Despite the early hour, 12 female athletes and two coaches, bright-eyed and dressed in matching blue and yellow track suits, visited us at the Department of State last week. They were eager to listen, ask questions, and share their experiences as teenage female athletes and Afro-Colombian students. Although the athletes had just met and came from three different cities, they already acted like teammates. Sports have a unique way of bringing people together.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs developed this fast-paced program as part of our Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative, to inspire and empower more women and girls to become involved in all aspects of sports. During their exchange, the track and field athletes ran side by side with their American counterparts in Washington, D.C., at Woodrow Wilson High School, and then traveled to Portland, Oregon, to work with other female athletes at the 2013 NCAA Track and Field National Championships.
I was honored to welcome these Colombian female athletes and their coaches to the United States and speak with them on the first day of their track and field exchange. We had a wonderful conversation about connections, community, and confidence, but also discussed how winning is not everything.
In our discussion, we talked about how you do not have to win a gold medal in sports to be successful. Instead, by actively playing sports, these female athletes are discovering to be part of a team, building relationships, and learning lessons that help athletes win in life. Sports instill confidence, leadership, teamwork, healthier lifestyles, and a commitment to hard work. These values are not only important for these Colombian female athletes on the track, they are important for them in the classroom, in the workplace, and in society.
So, today on National Running Day, we recognize these athletes, and remember that sports do indeed have a unique way of bringing people together -- and can serve as a gateway to success.