Senegalese sports leaders visit University of Arkansas to learn about teaching youth sports

A group of 17 sports leaders from the West African nation of Senegal will visit the University of Arkansas for two weeks to learn an innovative method for teaching sports that integrates physical and mental health education.

The two-week workshop will run from April 15-28, and was developed by College of Education and Health Professions students in a class that combines the disciplines of recreation management, public health, and counselor education. The students have also been learning specifically about Senegal, in order to prepare the workshop.

The U of A U students will travel to Senegal in December to see how the methods taught in the workshop are being implemented.

The course is taught by Merry Moiseichik, professor of recreation and sport management; Jean Henry, associate professor of community health promotion; and David Christian, assistant professor of counselor education.

The program is funded by the U.S. State Department’s International Sports Programming Initiative. The ISPI initiative uses sports to help underserved youth around the world develop important leadership skills, achieve academic success, promote tolerance and respect for diversity, and positively contribute to their home and host communities. Sports diplomacy programs are an important tool for advancing U.S. foreign policy goals through interaction with hard-to-reach groups such as at-risk youth, women, minorities, people with disabilities, and non-English speakers.

Christian said the U of A students developed all aspects of the workshop, from learning activities to providing for the recreational, spiritual, food and housing needs of youth sports leaders. They have also planned a wide range of activities to introduce the Senegalese to various aspects of Arkansas and U.S. culture, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Hobbs State Park, The Jones Center for Families, Fayetteville’s Springfest, a campus tour and attendance at a Razorbacks’ baseball game. Site visits to educational and local youth sport programs will allow the visiting coaches and sports administrators to observe how youth sport leaders in the U.S. deliver their programs, he said.

Henry said sport around the world is special, in that it provides an opportunity to teach leadership, responsibility, teamwork, healthy living, and self-discipline. “At the same time, youth can be encouraged to stay in school and avoid substance abuse and violence,” she said. “Organized sport activities can promote tolerance and understanding in youth.”

Moiseichik noted that the university course not only teaches students about Senegal, health, and sports, it also offers them hands-on experience in program design, planning, and implementation to the people who will use it.

“The responsibility of teaching demands a deeper level of understanding which, in turn, leads to a richer learning experience,” she said.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2.7 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

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