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SportsUnited: Basktetball Ambassadors of Today & Tomorrow

Group USA

Basketball Ambassadors of Today & Tomorrow is a SportsUnited initiative, administered by the Russian American Foundation, in collaboration with School 2.0, – a unique social, sports and education project established under the patronage of the best known Russian basketball player of our age – Andrei Kirilenko, and with the support of Russia’s national Student Basketball Association.

Kirilenko - transparent.png

As part of this bilateral exchange, RAF has sent to Russia a group of American non-elite high-school basketball players (male and female) and high-school basketball coaches (male and female) for a 10 day trip to Moscow to explore Russian culture and engage in dialogue with locals through basketball on a full scholarship funded by SportsUnited.

Andrei Kirilenko is a Russian-American former professional basketball player and the commissioner of the Russian Basketball Federation. 

By exploring the world, we learn many things. Experiencing new countries and cultures enriches our mindsets and broadens our horizons. 

People with common passions and interests, regardless from which country or culture they come from, can always find common ground and ways to understand each other.  But perhaps most importantly, these commonalities help us to realize that we are not as different from one another as it may appear.

Basketball is a perfect example of how a game can bring people, who speak completely different languages, closer together through a common passion. Basketball has no limits: it unites, inspires, and is loved by millions of people from all corners of the globe.“                                                         

                                                                                                                                                               - Andrei Kirilenko.


Learning about another culture is so important to your growth as a person. You realize that people all over the world have a lot more similarities than we think. Learning something as small as the food that another culture enjoys is a step in the right direction.  We all want a certain level of respect and there is no better way to show that respect and gain the respect of another person than by learning a little more about another’s culture. 

Basketball is such a unique and special game. It is a game that has given me friends from the richest and poorest neighborhoods in America all the way to the richest and poorest neighborhoods in Russia. It’s a game that gives people from all cultures, nationalities etc. a passion and bond that can tie them together for a lifetime."

                                                                                                                                                          - J.R. Holden

For comprehensive details about the SportsUnited initiative, please visit  ECA's official website .

J.R. Holden is a retired American Russian professional basketball player, currently – an NBA scout for the Detroit Pistons.

For questions please contact:

SportsUnited Coordinator - Victoria Gumennaya

212 687 6118 x 203


This is a Program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by the Russian American Foundation.
Program implementation subject to available funding of the SportsUnited Division of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs under the authority of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961.

Program details are subject to change.


Program Details

Through the sponsorship of SportsUnited, a full scholarship opportunity was provided for a group of American high-school students (male and female) and American high-school coaches (male and female).

April 22  – May 1, 2016

Program to Moscow, Russia

The Program encompassed pre-departure activities and an overseas trip to Russia.  The pre-departure activities was comprised of 3 one-day weekend events organized at New York City/Long Island locations and was also supplemented by virtual components.  The goal of the pre-departure activities was to familiarize the participants with each other, as well as to introduce them to Program’s expectations and assist in preparation for travel to Russia.


In Russia, the Program (which took place during NYS’ April public school break) incorporated numerous basketball, cultural, and peer-to-peer experiences (sightseeing, friendly basketball scrimmages and practices, interactive workshops, attendance of sporting events, outings to local restaurants), aimed to use a common bond of the basketball to expand participants’ understanding of Russia and its people. An additional focus was made on professional activities (visits to companies and organizations, meetings with local leaders, etc.), offered to introduce participants to diverse career and educational options available beyond this Program.  Also, a very unique opportunity of a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and meeting with various representatives was planned. 

SportsUnited Scholarship included:
  • Pre-departure, arrival, and re-entry orientations in NYC

  • Basketball activities and cultural programming during the US based orientations and the overseas component in Russia

  • Economy air ticket NYC-Moscow-NYC and baggage fee for one piece of luggage (if not included in ticket fee)

  • Local travel arrangements in Russia for all group Program activities

  • Dorm/moderate hotel type housing and Host family accommodations in Russia

  • Three meals each day

  • Russian Visa processing

  • Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) health benefits as described at 


  • Local emergency cell phone in Russia

  • Program basketball uniform

  • Official Scholarship Award Certificate upon successful completion.

SportsUnited Scholarship didn't included:
  • Costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport and photos for the visa

  • Required medical examinations and immunizations

  • Spending money for personal expenses

  • Excess baggage fees

  • All other expenses not listed in section “SportsUnited Scholarship includes.”

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For the overseas component, participants traveled to Russia for 10 days/10 nights.  Participants resided as a group in a dorm/moderate hotel accommodations (youth participants 2-4 to a room/coaches and staff 1-2 to a room).   The students also spent a weekend living with local Russian host families.  Coaches didn't a host family component.

