Fair game

Teenage girls from abroad attend NCAA Women’s Final Four as part of sports exchange

One group is using sports as a means to build bridges with girls from cultures around the world

A sports exchange program at the University of Tennessee brings girls from around the world to the Knoxville campus—even to the spectacle of the Women’s NCAA Championship. The Center for Sport, Peace, and Society housed in the University of Tennessee’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences acts in partnership with U.S. State Department’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sports initiative. Together the two groups offer global sports outreach activities and mentoring programs s in an attempt to enhance opportunities for diverse young girls and women.

Under the leadership of Dr. Sarah Hillyer and Dr. Ashleigh Huffman, the Center has nurtured underrepresented or minority populations– internally displaced refugees, handicapped persons or those with disabilities, girls and women — from the Middle East, Asia and Europe. “It is our hope that through sport, individuals will become empowered change agents interested in promoting peace and inclusivity in global and local communities,” says Dr. Hillyer.

Just this past weekend, the Center delivered on that goal in a big way at the NCAA Women’s Final Four. It hosted 25 teenage basketball players from eastern European nations like Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, and Georgia. The girls took part in group-building activities, and also had a chance to attend the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa as part of their experience in America.  They enjoyed the the thrill of the championship atmosphere, both for its sportsmanship, and also for the message they took away from the experience, Dr. Hillyer told Women in the World.

“When they saw the size of the stadium, the music, the band and how many people had traveled from all over the world to cheer for the women’s team, I think it was an eye-opener for them,” Dr. Hillyer said. She also added that seeing the top teams play in the tournament in-person inspired the girls to want to train harder and illustrated the value of a platform of successful women. Now that’s something girls and women of any age can learn from.

Above, take a look at some photos of the girls visit to the U.S., where they also played some basketball, before heading to Tampa for the Final Four.

 

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