Sports Envoy Program 2022

We were delighted to have Dr Jen Welter and Phaidra Knight in New Zealand and Samoa for a Sports Envoy Program in 2022.

Who are Dr Jen Welter and Phaidra Knight?

Dr Jen Welter is the first female to coach in the NFL. Widely known as a trailblazer and pioneer in professional football. She is a powerful role model and an inspiring reminder that barriers are meant to be broken. Jen has two gold medals as a member of Team USA and holds a PHD in Psychology, a Masters in Sport Psychology, and a Bachelors degree from Boston College.

Dr Jen Welter - the first female to coach in the NFL
Dr Jen Welter – the first female to coach in the NFL.


Phaidra Knight is a rugby hall of famer, and current mixed martial arts (MMA) athlete. She is also a sports media talent, motivational speaker, lawyer, and entrepreneur. The Founder of PeaK, a program for incarcerated, special needs, and exploited young people which focuses on leadership and learning and promotes health and wellbeing through yoga and rugby. Phaidra also serves as one of the Board of Trustees for the Women’s Sports Foundation and USA Rugby Board of Directors.

Phaidra Knight - a rugby hall of famer, and current mixed martial arts (MMA) athlete
Phaidra Knight – a rugby hall of famer, and current mixed martial arts (MMA) athlete

What is a Sports Envoy Program?

The Sports Envoy Program is a State Department run Exchange Program.  Sports Envoys are athletes and coaches who travel overseas to lead programs that were developed by U.S. embassies and consulates. These American coaches and athletes hold sports clinics for young people and their coaches, participate in community outreach activities, and engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of leadership and respect for diversity. Sports Diplomacy manages the Sports Envoy programs, working in cooperation with the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. sports federations, and professional leagues.

This program provided opportunities to contribute to, manage, and create successful sports and recreational workshops, as well as drive policy changes and conduct advocacy work to advance gender equity in sports and recreation. 

A two country, three city (Auckland, Wellington, and Apia) program focused on empowering women and girls through a series of speaking engagements, workshops, school outreach, networking events, and sports engagements; working alongside partners focused women and girls. 

Women face gender inequities in health, employment, education, and gender-based violence throughout the Pacific, and COVID-19 has exacerbated these issues-widening the gender pay gap, increasing unemployment, and gender-based violence; though research shows sports and recreation are a powerful, positive tool for change.

Media and social media coverage:


Photo album on FlickR.


  • TV3 filmed the women in sport leadership workshop at the TATTE Convention Centre, Apia on September 26, followed by an interview of Dr. Jen Welter by SBC TV1.
  • On September 27, TV1 filmed the sports exhibition at the Tuanaimato Sports Complex, Apia, along with interviewing students and teachers about their take on the exhibition.
  • While in Samoa, both envoys did a remote interview with Radio New Zealand (Pacific) on September 27 which focused on the empowering qualities of sport. RNZ Pacific is listened to widely around the region. As well as being carried in New Zealand, this interview was available in multiple Pacific Island countries and posted on RNZ’s website. Listen here: U.S. Sports program addresses inequities in the Pacific | RNZ.