Concerns about women’s empowerment are a public health and policy issue in the U.S., Mexico and throughout the world. Using the sport of soccer, a West Virginia University team aims to enhance young women’s empowerment through leadership development.
“The program is designed to use the most popular international sport, soccer, to develop person-to-person diplomacy, while promoting social change,” said Jack Watson, professor, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, and principal investigator.
Ultimately, program administrators will coordinate plans to send 20 individuals to Mexico, including youth, coaches and other leaders. As a follow up, 24 representatives will travel to Morgantown to complete the exchange in the attempt to address social issues in Mexico.
Through an ongoing partnership with the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, located near Monterrey, the group will reach out to Mexican youth and coaches to establish the exchange.
“Faculty and personnel at UANL are not only very well connected with the local community in Monterrey, but also are extremely well equipped to participate in a project of such characteristics,” said Gonzalo Bravo, CPASS sport management associate professor. “We could not ask for better partners. It is through UANL that we will be able to reach and identify our target population in Mexico, who will then travel to Morgantown in the summer of 2019.”
Since 2010, Bravo has worked and collaborated on numerous projects at the School of Sport Organization at UANL. That work will enhance the direct network of contacts with schools and officials in the region.
Partner organizations in the US will involve nonprofit soccer organizations, including local and regional soccer associations. The group has contacts in Morgantown, Wheeling and Charlottesville, Virginia, to help create a positive experience.
“We hope to use connections with WVU Women’s Soccer to help develop a positive program. This connection could help to develop an effective program while the Mexican delegation is on campus,” Watson said.
“We are confident about our ability to tap into all sport, technical expertise, knowledge and infrastructure needs to provide a positive program,” said Peter Giacobbi, CPASS associate professor.
The grant program will incorporate a multidisciplinary approach. In addition to Watson, Giacobbi and Bravo, three other specialists will provide insight to the project. As a coach, Cheyenne Luzynski has combined sport leadership skills and curriculum with performance training, and she has led an international sport exchange program to Nicaragua with volleyball athletes.
The project group will study levels of engagement and participation, while evaluating self-esteem, satisfaction and learning.
The program is funded by an award grant through the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana as part of the US State Department’s Sport Diplomacy initiative.