Ten elite South Korean athletes, including a three-time Paralympic gold medalist, will spend the next few months at UT and will experience many firsts—their first American football game, first academic lecture in the United States, and first time traveling in the States.
The athletes will improve their English language skills while learning about sports marketing, coaching techniques, and sports sciences as part of the Next Generation Sports Talent, or NEST, program.
“This program is central to the mission of our college and also the university,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. “It’s an opportunity for our faculty, students, and staff to work with these incredible young women and men to learn about the Korean culture and to help them learn about American culture.”
Byung Young Kim, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist in table tennis, is one of ten international students participating in the NEST program this fall. He won gold medals in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, 2004 Athens Paralympic Games and 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. He also took home a silver medal when he competed in Athens.
The program remains under the auspices of UT for the sixth year in a row. The NEST recently renewed its agreement with UT for another five years.
NEST is designed to equip participants with tools necessary for an athletic-related career. It is sponsored by the South Korean government in partnership with the UT College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences; the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); the English Language Institute; and national and international sports governing bodies.
“Participants take English classes four hours a day,” said Benjamin Nam, a UT graduate assistant and NEST liaison. “They also attend weekly sports studies seminars featuring most of the faculty members in the UT Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies.”
“They have a strong desire to learn internationally and see the English language as a way to communicate with fans, referees, coaches, and communities globally,” Nam said.
UT officials expanded the program from four to six months so participants have more time to assimilate to American culture, travel, and build rapport with more diverse communities. The program wraps up in March.
Participants are athletes from a variety of sports, including soccer, basketball, softball, women’s baseball, table tennis, and race walking.
Three male elite soccer players who competed in South Korean, Brazilian, German, and Singaporean leagues are also studying sport through NEST at UT. Another participant was a member of South Korea’s professional women’s baseball team and competed in the 2010 Women’s Baseball World Cup in Venezuela.
“This group is very different,” said Nam. “They have a variety of professional experiences and were selected based on their impressive academic and athletic backgrounds.”
Kristin Knight (865-974-2225, email@example.com)
Benjamin Nam (248-574-1919, firstname.lastname@example.org)