Global Sports Mentoring Program Celebrates 9th Anniversary

by Rebekah Goode
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Women cheer as Sarah Hillyer, director of the Center for Sport, Peace & Society, raises heavy ropes above her head

Written by the US Department of State

From October 11 to November 11, [2021], 15 international sports leaders and 13 U.S.-based organizations in the sports sector will take part in the annual U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP). In its ninth year, this professional development exchange supports ongoing efforts by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to advance the rights and participation of women and girls at home and abroad. With the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society as the cooperative partner, GSMP has proven to be a successful government, private sector, and academic partnership.

Working virtually with these international delegates, senior female executives in the U.S. sports sector share personal business, entrepreneurial, and strategic management insights. In turn, the American mentors are enriched by new cultural and professional perspectives and an expanded domestic and global network. This year, the mentors will guide the delegates in refining their strategic plans for social impact.

From advocating for social welfare policy in Brazil, to using boxing to teach life skills and self-defense to Kenyan women and girls, the sportswomen of the GSMP have positively and directly impacted more than 350,000 people through their action plans. These combined efforts contribute to a stronger and more stable global society.

The 2021 GSMP class joins the ranks of 209 outstanding alumnae in GSMP programs empowering both women and people with disabilities through sports – Olympians, Paralympians, sports journalists, ministerial officials, civil society leaders, and others – from 86 countries. This ninth cohort of espnW GSMP includes women from Brazil, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Kosovo, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Turkey.

This year, mentors represent the following companies and organizations: Big East Conference, Creative Artists Agency, DoubleVerify, ESPN, Gatorade, Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves, NCAA, New Balance, the NHL, Saatchi & Saatchi, the United States Tennis Association, the University of Connecticut, and the Women’s Sports Foundation.

For its success in promoting gender equality worldwide, the GSMP received ESPN’s Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award in 2018, an honor that “celebrates people that have taken risks and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports.”

ECA’s Sports Diplomacy Division taps into the shared passion for sports around the world to support U.S. foreign policy priorities. Programs are strategically designed to empower young people and underserved populations so that they can develop leadership skills, achieve academic and workplace success, promote respect for diversity, and contribute to stronger, more inclusive, and stable communities. In all its sports diplomacy initiatives, ECA coordinates closely with regional bureaus and with Public Affairs officers at U.S. embassies and consulates to identify international participants, design the exchanges, ensure a strong focus on foreign policy priorities, and support the activities of sports exchange alumni.

Founded in 2010, espnW spotlights and celebrates female athletes, elevates diverse voices & perspectives, and serves the interests of female fans at the intersection of women, sports and culture. It is the pre-eminent brand for women who love sports, the stories and connection that sports uniquely offers, and the change and impact sports can drive for girls and women of all ages. espnW’s content and voices live across digital, social, audio, television, events, and mentorship programs.

For more information, please contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at and ESPN’s Isabelle Lopez at To learn more about ECA’s Sports Diplomacy Division, follow them on Twitter @SportsDiplomacy and Facebook @ sportsdiplomacydivision.

Click here to join the Global Sports Mentoring Program, virtually, for the first time ever!

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