For the second time in recent months, UT’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society has been honored with an international award for its work using sport to inspire positive social change around the world.
At the annual Peace and Sport Awards on Oct. 18 in Rhodes, Greece, the center’s partnership with the U.S. Department of State to implement the biannual Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) was named Diplomatic Action of the Year.
“What an unbelievable honor it is to be recognized by Peace and Sport,” said Sarah Hillyer, director of the CSPS. “We are so grateful for their leadership and contributions to an entire global community committed to using sport to build a more peaceful world.”
Organized since 2018, the Peace and Sport Awards reward international or regional organizations and individuals who use sport to make outstanding contributions to peace and social change worldwide. The center’s work was selected from a category including Fundación Rugby Sin Fronteras, an Argentina-based organization which organized a historic friendly rugby game between the U.S. and Cuba in Havana, and the Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, which hosts the annual multi-sport Winter and Summer Diplomatic Games.
The CSPS has served as implementing partner of the GSMP since its inception in 2012, and has run 10 exchanges for the U.S. Department of State. In six years, the center has collaborated with dozens of national organizations, including the NHL, ESPN, U.S. Olympic Committee, Google, and Lakeshore Foundation, which serve as hosts to the leaders during three of the five weeks of each exchange. A total of 162 international sports leaders from 76 countries have participated in biannual exchanges focused on gender equality or disability inclusion (in July, the GSMP’s gender equality exchange was honored with a Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award at ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards).
“To GSMP alumni, mentors, the U.S. Department of State, and espnW, we thank you for allowing us to walk alongside you,” said Hillyer. “Together we have created a global network of empowered change-makers using sport-based innovations, mentorship, and media to promote peace and equality in communities in every corner of the world.”
Based on data collected by the center, GSMP alumni have directly impacted more than 235,400 individuals through sport-based clinics and curriculum workshops (data as of August 2018).
Alumni Rinor Gashi, a disability inclusion advocate and wheelchair basketball organizer from Kosovo, was in Greece to receive the award. Gashi participated in the 2016 GSMP: Sport for Community exchange, where he was mentored by Doug Garner, asst. director of campus recreation for adapted sports at the University of Texas-Arlington.
Participating in the GSMP allowed Gashi to return home and collaborate with the Basketball Federation of Kosovo to establish the country’s first wheelchair basketball federation.
“The GSMP gave me the power to empower others,” said Gashi, speaking from Greece. “This program made me understand that if you want do something great for your society you have to make an impact not just be impressive.”