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Sport: The Language Everyone Can Speak

Friday, December 13, 2019
jacob tingle in africa and coaching a kid

Tingle serves as a U.S. delegate for a trip to Africa focused on sport diplomacy

by Abby DeNike '20

Jacob Tingle ’95, director of Experiential Learning and sport management professor, recently returned from Tunisia in northern Africa with a fresh perspective on the power of sport and a deep appreciation for the country’s culture and hospitality. 

Tingle, student Jillian Cready ’20, and seven other American professors, coaches, and sport entrepreneurs served as the returning delegation for a U.S. Department of State-sponsored cultural exchange with Tunisia. The exchange, which was the effort of World Learning, The Basketball Embassy, and the Sports Diplomacy division of the State Department, centered on developing and expanding “sport for all” programs in both countries.  The American delegates spent ten days this November in the capital, Tunis, and various cities around the country. Tingle described receiving an invitation to be a member of the delegation as a “huge honor.”

jillian cready on a panel

The delegation interacted with politicians and fellow Tunisian coaches and entrepreneurs to discuss athletic practices, explore improvements for current youth sports programs, and identify opportunities for new sports programs, all with the aim of promoting health, community, and economic development in Tunisia.

Tingle, who graduated from Trinity with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Religion, explained that since the ousting of their dictator in early 2011, Tunisia has seen stability and positive growth. In particular, its Ministry of Youth and Sport is working to support sport programs, especially cost-effective basketball programs, by using “the power of its purse to provide facilities and open doors for entrepreneurs.” 

“My perception, based on the conversations we have had with people all over the country, was that people are focused on this opportunity to start over and celebrate their Tunisian identity. Their idea is to utilize sport as a positive force in society,” Tingle says.

He elaborates on using sport as a positive force: “When you get young kids engaged in sports, they will learn how to be part of a community, work with people that are different than them, improve their long-term health, and have an enhanced sense of self that allows them to further their development in all areas of life.”

The delegation had a full schedule in Tunisia. They attended a cabinet-level meeting with the chief of staff for the Ministry of Youth and Sport, served on a panel at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis on sport education in America and opportunities for sport entrepreneurship, appeared as a guest on an internet-based radio station, and visited numerous basketball facilities and programs. 

Each day included running a basketball practice and giving Tunisian coaches some new tips and tricks to actively engage youth in the practice. One Tunisian coach created a “baby basketball program” where she has her coaches utilize story as a means to explain basketball drills. For example, in one drill, coaches read the kids a fairytale and, instead of dribbling a basketball in an arbitrary pattern, now they are chasing a dragon. By “accessing the creative imagination of a young child, the children are engaged in basketball without them fully realizing it,” Tingle explains. “To me, it is brilliant.”

Collage of different places Tingle visited in Africa

 An inspiring aspect of the trip was how sport was being used for inclusion—“a real focus of all basketball programs we saw was social integration,” Tingle explains. One program focused on getting kids from at-risk populations to interact with kids that are in a more stable home environment. Another program was geared towards kids on the autism spectrum. The biggest takeaway was that “sport is a language that everyone can speak,” Tingle says. 

Tingle has always had a love of sports and grew up playing basketball. He played for Trinity in his first year and a half before he began officiating intramural games. He kick-started his career in sports when he worked in the intramural office for two years as a student. After graduating from Trinity in 1995, he secured an assistantship at the University of Maryland, where he worked for five years in the department of Campus Recreation. He  came back to Trinity when Jim Potter, former director of intramurals, was planning to retire and encouraged Tingle to apply for his position.

“It was always my dream to come back to Trinity,” Tingle says. “It is a really great place to be. I had some really important, meaningful interactions with professors as a student. They helped me see the world in a different way.” 

In his first nine years at Trinity, Tingle worked in the Athletics department running the athletic facilities, intramural program, outdoor recreation, and the club sports program. During his time in Athletics, he was the interim department chair of physical education and saw an opportunity to develop new curriculum. After identifying the needs of the student body, he created the sport management minor, which is now a mainstay on campus. “This will be our tenth graduating class, which is super exciting,” Tingle says.

In the program’s  infancy, Tingle worked with industry professionals, fellow faculty, and sport management scholars to create a curriculum that was interdisciplinary in nature and met accreditation guidelines. The courses, including his own Sport in England, Hip Hop Innovation of Sport, and Sport Philanthropy classes, emphasize the importance of teamwork in the sports industry. Tingle enjoys watching students from all different majors and athletic backgrounds collaborate in his courses—“It is just so cool to see what this group of diverse students come up with,” he says. In addition to coursework, students minoring in sport management complete 50 hours of volunteerism and reflection. “I want the students to know sports is not just about selling a partnership or filling an arena with fans, but also about what you give back to the community you are a part of,” Tingle explains.

tingle reflects on coast of tunisia

Now, Tingle is in his 20th academic year at Trinity, “which has just been crazy to think about.” As if he wasn’t involved in enough on campus, he is also the director of Experiential Learning and co-director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Career Success.  He’s helping all Trinity students, not just sport management minors, find their niche and try new things, to which he says: “The experience matters, but really most of the learning takes place during the reflection.” Whether the experience is study abroad, an internship, a cultural exchange to Tunisia, or volunteering, “it only becomes truly meaningful through critical reflection.”  

Abigail DeNike ’20 is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and a minor in creative writing. She is a writing intern for the Strategic Communications and Marketing department.