Unity Through Sport

Unity Through Sport

By Katie Wood ’10

The following story originally appeared in the Winter 2009-10 issue of the Brown Bear Magazine.

After Katie Gannett ’11 graduated from the Groton School in Groton, Mass., she deferred on attending college right away, opting instead to travel in Central America and—upon her return to the U.S.—work for Results, a non-profit organization whose mission is to end poverty by empowering individuals to exercise their power for change.

“My year off was an amazing experience,” Gannett said. “At the time, I didn’t realize how much it would influence my life.”
One year after graduating from high school, she entered the Van Wickle Gates in the fall of 2007. A double concentrator in Development Studies and English, Gannett spent the summer of 2008 in Tanzania working for the Global Alliance for Africa which seeks to improve the living conditions of the poor while implementing economic strengthening programs.

Gannett’s experiences led her to apply for and receive a prestigious Royce Fellowship for Sport and Society last spring. She began her fellowship at Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sports in Society with Eli Wolff ’02, the center’s manager of research and advocacy. Her biggest task during the six-week internship was to help organize the Power of Sport Summit, where scholars, practitioners and advocates worked together to discuss the issues surrounding the connection between sport and social justice.

Gannett then spent three weeks in Cyprus, where she helped the Doves Olympic Movement organize a sports camp. The island nation is split in half between Greek and Turkish cultures which has resulted in ethnic conflict throughout many generations. The camp sought to bring young people from the two groups together through sport in order to reconcile their social differences.
“It was amazing to see how well the kids became friends with one another,” Gannett said. “From the second they left, they were motivated to be an integral part in the peace process in Cyprus. They wanted to make a difference.”

Gannett wrapped up her fellowship at a conference in Switzerland where members of the UN, heads of European soccer clubs and other leaders spoke about the peace movement.

“I feel strongly about using sports to address social issues,” she said. “Sport is such a great way to bring people together and empower them to do the impossible.”

Gannett is currently in the process of writing a proposal for a research opportunity during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the first time FIFA is integrating the social dimension of soccer into the world-renowned tournament.

“(Gannett’s experience) has allowed her to think about the future, opening up her eyes to other things that she can do,” said Head Women’s Soccer Coach Phil Pincince. “As a coach, you’re excited to see what players are going to do with their lives. She has a big heart and a real sense of caring about people. I can’t wait to see where it’s going to take her.”

Katie Wood ’10 is a Sports Foundation student intern, writes for the Brown Daily Herald, and competes on the women’s track and field team.