NORMAN — This summer, Steve DeVoss and members of his international coaching network will spend five weeks in Baghdad running youth and adaptive sports camps.
The camps, funded through a U.S. State Department grant, aim to foster relations between the U.S. and Iran, said Wyatt Worden, director of development for Norman-based Global Sports Partners. The Baghdad initiative, which includes three instructional basketball camps for boys, girls and coaches, and an adaptive sports program for youth with disabilities, is one of hundreds DeVoss and his company have held during the past 18 years. "This summer’s program in Baghdad is a pretty good snapshot of who we are and what we do. ... We’re working with youth, and we’re doing basketball,” DeVoss said during a phone interview from the company’s international office in Cyprus. DeVoss, a former Murray State baseball player and Norman youth sports coach, learned early on that sports bring people together. In 1992, he was looking for a way to share his athletic knowledge and engage athletes in cross-cultural experiences. He started Global Sports Partners, a nonprofit that specializes in sports exchange and development programs for youth and adults. Over time, the company has held programs in more than 67 countries, many of which experience conflict and catastrophe regularly. This summer’s camps will be taught by coaches and athletes from various countries who are experts in basketball and adaptive sports. The company builds and maintains relationships with key sports officials in more than 25 countries, DeVoss said. "I don’t have experts on staff and don’t have financial means to hire people and contract whenever I need,” DeVoss said. "But we work in partnerships.” Worden works in the Norman office setting up camps, applying for funding and recruiting coaches and professionals to work at the camps. "We want to appropriately match the resources with the request,” Worden said.