promotional programs for development and popularization of DanceSport in Republic of Tajikistan and using it as means of physical education.

To empower girls in my local community ages 8-12 to be “Strong, Smart and Bold” through the use of sports and life skills development.

To empower the young girls in the rural areas to develop their personal attributes, develop their potential and strengthen their communities.