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A room full of women sitting at tables, some wearing face masks and others not. Sarah Hillyer is at the front of the room, in front of large prints from past GSMPs and a sign that says 10 GSMP.

Global Sports Mentoring Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Making a Global Impact

“The power of mentorship in the world of sports cannot be underestimated. Every team has a captain. Every captain has a coach. Leaders in sports can positively influence athletes to achieve their goals all of the way from the field to the boardroom.” — excerpt from the GSMP Mission

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), an award-winning sports diplomacy and mentorship exchange program implemented by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Center for Sport, Peace & Society (CSPS) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and espnW. The GSMP leverages the power of sport, mentorship, and partnerships to advance gender equality in and through sports around the world.

CSPS will celebrate this milestone with its partners in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 22. This celebration will also honor the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that provides women and girls with equal opportunity in education and sports. Headlining the event will be First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, and sports icon and equality champion Billie Jean King.

Twice annually, CSPS hosts 16-17 international sports leaders, chosen by U.S. Embassies around the world, on five-week exchanges with U.S. mentors, chosen through a comprehensive matching system. Leaders develop action plans for sport-based social change in their communities, which have contributed to the creation of national sports leagues, federations for women and people with disabilities, and have impacted legislation to make their home countries more inclusive and accessible.

The GSMP’s success is so renowned that, by 2013, the Public Diplomacy Council named it one of the top ten diplomatic achievements in the world. Five years later, in 2018, the GSMP received ESPN’s Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award, an honor that “celebrates people that have taken risks and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports.”

A grid of 4 photos. On the top left is a photo of people in wheelchairs with their arms outstretched. On the top right is a photo of wheelchair athletes high-fiving a child. On the bottom left is a photo of women wearing traditional outfits from their home countries. On the bottom left are two women each flexing their outside arm. One is wearing a hard hat.

GSMP has two thematic areas: Empower Women through Sports, a mentorship program composed entirely of women that centers on key issues related to women and girls’ equality, and Sport for Community, a co-ed mentorship program centered around disability rights.

Empower Women through Sports

GSMP: Empower Women through Sports is based on the growing evidence that women and girls who play sports are increasingly likely to excel both on the playing field and in life.” Female sports leaders that have graduated from this program have used the action plans they developed with American mentors to launch NGOs, impact legislation and public policy, and provide access and opportunity to girls in their home countries.

In 2021, the GSMP theme was “Leading in Times of Crisis.” CSPS welcomed 14 women from 14 countries to the first entirely virtual GSMP, a familiar pivot resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the four-week program, delegates and their respective mentors from non-profit and corporate arenas worked together to grow leadership skills and refine strategic plans aimed at protecting and promoting women and girls at all levels of the sports industry.

Sport for Community

GSMP: Sport for Community, also implemented by CSPS, was founded in 2014 by the U.S. Department of State and Partners for America and was designed to compliment the Empower Women through Sports model.

This past spring, CSPS led the 5th annual Sport for Community International Disability Inclusion program, hosting 12 international sports leaders. The cohort included women and men ages 25-50 from Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, China, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Nepal, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Zambia.

Delegates participated in virtual opening and closing week activities, a virtual mentorship, completed one asynchronous GSMP-University course focused on leadership development, and created a multimedia final project outlining strategic plans for applying key take-a-ways from the program. All aspects of the GSMP focused on equipping sports leaders with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to create strategies aimed at long-term positive change in their home countries, specifically aimed at advancing disability rights and inclusion in the sports industry. Learn more here.

If you’d like to learn more about the Global Sports Mentoring Program, visit