Giving Back as an Athlete


In a world of war and economic crisis, sport will always be there. For fans, it is a sense of escape from problems. It is a chance to cheer for something you truly believe in when everything around you is falling apart. For an athlete, it is just another day at the office. Just as some of us put on a suit and tie and heads to their cubical to analyze some financial stocks, professional athletes put that uniform on with the home town name across the chest and hit jumpers, catch footballs or hit homeruns. Kids buy their jerseys, idolize them and try to be them on the playground. Their numbers and highlights are followed religiously and people treat them like gods both on and off their respective fields. Off the fields, the professional athletes are just like any other human being, but people continue to look up to them and want to interact with them. Whether or not the professional athlete likes it, he or she is a role model and they must use this label as a means to help improve the youth that follows them so closely. Many athletes believe that it is the obligation of a professional athlete to give back. Mario Lemieux former NHL player and now owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins said,
I tend to believe that athletes should give back to their communities because their communities have given so much to them. I was blessed to be able to play and now own a franchise in the NHL. The sport of hockey and the city of Pittsburgh has opened many doors for me, so I want to give back so others can have success as well. (Anonymous, 2009)

But what does it mean to give back Start a charity Donate money in your name to a cause Be part of a Make A Wish dream Do a meet and greet at a local business When asked about giving back to the community, Warrick Dunn said,
For me it??™s really all about passion. If I can feel it then I can live it. A person doesn??™t always have to give a lot of money or aim to have a widespread impact to be philanthropic.??¦ Somewhere along the way, a person or experience impacted us so greatly that it changed our lives. That??™s why I believe it??™s so important to have passion. Anyone can give money or even ask for money but if there??™s no personal connection and passion behind the act, it??™s pointless. That??™s just my opinion. (Anonymous, 2009)

All of the philanthropic acts stated above Dunn??™s quote could fall under possible passion filled acts. But to really give back to a purpose, athletes must look at who idealizes them the most and will learn the most from them. That is the youth. The youth is who these athletes are most impressionable to. Being impressionable to youths is not writing a big check or setting up a charity to raise money for your foundation. Yes the money is a good gift and can really help charities, but besides the fact many professional athletes??™ charities fail, athletes need to give back by helping and educating the youth. Sport has been proven to have ???a positive effect on youths??™ social, psychological, and motor development and inspire a physically active life style??? (Weiss, 2007). Two programs that allow professional athletes in the NBA and MLB give back by educating and promoting this life style though sports are Basketball Without Boarders (BWB) and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI). In their own way, these programs promote education in the youth about sport, character building and social development. Management of professional athletes should be encouraging their athletes to participate in these programs rather just donating money or making a personal appearance at a team promotion.

Examples of Giving Back Individually: Good and Bad

Some athletes take it upon themselves to start their own charity. Some of these charities support a foundation for an illness or disease their son or daughter has. An example would be Doug Fluties??™ Flutie Flakes which support??™s the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, a disorder that Doug??™s son has. Other athletes have also started successful charities by giving.
Tiger Woods and Andre Agassi, for example, have become beacons in the world of giving. Mr. Woods started golf clinics for children nationwide. Mr. Agassi is estimated to have given $20 million, much of it to education and youth programs in his hometown of Las Vegas (Zinser , 2006).
But at the same time ??¦ ???[o]ther foundations, like Michael Jordan??™s, have failed. In 1996, Mr. Jordan shut it down when it was revealed that little of what it raised reached charitable causes and that his contributions were minimal??? (Zinser, 2006). It has been shown that the reason for the failure of player??™s charities is their inability to run it on their own.
While a handful of player charities appear to be well-financed and tightly managed organizations that do good, a larger number are unimpressively funded and their activities poorly documented. Up to a quarter of NBA player charities analyzed lacked even basic documentation required by the Internal Revenue Service. ?» In spite of their celebrity, NBA athletes seeking public donations often struggle for years before building a viable stream of donations. About a third of NBA player charities analyzed instead remain funded by the athletes own wealth. Many close for lack of support or because athletes move on. Few player-run charities hire full-time directors to manage daily operations, and players commonly put family members, friends and former sports associates on their boards, despite IRS rules requiring that a majority of board members be nonrelatives. Some player charities hold lavish fundraising galas that cost tens of thousands of dollars but actually lose money (Siler, 2009).
The graphic below comes from The Salt Lake Tribune entitled, ???NBA charities often a losing game??? explains why individually owned charities usually do not work.

Instead of trying to create their own charity, a player should work with their league or team to promote something they are passionate about, and often times that is the sport itself. By promoting the sport itself, you are not only educating youths about the game but you are helping them develop as people.

Why athletes should promote sport when they give back

Athletes can promote sport for many reasons. They can ???promote social, psychological, and physical development and health-related outcomes??? (Weiss, 2007). One of the most over looked aspects that sports can do for a youth is to make them exercise. This physical activity promotes a balance of a healthy diet and exercise. Sport has also proven to help youth??™s self-perception which is caused by ???feedback from significant adults, such as parents, coach and spectators and adolescents as evaluation by and comparison to important peers such as teammates and friends??? (Weiss, 2007). The involvement of a sport itself, is strongly linked to the motivation one has to continue the sport and ???[t]he degree to which youth enjoy their experiences, perceives benefits of involvement, feel supported by adults and peers??¦( Weiss, 2007). Imagine a youth receiving feedback and motivation to continue to play a sport by a professional athlete they admire. That is going to have a very large impact on an impressionable youth, which is why when athletes give back they should be promoting their sport. Two other ways sport can impact a youth??™s life is by social relationships and character development which are supported by RBI and BWB.
Character or moral development is important, because it accentuates the potential sport to use naturally occurring teachable moments to help youth adopt positive values, such as cooperation, respect, responsibility, and sportsmanship, and reject temptation to engages in physical a relational aggression and substance abuse??¦Social relationships and interactions with adults and peers are critical information sources for forming self-perceptions, deriving motivation, and learning values in sport. (Weiss, 2007)


