Academy for Foreign Coaches in Mainz offers training courses for track and field coaches from developing countries

Sports promotion as part of cultural foreign policy


It is halftime for the 35th degree course at the Academy for Foreign Coaches at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). Twelve scholarship students from Africa, Asia, and South America have been living in the capital city of Rhineland-Palatinate since June 2012, taking part in a one-year course at Mainz University that will train them into expert track and field coaches. The candidates have already taken a four-month course in German at the Foreign Language Center at JGU. "The German Federal Foreign Office attaches great importance to the fact that the technical instruction takes place in German and that the scholarship holders are given as much contact as possible with the German people – all that with the aim of promoting long-lasting connections to Germany," explains Dr. Werner Steinmann, director of the Academy for Foreign Coaches at the Institute of Sports Science at Mainz University.

More than 400 coaches have already completed the course at the Institute of Sports Science since its foundation in 1978. Previous participants from more than 80 different countries have returned to their native lands to become national coaches and head coaches, university and sports academy instructors, functionaries in national organizations, and decision makers in government ministries. "They are disseminators, who transmit their expert knowledge and impressions of Germany to the world," says Steinmann, a former national coach for Germany's track and field association. The Academy for Foreign Coaches in Mainz is sponsored by the Federal Foreign Office as part of Germany's cultural and educational policies, with the goal of contributing to the promotion of sports in developing countries. The German Athletics Association is another partner institution.

Once they have completed the initial crash course in German, the scholarship holders start with the theoretical and practical aspects of track and field, including disciplines such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing as well as combined events, which qualifies them as coaches for high-performance sports. But this is only one of the educational objectives. The Mainz sports lecturers also illustrate how track and field act as an agent of popular sports. Parts of the coursework are tailored to meet the needs and conditions of children, young people, and schools. Knowledge of how to organize competitions, the functioning of associations, and the promotion of cooperation between schools, sports clubs, and sports associations are also covered in the curriculum, as are exercise and movement science, sports medicine and sports psychology, sports organization, and competition studies.

Some participants work in their free time as trainers at the Mainz University Sport Club or train there themselves; others take sports courses in the JGU’s general university sports program. The scholarship holders in this 35th class have been invited by a partner advanced secondary school to hold sports classes next spring and to give brief presentations to advanced courses in geography about developing countries.

The graduation ceremony is scheduled for July 2013. And the new coaches will then be returning home with more than just a degree in hand. "They take home their positive experiences with Germany and German people," says Werner Steinmann, reporting on his long years of experience as the director of the Academy for Foreign Coaches. "Our school is a very important part of Germany's foreign cultural and educational policy. The German Federal Foreign Office has repeatedly referred to the Academy for Foreign Coaches in Mainz as a 'jewel of development aid' – which is really something unique."