While the Program incorporated numerous organized activities which took place in the metropolises, participants were also exposed to suburbia.  No travel beyond the Program’s official locations was allowed.

Supervision & Program Preparation

Moscow is one of the most dynamic and fascinating cities in the world.  Similar to New York, regular awareness, common sense, and caution are expected from all participants at all times.

While RAF takes great care to ensure the safety and well-being of participants during the Program, our ability to do so depends, in part, on serious preparation of participants and their families for the experience. All participants in the Program are expected to be mature and responsible in their decision making process, to be able to function independently, to understand the inherent risks involved in overseas travel, and to comply with all rules, laws, and regulations of the Program and the overseas host country and hosts. The Program is structured so that, in addition to organized and chaperoned activities, participants are offered limited opportunities to explore the cities of Moscow and Suzdal /Vladimir on their own. Attendance at all Program activities and curfew is mandatory.

An American bilingual group leader will accompany the group on the overseas trip, will reside with the group in the dormitory/hotel accommodations, and will be available to participants 24/7 for overall guidance and assistance. American coaches will be with the group also, other than during host family stays and some youth specific events.  Group leader/coaches will not be required to accompany participants during their free time and/or during their stays at host families.

Suggested Links

While in many respects Moscow is like the big cities in the U.S., there are country-specific risks all should be aware of. Below are important links that will assist candidates and their families to understand some of the specific risks, advisories, and recommendations relevant to travel to Russia:

Is SportsUnited Right For You?

To learn more if RAF's SportsUnited program is the right opportunity for you:

 - read RAF's SportsUnited Program FAQ Page

-  visit the official SportsUnited website



This Program is a full scholarship opportunity, funded by the SportsUnited Division of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 
No knowledge of Russian is required.

An applicant MUST meet the following general requirements to be considered for the Program:


    • Be a resident of New York State.*

    • Have a demonstrated record of:

      • Academic excellence and achievement.

      • Minimum of 3 years basketball team playing experience (non-elite level).

      • Be 15-17 years of age at the start of the Program on April 22nd, 2016 and enrolled, in good standing, in a recognized High School (9th-11th grade levels).  


    • Have a demonstrated record of:

      • Professional excellence and achievement.

      • Presently employed in a coaching capacity at a non-elite level.


    • Be a U.S. Citizen and have a valid US passport at the start of the Program**. Participants cannot have dual U.S. – Russian citizenship. If born in Russia, applicant must have the official proof that s/he is no longer considered a citizen of Russia by the Russian government.

    • Applicant must be mature, focused and able to behave responsibly at all times.

    • Applicant must NOT BE an immediate family member of an employee of the U.S. Department of State who works in the SportsUnited Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs or an employee at SportsUnited administering organization whose duties involve this Program.

    • Any applicant who is being considered as a finalist will be required to complete additional documentation including, but not limited to: Participant Terms & Conditions Agreement, Physician’s Report and Medical Review, and others as required.

    • By applying to the Program, the applicant and his/her guardian(s) understand that they will be expected to abide by the relevant laws, rules, and regulations of the Program, the United States, Russian Federation and host country institutions.

    • No knowledge of Russian is required. Professional interpreter will accompany the group for all Program-related activities.


  • PRE-DEPARTURE:        

    • Virtual interactive assignments introducing Participants to Russian culture and language (estimated time 10 hrs over 3 months).

    • In-person full day team-building, familiarization and trip preparation activities(3 full days, scheduled on weekends in a NYC / Long Island venue).

    • Welcome Orientation for participants and families (scheduled on a weekend in a NYC / Long Island venue).

    • Completion of necessary Program forms by stated deadlines.

  • OVERSEAS PROGRAM:                                

    • April 22 (afternoon/evening) – May 1, 2016 (afternoon/evening).


    • Completion of evaluation and program surveys.

    • Enrollment in the ECA on-line alumni community.


* If a candidate from the Tri-state area is able to provide an official letter of support from his/her academic school allowing for absence during the Program period and is able to commit to attending all pre-departure events in NYC, s/he may be considered for the Program.

** Official visa guidelines to Russia require that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your anticipated return to the U.S (i.e. until at least November 1st, 2017).  Note that passport processing time may be lengthy. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for passports early if they do not have one that meets validity requirements. Please keep in mind that passport related costs are not included in the scholarship.




