This 2011-2012 program paired the cities of Marseille, France and Springfield, Massachusetts in an exchange of non-elite youth basketball players. The goal was to open new worlds to young recreational athletes in urban areas, give them the opportunity to develop and practice leadership skills, and encourage them to make a difference to younger children in their communities.
During the programs in the U.S. and France, participants learned and practiced coaching skills, and became familiar with efforts to use sports in combating racial discrimination. They attended lectures prepared specifically for them, took part in discussions in high schools, enjoyed cultural activities, helped organize and implement local “Sports Days,” got to know one anothers' families, and worked on action plans to improve access among younger children to recreational basketball.
- “One of the important things I learned on my trip was how to communicate with others from another country and how much we have in common. I also learned how to have more
responsibility for myself.”
- “I am so proud to have been a part of this journey. This experience will always remain in my memory, and all the new faces and friends I have encountered will be in my heart.”
- “So thank you for giving us insight in French culture, language, and their customs. And also for being the ‘mom' of the trip.”
- “France was a perfect place to go and grow as coaches, students, and teenagers. The views of France are just inexplicable. I have a lot of great memories being in France,
like hiking in the Calanques to playing basketball at CREPS [against] girls and losing.”
- “During the trip, I learned a lot. The most important thing that I learned was Mostafa's past. It was hard for me to hear it but I felt like I was part of his family because he
shared something serious with me.”
- “That whole experience was something I will never forget. And it just opened my eyes for so much more and travel around the world. No matter where I go, I can never forget the
first time I travelled and who I went with.”
ITD had two organizational partners for this project: The Marseille Sports Bureau in France, and Project Coach at Smith College in Massachusetts. The project was funded by SportsUnited, a division of the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs, of the U.S. Department of State, and was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Paris and the U.S. Consulate in Marseille.
The France Sports Initiative was a hugely successful program, due to the excellent work of ITD's partners and the high quality of participation by the French and US youth basketball players. Almost all the youth participants convinced program organizers and evaluators that the experience affected them deeply and would play a role in shaping future decisions and opportunities. Their coaching and leadership skills and confidence increased, and they absorbed a great deal about one another's cultures, societies, and to some extent, languages.