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02/7 2009

Sport’s Ripple Effect


Often times high performance athletes wonder the actual value of their contribution to society. I know that for me there have been many times when I questioned why I put so much time, energy, and emotion into athletics. It’s true that to have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games does not come around every day – and the opportunity to legitimately chase after an Olympic Gold Medal comes around even less often – but I do sometimes wonder whether my energies and emotional commitment would be better spent on social causes, on work, or even spending more time with my daughter.

I am sitting on the BC Ferries’ Spirit of BC right now, returning from St. George’s School in Vancouver. I traveled over in my role as the National Spokesperson for the Dynamic Opportunities for Youth youth-at-risk rowing program. About 100 corporate ergers raised enough money to put over 30 youth-at-risk kids from their community through a learn-to-row program. How amazing is that: In a time of economic uncertainty, a cross section of corporate Vancouver got together at a sporting event and made a difference for 30 kids. Seeing such acts of kindness make me think that my commitment to rowing does have its benefits, and that through my work with such organizations I can make an impact beyond what happens on the water.

For me, the next logical step is to think about the potential of our Games. The Vancouver 2010 Games, Olympic and Paralympic, have the potential to provide positive impacts in our communities, but more specifically in the lives of our youth. If we can connect athletes (natural role models, in my view) with our youth – either organically or through community programs – there will be tangible, positive effects throughout our region. The message could be “dedication” to stick with something; it could be “the pursuit of excellence” to try to be the best they could be; it might even be as simple as “stay in school” or “say no to drugs”. My vision for the Olympics, from the Torch Relay to the Closing Ceremonies, is to touch communities with the positive message of the Games, delivered by outstanding role models.

So to all those athletes out there training hard for their respective competitions: keep working hard. You exemplify so much for the rest of us. Remember that you are a role model whether you like it or not – so be careful not to jeopardize that by sending the wrong message to kids looking up to you.

To community leaders, teachers and parents – I urge you to use the stage of the 2010 Games and the Torch Relay to create positive impacts on the youth all around you. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is only 369 days away.

I’m off to Whistler and Vancouver on Wednesday to get ready for the one-year-to-go countdown celebrations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics on February 12th, 2009. Check back later this week for an update on how the festivities went. Until then…


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