When a kid idolizes a player he will play in the backyard or playground mimicking every movement. This is at a very young age when a kid is very impressionable. As the youth grows, this idealization can grow as well, but it is very tough if there are no leagues or competition to keep the growing youth??™s interest. As they get older, more and more options become available such as gang or street activity in urban neighborhoods. It has been proven that kids who play sports after school are less likely to become involved in gang activity and receive better grades than a student who does not. A program that does this and much more is the RBI which is promoted by Major League baseball.
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) presented by KPMG is a youth outreach program designed to: 1. Increase participation and interest in baseball and softball 2. Encourage academic participation and achievement 3. Increase number of talented athletes prepared to play in college and minor leagues 4. Promote greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of the game 5. Teach the value of teamwork. (
Not only does the RBI program keep youths off the streets, prepare players for the next level, ???since the inception of the RBI program in 1989, MLB Clubs have drafted more than 170 RBI participants which include but limited to: Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Carl Crawford (Rays) and CC Sabathia (New York Yankees)??? ( These former participants are now major supporters for the foundation and are giving back to something they are passionate about.
An international program that was

inaugurated in 2001, the idea of the first ?????™Basketball without Borders??™??™ (BWB) camp was to use the sport of basketball as a common language for global peace, friendship and sportsmanship. Both FIBA and the NBA wished to promote goodwill around the world; the camp was an opportunity to demonstrate that basketball had a capacity to bring people together. (

This video is another example of how BWB helps build the youths through the game of basketball. One example of this program breaking down boundaries is when the camp was held in Ireland and all players both Catholic and Protestant, who have had religious hostility since the 1600s came together and played in the same game. Something that many of the parents of players would not have dreamed of happening, but BWB was able to unite the youths of these two religions to look beyond the hostility. A very important aspect of BWB is that NBA coaches and players are the counselors for the camp, which again is showing players giving back to something they are passionate about. Kids will listen to these players and coaches that they idolize.

The affect on management

RBI and BWB are two great examples that players can give back to the community, but as stated before, players still like to create their own foundations, some just would rather write a check and ???team executives??¦often strain to align the needs of sponsors, who want access to star players for the money they??™re paying, with the overloaded schedules of many professional athletes. In addition, a player??™s own endorsement obligations add to the clutter??? (Schoenfeld, 2007). Different players also act definitely, and they are not comfortable with making appearances no matter what it is for. The NBA is only major professional sports league that requires players a minimum number of appearances as part of its collective bargaining agreement.
NBA players are obligated to make seven individual appearances, at least two in conjunction with season-ticket holders, and five more group appearances, three of which are generally open practices. Sponsor events include a minimum $2,000 stipend ??” a sum that is only occasionally exceeded ??” but charity and team events pay nothing. But mandating attendance doesn??™t always work. (Schoenfeld, 2007)

It does not work, because players will just pay the fines that the NBA and or team inflict on them for missing the appearance. It is important for a managerial office to know what players are going to act this way. If you do not, you will embarrass the team by saying a player will be there and does not show. ???Don??™t schedule me, they warn, or you??™ll only end up disappointing the very people you??™re eager to please. Other players show up, but make teams and sponsors wish they hadn??™t.??? (Schoenfeld, 2007). As manager you have to know how players will react and give back. Another approach is such teams as the New England Patriots and Colorado Avalanche have personal appearances written in your contractual agreement. Brian Burke, executive vice president of the Anaheim Ducks??™ is said to have traded players because they refused to live up to their contractual appearance agreement. (Schoenfeld, 2007)

My Ideas for Professional Management

I think the NBA??™s rule of 7 appearances is a little much, but I do like the idea of putting a clause in everyone??™s contract that has to deal with appearances, but unlike many of the teams mentioned above, it would not be just about team promotion. I would say that each player would have to make at least four appearances for team promotion per year and on top of that, each player must support program that involves the promotion of an active lifestyle, keeping kids out of trouble using sports or breaking down barriers using sports. The player??™s involvement in the program must fit my management??™s approval before the contract is signed. If a rookie is not sure of what they would like to promote, I would have a default program like RBI for baseball and BWB for basketball that they can be a part of until they have one of their own. I think it is very important for the professionals to be teaching the youth about the game and its great ability.

Ideas for High School and College Programs

As the management at either a high school or college, I have to realize that you cannot relay on the players themselves to give back to the community. You need to have you coaches and school administration on board as well. At the same time, you cannot support RBI and BWB like a professional athlete but you can still help promote sports as an active and healthily life style and support the programs by trying to get younger youth??™s involved in them. I would require all my high school teams or college teams to do something to give back to the community through sports. This would include coaching in younger leagues or giving clinics to younger players. I saw clinics done by my current high school??™s varsity girl??™s soccer team and softball team that were very successful. Two hours every Saturday for a month, the team would meet and teach various skills to girls between the ages of 5-13 from around the area. Skills not only included basic soccer and softball drills but also talks about eating healthy and staying fit.


Giving back as an athlete should not just be limited to professional athletes but they should be leading the way. They should be leading the way by promoting something they truly believe in, not something they think their name will look good next to. The easiest and possible most influential way to give back as a professional athlete is to promote your sport. Two examples of programs that promote their sport as a life changer is RBI through MLB and BWB through the NBA. As an athlete you are the idol of the youth and if you go to them and talk to them about how to act on the field, explain how sport can help them in life and show that sport can stop fighting, then you are being a professional athlete role model and the kids are going to get a lot more out of it than a fat check that you write to the organization.

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