TES-D pilot in Hungary: Soft Skills for Soft Diplomacy


University of Physical Education, Hungary

Soft Skills for Soft Diplomacy was a pilot project aimed at exploring specific methods how to enable professional athletes to develop skills that may help them act in various diplomatic roles and relations during their active sporting career and beyond.  

Although there have been academic programs established for sport diplomacy at two universities in Hungary, the majority of professional athletes and graduating students at sport universities are not necessarily aware of their own skills required to work effectively and successfully in the international arena of sports and sports industry. They experience the massive lack of skills and understanding of diplomacy, international relations, intercultural challenges, protocol and language skills required when working for a sport club, federation or institution. 

Raising awareness of one’s own skills, objectives and opportunities was one of the aims, while the other was to explore the specific needs this emerging pool of sport professionals may need on the one hand, and on the other hand elaborate methods and platforms as well as recommendations to eliminate this knowledge gap are the specific goals our project team wishes to tackle.

TES-D has also served as an ample ground for a University Research Grant (TEKA) Dr. Judit Kádár received in August 2022. This is a continuation of the project for minor background research on Sport Diplomacy with team members like Dr. György Suha, diplomat, instructor of the Hungarian language Sport Diplomacy Program, Silvija Mitevska and Marko Begovic, guests of the 6 May forum. University of Physical Education also hopes that further funding will be available to elaborate the Program one-year international joint program and stimulate academic papers and teaching materials for its students. The latter all underline not only the relevance of the TES-D pilot project but also the sustainability of Sport Diplomacy explorations and supports via higher education, at the University specifically.

It is worth underlining the relevance of this project at various levels:
•    This initiative has been a ground breaker in embracing an international effort to study the ways we can foster Sport Diplomacy along with 4 grassroots organizations.
•    On a national scale, it has been experimental in combining various views and approaches from diplomacy, higher education, sport management and sport profession on the skills of a sport diplomat.
•    On an institutional level, the University has boosted the efforts and its network in the study of sport diplomacy, entered a European project successfully, and fostered the development of an English language Sport Diplomacy Program with our international partners.
•    On a team and individual level: University ave joined efforts of the Sport Diplomacy alumni, current students and faculty and created two events (1 on Campus and 1 international venue), an interview and a questionnaire series and a thesis.

Where to now?
The university has already started formulating an international team that has started to communicate on the future English language hybrid Program that can incorporate traditional and grassroots venues in Sport Diplomacy. There is a wish to create a center for excellence in Sport Diplomacy at HUSS, as a Central European home that welcomes contributors from the Western Balkans (especially Northern Macedonia, Montenegro), the Nicola Tesla University of Skopje, and experts from some other countries, including England, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia. The notion of Sport Diplomacy is somewhat represented in Hungary as of the dedicated department of the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affairs as well as the existing Hungarian language Program at the University, but there is a significant demand in Europe for an international Program, more area experts, more learning materials and practice venues, and more attention to grassroots Sport Diplomacy, especially in countries where inclusion is not properly understood and supported.

Recommendations for new Sport Diplomats and their organisations:
One of the primary challenges is the major difference between traditional and grassroot SD, and another one is the diverse background of people doing Sport Diplomacy globally. 

The skills mentioned by the participants as must haves for Sport Diplomacy are: 
-    Leadership
-    Thinking outside the box
-    Social development
-    Understanding the actual subject
-    Broad knowledge, good education
-    Cooperation
-    Connections, professional network n sports and in diplomacy
-    Confidence
-    Open-mindedness
-    Perseverance
-    Negotiation skills
-    Solution-oriented thinking
-    Intelligence

Since the piloting focus was mostly the way higher education can facilitate the development of all those operating in the various areas of Sport Diplomacy, the outcome and findings underlined the need to more specific study of Sport Diplomacy as a skill, its good practices, the various ways of coping with challenges, and facilitating school-based and individual learning on modern platforms and with proper learning materials.

“It was very interesting and congratulation for the event. The mobilization of people was impressive. I realized that Hungary is much more developed in terms of Sport Diplomacy than Romania.” – M. Pompiliu

“This day was truly incredible in terms of organization of the event, venues and the people. This event is the type which I like to attend and you can leave with a positive mindset after the discussed topics and presentations we heard, and also this is a type of learning environment which is really productive. Congratulations for you and your colleagues. It was a pleasure and a great inspiration to receive especially thinking about the afternoon session.” – Dr. László Németh

Find out more about the Hungarian initiative in this video, where Dr. Judit Kádár, Director of International Relations at the Sports University of Budapest (Hungary) and her team tell us about their pilot initiative.