Athletes, what’s your legacy?
A legacy through charity
Nike’s latest ad campaign featured athletes from all over the globe. One that specifically stuck in my mind, aside from the focal point of Colin Kaepernick, was LeBron James. “Don’t just be the best basketball player on the planet,” Kaepernick said in his narration. “Be bigger than basketball.” His message was clear: athletes can leave a legacy through charity.
They were referring to LeBron’s new ‘I Promise’ school in Akron, Ohio. The school offers free tuition, uniforms, meals, transportation within two miles, bicycles and helmets, access to food pantry for the whole family and guaranteed tuition for all graduates to the University of Akron.
A lot is said of athletes that transcend their sport. LeBron is bigger than basketball, precisely for his work in the community and social initiatives. The ‘I Promise’ school is the pinnacle.
LeBron James obviously has a bigger platform than most athletes. But you don’t have to set up your own foundation or initiative to make a difference. With 167,972 charities in the UK, it isn’t a shallow pool for athletes to choose from.
Partnerships based on shared values
Whether you are passionate about getting more kids into sport or reducing the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans, there’s a charity out there whose values will align with your’s.
“With 167,972 charities in the UK, it isn’t a
shallow pool for athletes to choose from.”
As well as volume of charities, the income for the voluntary sector was an estimated £72.1billion in 2016. It is no surprise then that a number of athletes spend their down-time working with charities between competing. It’s a sure way to leave a mark on their sport and the community around them.
The Movember campaign is one of the UK’s most celebrated, helping to raise awareness for mental health, testicular and prostate cancer. In 2017, they raised £8 million with 69.7% of funds raised going straight to men’s health projects. Former professional rugby players Benjamin Cook and George Cullen, now known as the Hairy Handlebars, will be cycling from the UK to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan to support the charity.
Using status as a platform for change
Athletes are in the perfect position to use their platform to tackle a societal issue as sports influencers. England rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson set up the Jonny W Foundation. It looks at ‘tackling mental health concerns to inspire individuals, influence prejudice and promote awareness and understanding.’
Mental health is being widely discussed in the social sphere and highlighted through sport. As well as Jonny Wilkinson, the Football League have partnered with Mind, to challenge the stigma around mental health in young men. The biggest killer in men aged 18-35 is suicide, with 84 men dying from suicide a week. Athletes, like Jonny Wilkinson, challenge the stigma amongst men to open up and share their feelings using their platform to start a discussion.
Iona Stephen is another athlete looking to make a difference on a large scale and leave a legacy through charity. As part of Big Change’s 2018 Virgin Strive Challenge, she travelled from Mount Etna to the summit of Mont Blanc. Big Change has already raised over £1m to help support their work inspiring ‘young people to thrive in life, not just exams.’
Driving positive change in communities
On a local level, many athletes working to improve the lives of those around them. Caytoo athlete Lamar Roberts, a basketball player for the London Lions, set up the Right Development Foundation to use ‘basketball to bring communities together. It’s also to develop social action and restore relationships within families’ in London. The foundation now has teams set up across four age groups, engaging with 5,000 kids across the city.
As well as forming his own charity, Lamar is involved with a campaign called Life Saver. Whilst the charity, Anthony Nolan, have 700,000 people on their UK register, there was a distinct lack of young men. The aim of the campaign was to encourage young men to donate stem cells to aid in the fight against blood cancer. Lamar’s involvement has helped the charity reach that audience. With Anthony Nolan’s income totalling £51.7m, they are not small, but an up-and-coming athlete can still be of massive importance in getting their message across.
Inspiring all ages
Sport can make a real change in local communities; keeping kids out of trouble, providing them with time to have fun or teaching them important life values.
Marilyn Okoro, Olympic 4x400m relay bronze medallist, is an ambassador for the Mintridge Foundation, whose aim is to use positive role models within sport to inspire young people. Earlier this month, the Mintridge foundation reached it’s 40,000 student and can celebrate being a registered charity, enabling them to ‘reach more young people and harness the power’ of their sporting role models.
“Sport can make a real change in local communities,
whether that is keeping kids out of trouble, providing them
with time to have fun or teaching them important life values.”
Athletes can make a difference to local communities without using sport as the vehicle. Millie Wood, a women’s rugby player for Gloucester-Hartbury, set up a charity called Heidi’s Heroes. Based in her home county of Gloucestershire, the charity looks to provide help and support to those with cancer. They also support the families of those affected and give disadvantaged children the opportunity to learn how to swim. Millie set up the charity in memory of her late mother, a World Championship swimmer.
Tackling key issues
Stacey Copeland, Commonwealth boxing champion and European silver medalist, is another athlete that looks to make a difference within the local community. Working with the Life After Violent Abuse group (LAVA), Stacey has worked with women in Manchester who have been in violent relationships.
Another way that athletes can work with charities is to change the behaviour and attitudes within sport. Stacey heavily promotes women’s sport to change public perceptions of female athletes. Through setting up ‘Pave the Way’, she looks to challenge and educate on the gender stereotypes in sport. Boxing isn’t just for boys in the same way that dancing isn’t just for girls. As well as running workshops and sessions in schools, Stacey has used public speaking to get her message across. She’s done an impressive 86 talks since last January, including one at the UN.
Stacey is constantly raising awareness of the challenges women in sport face. She is pushing to level the playing field through sharing her experiences as a female athlete. Recently she was nominated in the Grassroots category for the 2018 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Award. Just one recognition for her growing legacy through charity.
“Athletes need to engage their brain as well as
their bodies. Charity work is perfect.”
Build a broad variety of skills
Spending most their time either training or competing, athletes focus on developing their physical capabilities. England rugby legend Simon Shaw told caytoo in June that athletes need to engage their brain as well as their bodies. Charity work is perfect. It involves planning, dedication and passion in the same way that competitive sport does, but it involves using your brain. Practice can help you improve your public speaking and your network especially in something you feel passionate about.
Athlete affiliation with charities is a two way relationship which can benefit both parties. People engage with sports stars and their platforms. But as well as inspiring and wowing us with their performance on the pitch, athletes have the power to make a real change off it and leave a legacy through charity.
If you’re an athlete interested in improving the commercial side of your career and better connect with brands, register with caytoo here.