About the Author: Ann Stock serves as Assistant Secretary of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
People-to-people diplomacy can come in many forms. Last week, 14 basketball coaches from Colombia made connections through basketball. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' SportsUnited exchange program gave them an opportunity to learn best practices from their American counterparts. With nearly one third of the Western Hemisphere's population below the age of 25, this sports exchange was about more than how to win basketball games; it gave coaches an opportunity to collaborate with one another on empowering their players and help today's youth to become tomorrow's leaders.
Check out what Carlos, one of the Colombian coaches, said about his program:
"This experience has given me a breath of fresh air. I've been able to evaluate myself in this constant exchange of life experiences, information, knowledge, [and] learning. And it's so great that basketball has been the framework for it all. It's been a pleasure meeting so many talented people who have been able to guide us and let us experience their teaching -- the cornerstone of their success. I've enjoyed studying how basketball can be an integrating vehicle of social change where the stage (the court) is the meeting point where we all understand each other. Our tool for doing so is the recreational language of the game; we learn about teamwork, discipline, respecting each other, decision making and, in short, how to nourish and develop useful life skills. We've seen how through sports I can approach the world and transform society."