April 22  – May 1, 2016

Program to Moscow, Russia

2016 Application Process
  1. Fill out a short-online Form of Interest as soon as you become interested in the Program.

  2. Complete the actual Program application:​

  • Download the application to your computer

    • Coaches: click here

    • Students: click here

  • Complete the application on your computer in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader

     3. Send a fully completed application as follows:​

 Due ONLINE to​ sportsunited@russianamericanfoundation.org

 December 14, 2015  – 5PM EST                                      

  • Online Application Form completed by the applicant

 Received in Hard Copy: 

 December 14, 2015  – 5PM EST

ATTN: Victoria Gumennaya / SportsUnited
Russian American Foundation
1560 Broadway, Suite 500 New York, NY 10036​

  • Original application completed by applicant

  • Three mandatory essays (for students) or Two mandatory essays (for coaches)

  • Two letters of recommendations

  • Official student transcript (for students)

  • Resume (for coaches)

  • Passport copy

  • Copy of professional/ leadership/ sports awards and recognitions received (for coaches, optional) 

 If selected as a semi-finalist additional information will be required:


  • Terms and Conditions Agreement

  • Physician's Report and Medical Review

  • Background check (for coaches)

4. A Selection Committee will review all complete and timely submissions, and will conduct phone or in-person interviews with semifinalists***. Finalists will  be announced in January 2016. Some of the criteria elements which will be considered are: a) participant’s desire to embrace leadership roles in their local and global communities; b) academic and “off the court” achievements;  c) demonstrated maturity and responsibility in the applicant’s decision making process, ability to function independently, and understanding of  the responsibilities and inherent risks involved in overseas travel.

*** Any semifinalist, who is being considered as finalists will be required to provide and complete additional documentation including, but not limited to: Participant Terms and Conditions Agreement, Physician’s Report and Medical Review, and others as required.



"I was granted an opportunity and I'm glad I took full advantage. Not only have I connected with my peers and coaches, but I also was allowed a chance to connect with Russian culture, history, and its people. I look forward to multiplying from this opportunity and to showing others there are more prospects out there than they think."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - SportsUnited Participant 

"Russia, a foreign country, stood still in the past. The structures of the buildings and the songs sung from a never forgotten culture. Truly an experience of a lifetime. We were welcomed with open arms by many. The people I met there made the experience all the more extraordinary!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - SportsUnited Participant 

"I miss everyone, this was the best experience I can ever get! I greatly enjoyed myself, and the time spent with the others too. If the trip was longer, we would of had so much more fun, but it was amazing! I love it in Moscow."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - SportsUnited Participant 

"People with common passions and interests, regardless of which country or culture they come from, can always find common grounds and ways to understand each other. Basketball has no limits: it unites, it inspires, and it is loved by the millions of people from all corners of the globe."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Andrei Kirilenko,

                                                                                                                                            Commissioner of the Russian Basketball Federation and Founder of School 2.0

"Learning about different cultures is such an important part of life. We all believe in the importance of such exchanges , in order to make a globe a little bit smaller for some special young people and coaches."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Timofey Mozgov,

                                                                                                                                             Professional basketball player, 2016 NBA Champion with Cleveland Cavaliers

"Part of the beauty of sports is that it exposes people to other cultures, people and ideas. I can't say enough how much this kind of experience can make a lasting impression on a young person. [The trip] motivated them, gave them new perspectives, and new appreciation for the world outside their own neighborhood."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Ted Smith,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Executive Director of New Heights


Congratulations to 2016 SportsUnited finalists!

Student Players:

  • Altamirano, Matthew (Rego Park, NY) – Francis Preparatory School / ProHoops , Drill & Play

  • Benbow, Isiah (New York, NY ) – All Hallows High School/ ProHoops , Drill & Play

  • Brantley, Kylah (Mount Vernon, NY) – Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics / ProHoops,  Drill & Play

  • Dolloway, Courtney (Brooklyn, NY) – Bedford Academy High School

  • Edmond, Petiri (Far Rockaway, NY) – Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School / New Heights

  • Haines, Jarett (New Rochelle, NY) – New Rochelle High School / New Heights

  • Kotei, Charlene (Brooklyn, New York) – Bedford Academy High School

  • Martinez, Angel (New City, NY) – Clarkstown High School South / New Heights

  • Oppong, Richard (New York, NY) – Health, Education, and Research Occupations High School / ProHoops, Drill & Play

  • Riddick, Shakina (New York, NY) – High School for Dual Language & Asian Studies / ProHoops, Drill & Play

  • Rodriguez, David (New York, NY) – Eleanor Roosevelt High School

  • Scherer, Sophie (New York, NY) – Eleanor Roosevelt High School

  • Woods, GraceAnne (Glen Cove, NY) – Glen Cove High School / Game 7

  • Wynn, Briana (New York, NY) – Promise Academy II, Charter High School / New Heights


  • Nute, Dominique (Yonkers, NY) – One World Middle School / New Heights

  • Strasser, Mark (River Edge, NJ) – Eleanor Roosevelt High School