Exchange Matters / April 27, 2018

Meet the Basketball Embassy, A National Member and Sports Diplomacy Advocate

Interview with Chris Dial by Ivan Escamilla, Program Associate, Member Relations and Grants, Global Ties U.S.

In Botevgrad, Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Basketball Federation sent 65 male and female youth players to come play a game with TBE staff. Credit: The Basketball Embassy.


As March Madness and the NCAA Final Four tournament concludes another season, we introduce one of the newest members to the Global Ties Network: The Basketball Embassy (TBE). As a National Member based in San Antonio, TX, The Basketball Embassy works with Community-Based Members (CBMs) to help implement exchange programs (other than the International Visitor Leadership Program). We spoke with Chris Dial, Founding President, on how the organization began and what it hopes to achieve as an advocate for sports diplomacy exchange programs.

How did you get started with basketball diplomacy and take your love for the sport global?

As a high school coach and teacher, the diplomatic aspect of sports was a significant part of why I chose this profession. Additionally, with the flexibility of a teacher’s schedule in the summer, I could pursue opportunities abroad. At home, I latched onto community efforts that help young people be successful using sport as a vehicle.

When my work overseas became consistent, I decided to focus on creating an organization that would facilitate similar programs full-time, but abroad. With TBE, I was able to give basketball diplomacy a home and a foundation for projects and programs to be developed and executed all over the world.

What’s been the most surprising and/or rewarding part of your work as a sports diplomat? What role do you think sports diplomacy can and could play in our increasingly globalized world?

Being a sports diplomat is an incredible honor. I get to introduce people, young and old, to a game that I fell in love with. I am also fortunate to watch basketball serve people in their own unique context. At The Basketball Embassy, we strive to create, enable, and empower ambassadors through basketball, a role I try to emulate daily.

I have seen firsthand how basketball can act as a cloak to disguise politics, religion, economic, and social differences. I see sports diplomacy having an increasingly profound role in bridging cultural, political, and ideological gaps, especially with the growing popularity of basketball around the world.

In Kartepe, Turkey, TBE directed a project that connected players and coaches from Turkey and Syria, as well as the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul.


Do you have any advice for aspiring citizen diplomats and sports diplomacy enthusiasts getting started in their careers?

Like anything, you have to take some calculated risks when maximizing your opportunities. Most of the travel I did would have never made sense on paper when looking at risk to reward scenarios.

That said, if being a citizen diplomat—especially one that seeks to use sports diplomacy as a primary tool—is something you want to do, recognize the opportunities and take them when they’re available. I realized early on that being an educator in certain parts of the U.S. that I was a dime a dozen, but in a region like the Balkans, for example, my work and presence was more significant.

What’s next for The Basketball Embassy and your work as a sports diplomat?

We have a busy and exciting year ahead of us. We are currently hosting a group of coaches from Mexico, and will have more visitor groups in San Antonio this year. Additionally, I will be traveling with colleagues in the summer to facilitate programs and projects in multiple countries.

With the support of the U.S. Department of State and other organizations, we hope to reach and impact people spanning hundreds of communities. While opportunities remain plentiful abroad, we are also expanding our services and scope in the U.S. Working with community groups, homeless shelters, public servants and youth organizations has provided us with opportunities to affect change in our community.