United States Sports Academy alumna Judy Fox is using her master’s degree from the Academy to improve the lives of people in underprivileged and underserved communities around the globe, a lifetime goal inspired by a class project from her studies at the Academy.
Fox, a 1992 Academy graduate with a Master of Sports Science degree in sports coaching, is the founder and president of Ignite International, a non-profit Christian organization which uses the universal language of sport to enrich, encourage and empower the lives of people around the world. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education from Houghton College.
Ignite International describes itself as “a 501c3 organization which leverages the universal language of sport to build authentic relationships which transcend all barriers. With a keen awareness of the unique influence afforded us as athletes, the organization embraces the mandate to use this platform to empower others to discover their innate purpose and the hope divinely available to them.”
“In a nutshell, we use the common ground of sport to bridge cultures, initiate and deepen relationships and impact lives,” Fox said.
“We also have established partnerships in a couple of key locations where we assist national sport federations, as well as nationally influential organizations, to grow their programs and empower them as they impact the lives of their next generation,” she said.
“It is one thing for us to come in from the outside and leave a mark after a temporary experience. It’s a whole different level of rewarding to simply come alongside them and assist them to empower their young people. That is truly what will ignite a culture and give hope to the next generation.”
Fox, a Carrollton, Texas, resident, said Ignite International has worked in Nicaragua, Israel, Cuba, Germany, Jamaica, Liberia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, and South Africa over the last 14 years. Recently the organization has spent significant time in Nicaragua and the Holy Land, an area roughly corresponding to the modern state of Israel and encompassing the Palestinian territories, western Jordan and parts of Lebanon and Syria.
Fox – a former basketball and volleyball player and collegiate volleyball coach – said the organization uses the game of volleyball to teach young girls how to be confident and positive about themselves.
“We are now in our third year of a growing partnership initiative in Bethlehem to empower Palestinian young girls by using the game of volleyball,” she said. “These are the moms of the next generation, and by providing them a mechanism to grow their hope for the future, we will be providing a positive legacy, again, on all sides of delicacies which impact life in that region.”
Looking back on her time at the Academy, Fox recalled a term paper she wrote for her sport psychology class that inspired her to pursue a life of service to others. A sport marketing class also helped her with the practical and business sides of her career.
“I am grateful to the Academy for being part of my growth and I’m honored to note the United States Sports Academy on my resume any time I’m asked to provide it,” she said. “The Academy prepared me with practical, tangible, hands-on, real-time experience, while also providing the classroom knowledge to help me grow in my professional expertise.”
She said the Academy’s distance learning option helped her to pursue her dreams without sacrificing time spent in the field.
“The biggest appeal of the Academy was that I didn’t have to take one or two years outside of the coaching arena,” she said. “I was able to do my job and also gain the valuable knowledge provided by my graduate experience because of the opportunity to do so at a distance.”
Fox was the co-founder and co-director of the Conqueror’s Volleyball Club in Dallas, Texas, from 1992-2002 and founded the Ignite Volleyball Club in 2002. In 2005 and 2006, she received the Recognition of Service Award from the Nicaraguan Volleyball Federation, having taken the first collegiate volleyball teams from the United States to Nicaragua in 2004 and 2005. In 2016, the Nicaraguan national volleyball team won the Central American Championship. Fox said seeing the team win the championship was one of her most cherished accomplishments.
In 2007, Fox received the Appreciation Award from the U.S. Army Human Resources Command and the Dallas-Fort Worth Military Personnel Assistance Point for Ignite International’s support of the U.S. Armed Forces upon their return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fox was recently inducted into the East Stroudsburg High School Meritorious Hall of Fame in her home town of East Stroudsburg, Pa. The award recognizes alumni and contributors who have demonstrated high achievement as a student and gained distinction in their chosen field.
“If I can help one person in one place become the one who changes their country, and if something I said helped them to become that, then I will have been successful at what I’m on this earth to do,” she said.
“When I see hope in the eyes of someone who did not have hope before, or when one of my former athletes or current partners is inspired to become what they dream to be, that is the finest accomplishment. If I can help another person define, pursue and achieve his or her God-given purpose, then I will have done my part to make this world a better place.”