Iraq to America: UT Coach Pat Summitt, Sport 4 Peace Host Iraqi Girls

An Iraqi girls’ basketball team made up of 10 players and three coaches will be making a stop at the University of Tennessee and the Lady Vols basketball camp as part of a program that helps promote peace through sports.

Sponsored by Sport 4 Peace/Global Sports Partners and SportsUnited, the players arrived in Washington, D.C., on June 3 and spent several days in the nation’s capital.

The team visited a local high school, assisted with a youth soccer program for mentally and physically disabled children, toured the Smithsonian and attended a WNBA Washington Mystics vs. Atlanta Dream game.

The team is in Knoxville to participate in Pat Summitt’s basketball camps, June 10-17. While in Knoxville, the girls will have an opportunity to tour the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, hike in the Smoky Mountains and visit local homes for dinner and entertainment.

Sport 4 Peace, co-founded in 1994 by Steve DeVoss and UT doctoral student Sarah Hillyer, is the leading women’s sport development partner for Global Sports Partners. In 2005, UT doctoral student Ashleigh Huffman joined the Sport 4 Peace staff as assistant researcher and assistant camp director. Following the “Iraq to America” project, Sport 4 Peace will return to Iraq in July 2009 to hold the second annual basketball camp for girls, women and coaches.

The trip to the U.S. was also made possible by SportsUnited, the international sports programming initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Hillyer and Huffman, who study sports sociology, have been around the world conducting camps and researching the impact of sport, specifically in conflict areas. The organization is committed to providing new, healthy, fun and safe sporting opportunities for girls and women throughout the Middle East, North Africa and East and Central Asia.

The idea to host the girls was born after Sport 4 Peace conducted an Olympic basketball training camp for girls and women in Sulaimaniya, Iraq, at the Global Sports Partners Girls Basketball Academy last July. It was the first girls’ and women’s basketball training camp in nearly 35 years. Upon returning to Knoxville, Sport 4 Peace drafted a proposal to bring a team of aspiring Iraqi girls basketball players to the campus of the University of Tennessee to attend Pat Summitt’s Basketball Camp. Sport 4 Peace traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with SportsUnited which embraced the proposed project and agreed to partner with Sport 4 Peace.

This year’s trip includes 10 girls ages 14-16 from across Iraq and three coaches. The players were selected to represent different regions, religions and ethnicities. The girls chosen also demonstrated strong leadership qualities, positive attitudes and a desire to promote peace through the medium of sport. Some of the girls attended the camp in Iraq last year.

Read more and view photos of the team’s visit at http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/060809aab.html.

For more information about Sport 4 Peace, visit http://www.sport4peace.org/.

For more information about last year’s camp in Iraq, visit http://www.utk.edu/features/sport4peace2/.

To watch Pat Summitt’s video message to the Iraq 2008 camp, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeTgmiZQ9w0.

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