By Niovie Constantinou, Contributor
Professional athletes are nowadays some of the most well-known individuals worldwide, with millions of fans looking up to them. Part of the athletes’ duty as role models is to promote good sportsmanship by being kind to their teammates and opponents, keeping their composure on the field (and off the field) and winning or losing with equal grace. At the same time, top players are also very well compensated which puts them into the unique position of having both celebrity status and the financial means to make a positive impact and give back to their community.
For example, NBA superstar LeBron James who grew up in subsidized housing in the projects of Akron, Ohio, has gone back to support his community through setting up the LeBron James Family Foundation. Through this foundation, LeBron has donated millions to improve the living and education standards in his hometown. After learning about Akron’s high school dropout rate, he opened a school to provide stable education for underprivileged youth, and set up sports teams as extra-curricular activities.
Indeed, there are many ways in which athletes can give back to their communities, perhaps on causes that are more meaningful to them. Donating money to charity is definitely a great start, but here are a few ideas of how athletes can be actively involved in giving back:
- Donating school supplies and books to schools in need or hosting annual Back to School events where fans can drop off school supplies.
- Providing equipment and uniforms to athletes who cannot afford their own, and who are part of the athlete’s old high school or university team, or sponsoring a youth team to ensure that all the players are outfitted properly.
- Supporting local mentoring programs or after-school tutoring programs, visiting schools to encourage underperforming youth to work hard in school and pursue higher education, sponsoring drawing or essay contests, supporting anti-bullying campaigns in local schools and offering scholarships to graduating students.
- Hosting literacy days at the local library and spending some time reading to the children while encouraging parents to sign up for library cards.
- Serving as a coach or mentor to a little league, high school or college team during the off-season.
- Visiting foster care homes and spending time with abused and neglected children and donating necessary supplies.
- Being involved with a retirement facility and finding ways to interact with the elderly, as many of them do not have many visitors, and some of them are also sports fans who would welcome an opportunity to attend a game or spend time with athletes!
- Picking a place in their community that could be cleaned up and inviting their teammates and other members of the community to join in on cleaning up a part of the town.
- Connecting with a local hospital’s pediatric ward and finding ways to interact with the children during their stay in the hospital such as reading to them, playing games with them or writing to them. Setting up virtual personalized tours of practices or games which could be shared with the children would also be a fantastic idea!
Evidently, athletes really do have the means to make the world a better place; all it takes is some creativity and putting in the time and effort to ensure that their actions have a meaningful impact on their community. Success and fame may fade away, even finances are not always a given, but giving back to your community will create a legacy that will live forever!