Trinity delegates and North Macedonian coaches pose for a photo with President Beasley and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg
Trinity Hosts Sports Diplomacy Exchange With North Macedonia
Faculty, staff, students, and alumni make cross-cultural connections through sports

From July 15-25, Trinity University's Sport Management program, Department of Education, and Center for International Engagement hosted 12 North Macedonian volleyball coaches as part of a collaborative sports diplomacy exchange through the U.S. State Department’s Leadership through Sports Program. 

"This collaboration emphasizes the role of sports in developing leadership skills that these coaches can apply to their work in their home countries," says Jacob Tingle '95, Ed.D., chair of the sport management minor program and co-leader of the Trinity delegation. "Our goal was to foster greater respect for diversity and an enhanced understanding of our countries' respective cultures and approaches to sports education." 

The Leadership through Sports Program is implemented by PH International with funding support from the U.S. Department of State/Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs/Sports Diplomacy Division in partnership with Trinity. The July exchange at Trinity marks the first of two 10-day exchanges of the program, with the second set for March 2024, which will send 12 American delegates to North Macedonia. 

For the July exchange, the North Macedonian coaches, a diverse group of six women and six men with extensive experience coaching recreational and semi-pro girls' volleyball clubs, spent their time on Trinity's campus and traveling throughout San Antonio with the Trinity delegation.

"This program's success is due in large part to alumna Emily Ellis '22 and senior Marisa Amarino '24, who contributed leadership and diplomacy to this program as key members of our team," says Angela Breidenstein '91, M'92, Ed.D., professor and chair of the education department and co-leader of the delegation with Tingle. "Their knowledge of volleyball, leadership in developing and enacting the program's curriculum, roll-up-your-sleeves enthusiasm for all of the technical aspects of hosting a delegation, and most of all, true understanding of personal connection and authentic care as key elements of diplomacy and hospitality have been tremendous."

 During their 10-day visit, the North Macedonian coaches and Trinity delegation attended seminars and workshops on topics that include U.S. education (both K-12 and university); leadership; sports and nutrition; and diversity, inclusion, and well-being. In addition to spending time with Trinity faculty, staff, and President Vanessa B. Beasley, Ph.D., the group met with representatives from the San Antonio Spurs, the San Antonio Football Club, San Antonio Sports, the University of the Incarnate Word, Morgan's Wonderland, STRAPS, LEE High School and the International School of the Americas, the San Antonio Council of International Visitors, the City of San Antonio Office of Global Engagement, and even with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg ’99. 

During their stay, the North Macedonian coaches participated in a volleyball clinic with the University of the Incarnate Word coaching staff and met with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg ’99 at the Holt Center.

"Probably the most important lesson I've learned during the last 10 days is to be grateful and appreciative for what the Trinity campus and San Antonio community has," Tingle says. "Through visiting schools and cultural landmarks I had never visited, I've come to see that San Antonio is a place filled with warm, welcoming people who are truly keen to share their knowledge and, as importantly, keen to learn from others. I've learned that so many people in my city want to co-create, want to collaborate in ways that can make a difference for everyone, locally and globally." 

Two of the many excursions the coaches took throughout San Antonio involved a boat ride on the River Walk and a tour of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

This exchange comes off the heels of Tingle, Breidenstein, and Ellis' Spring 2023 trip to Uzbekistan for a basketball sports diplomacy trip through the Youth Leadership through Sports Program, leading sessions for a delegation of high school girls from Serbia and Croatia in November 2022, the exchange of Uzbek high school basketball players to Trinity in October 2022, and Tingle's 2019 sports diplomacy trip to Tunisia.

"The impact [these trips] have on my teaching has been massive. The one-on-one conversations with coaches, administrators, and young athletes about their athletic experiences, about their fight for democracy, and about their language, culture, and heritage helped reframe my understanding of freedom, equality, and inclusion," Tingle says. "As a result, I've worked hard to bring in readings and voices from a non-U.S. and a non-Western perspective in my classes and spend much more time teaching about relationship development and diplomacy as important leadership elements."

Jacob Tingle ’95, Ed.D., gave a presentation on leadership to the North Macedonian coaches.

Breidenstein values these exchange programs for how they allow those involved to learn about different cultures and themselves through sports. "These experiences are important for Trinity because they provide meaningful learning experiences for students, faculty, and staff to learn with and from the delegates as well as our San Antonio community partners," Breidenstein says. "It is an important opportunity to see how we do things through new eyes and think about why we do things and how—being asked questions about that spurs inquiry and reflection."

And though Tingle, Breidenstein, Ellis, and Amarino were the star players of this summer's delegation, they are the first to admit that this exchange program was a team effort.

"It has been wonderful to see our Trinity faculty and staff share their passion, expertise, and zest for growth—they are amazing collaborators and colleagues both in front of the delegation and behind the scenes," Breidenstein says. 

Head Volleyball Coach Julie Jenkins gave a coaching whiteboard talk to the North Macedonian coaches.

From coaching whiteboard talks with Head Volleyball Coach Julie Jenkins, Assistant Volleyball Coach Maggi Linker, and Trinity volleyball players, to a storytelling session with business professor Mario V. Gonzalez, Ph.D., to dialogue about important educational concepts like community cultural wealth and inclusion with faculty in the Department of Education, to the unseen but felt efforts of Residential Life, Conferences and Special Programs, Athletics, and the new Chartwells team—Tigers all across campus huddled together to make this exchange a success.

The North Macedonian coaches led an educational and volleyball skills session, during which Upward Bound students shared their insights about San Antonio and the U.S. education system.

"Given the power of sport to bring communities together, to collapse barriers, or to reframe personal philosophies, these diplomatic exchanges can help internationalize Trinity's campus in important ways," Tingle says. "Through hosting visitors, we are forced to see our campus and our city through different lenses, almost as if we are first-time visitors. And that allows us to rethink, reimagine, and reframe the things that are all around us every day."

Watch Amarino's Tiger Takeover, in which she took the Trinity community through Day 5 of the North Macedonian exchange filled with events on campus and throughout San Antonio. 

The above photo was taken at the Holt Center when the North Macedonian coaches and Trinity delegates met with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg ’99 and Trinity President Vanessa B. Beasley, Ph.D.

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