MISSOULA – Six Montana sports professionals depart for China March 30 for a three-week sports diplomacy exchange sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Their arrival in Beijing will make them the first official Montana exchange program group to arrive since former Montana Sen. Max Baucus became ambassador, and following closely on the heels of the visit of First Lady Michelle Obama. The team is traveling to China as part of a grant to the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center of the University of Montana through the SportsUnited Division of the U.S. Department of State.
The Mansfield Center project uses soccer, Native American and other team games as a means to support underserved populations in China, including ethnic minorities and youth with disabilities. The team from Montana will draw from their expertise to share ways that sport can play a role in youth development at the grassroots level, while promoting technical proficiency among the youth sport coaches, sport administrators and sport officials. The program will help build teamwork and self-discipline in youth that can lead to success in other aspects of their lives.
The program is a reciprocal exchange in which eight Chinese participants will visit Montana in September to share their experience and work with the U.S. participants in their home environments.
The U.S. participants are:
- Molly Blair, program coordinator, UM New Directions Wellness Center
- LeAnn Dolly-Powell, Project UNIFY director, Special Olympics Montana
- Arthur “Tucker” Miller, professor, UM Department of Health and Human Performance
- Glenn Moffatt, health enhancement instructor, Paxson Elementary School, Missoula County Public Schools
- Paul Phillips, Native game specialist and manager of Making Fitness Fun, Salish Kootenai College
- Jason Shearer, associate executive director, Greater Missoula Family YMCA
The team will experience both professional and cultural activities during their China exchange. The group will work with ethnic-minority school children and with associations supporting youth with disabilities in the Miao regions of the province of Guizhou in the south and Mongol groups in the province of Jilin to the north.
Participant Glenn Moffatt said, “I’m excited about this experience to share my skills and learn from our Chinese partners. This is a unique opportunity to connect youth in China and in Missoula. Building on the afterschool Chinese language program at Paxson provided by the Confucius Institute at the Mansfield Center, our kids raised $570 in Change for China to buy sports equipment for a partner school. This fits right in with preparing our kids to compete in a global economy and build mutual understanding between such different cultures.”
Sports diplomacy has emerged as an integral part of efforts to build relations between the U.S. and other nations. This diplomacy uses the universal passion for sports as a way to transcend linguistic and sociocultural differences to bring people together. Participation in sports teaches leadership, teamwork and communication skills that help young people succeed in all areas of their lives.
The U.S. Department of State’s SportsUnited Division uses sports diplomacy to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people around the world. The use of sports as a platform exposes foreign participants to American culture while providing them with an opportunity to establish links with U.S. sports professionals and peers. In turn, Americans learn about foreign cultures and the challenges young people from other countries face today. Participation in sports teaches leadership, teamwork, and communication skills that help young people succeed in all areas of their lives. The U.S. Department of State has involved thousands of people from more than 100 countries in sports exchanges. The Mansfield Center is honored to have been awarded the first SportsUnited grant in the state by proposing this exchange between Montana and China.
Mansfield Center Associate Director Deena Mansour noted, “The SportsUnited grant is one of many State Department grants run by the Mansfield Center to benefit our community, including the American Youth Leadership Program sending Montana high school students and teachers to Cambodia, and the Professional Fellows Program supporting an exchange of professionals in economic empowerment. These programs help further the Mansfield Center’s mandate to engage people from across our state in global connections.”
For more information on the U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy initiatives, please visit http://eca.state.gov/programs-initiatives/sports-diplomacy or http://umt.edu/mansfield/default.php, or call Mansour at 406-243-2713.