DUSHANBE, October 1, 2011, Asia-Plus -- Young leaders from across Tajikistan gathered at camps, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s SportsUnited Office and supported by the U.S. Embassy, to learn from Tajik coaches who recently returned from a training program in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, this spring, SportsUnited, together with the U.S. Embassy and implementing partner American Councils, sent eight Tajik youth sports coaches to the U.S. for workshops, site visits, seminars, and other coaching and leadership activities.  The coaches were introduced to training programs incorporating sports and academics to enhance youth participants’ overall well-being and personal development.  They also learned effective approaches for using sports to help young people address personal and social issues.

Upon return, Tajik participants shared their experiences with a group of 30 coaches and youth leaders at a ten-day seminar in Khujand.  Following the seminar, they conducted a series of day camps for young leaders in four regions of Tajikistan, which focused on encouraging youth from underserved groups to participate in sports.  The camps brought together 180 12-14 year old participants from the Districts of Republican Subordination, as well as from Sughd, Khatlon, and Gorno and Badakhshan Autonomous Province.  Youth were encouraged to become leaders through training in sports, leadership, conflict resolution, and life skills.

The Tajik coaches and youth leaders are now starting a youth basketball league that will allow underserved youth, particularly girls, to continue to develop leadership and life skills through sports. Teams will be centered in regional capitals, and will compete in a tournament in Dushanbe in summer 2012.

Since 1991, The United States Government has worked to strengthen the relationship between the people of the Unites States and the people of Tajikistan. The U.S. Embassy’s Educational and Cultural programs promote cross cultural understanding through music, art, sports, education and cultural exchange. Each year, more than 170 Tajik citizens go to the U.S. on U.S. Government funded programs such as FLEX, JFDP, MUSKIE, TEA, UGRAD, Community Connections, IVLP, Fulbright, and sports exchanges.

SportsUnited is the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ premier sports exchange program at the U.S. Department of State. Athletes and coaches in various sports are chosen to conduct clinics, visit schools, and speak to youth overseas. The American athletes and coaches conduct drills and team building activities, as well as engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices and respect for diversity.

American Councils for International Education, an international not-for-profit organization founded in 1974, believes in the fundamental role of education in advancing positive change for individuals, institutions, and societies.