Most of the news headlines about what professional athletes do off the field focus on them behaving badly, usually involving alcohol, drugs, lewd behaviour, dumb stuff on social media and, all too often, violence. What gets less media attention is the community and charity work many of our sporting heroes do. Unfortunately we don’t hear a lot about those athletes who are great dudes doing the right thing and being stand up human beings – they are by far the majority….
I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of these guys through their involvement in things like the national White Ribbon and local Silence is Deadly campaigns. I’ve read about a lot of them who have set up their own charities and foundations. Sometimes they lend their name and profile (like former Australian cricketer, Glenn McGrath), other times they put work tirelessly behind the scenes (like rugby league legend, Johnathon Thurston). Players like one of the hardest men in Australian rugby, David Pocock, reputedly donate significant proportions of their professional salaries to charities they’ve set up.
And week in week out players from professional sporting teams go around to schools, hospitals and communities to use their profile to do all manner of positive stuff. If only there were a place where all these amazing off-field efforts could be recognised then mums and dads would be far more likely to get their kids involved. The Laureus Sport Awards touch on this kind of thing at an international level, but they don’t solely focus on the off-field achievements of the athletes nominated each year.
I’d love to see something at a more national and local level that focuses purely on this. I’d like to see some kind of measurement of the scale of impact these athletes make in society. I reckon it would be massive.
Who knows, maybe I’ll just have to make it happen myself…. But for now, I’ll just tip my hat to all those athletes who are out there doing great stuff. Wonderful ambassadors for their sports and great examples of how to live a life well-lived.