Beyond the Medals
By Alisha Greenberg, Founder of Rounding Third, LLC
If you are anything like me, you were glued to the television much of this month following the action in PyeongChang. I look forward to the Olympics as a sports fan and even more so as a sports impact leader. Sports impact, or the benefit that sports can have on society, is a growing field across the world as more athletes, teams, and leagues give back. I am also noticing an increase in charitable organizations embracing sports as a means to unify communities, create opportunities, and effect change. For athletes of the highest caliber, such as those competing in the Olympics, their position often comes with an increased opportunity to do good.
Athletes have always held a unique position in our society as they represent the pinnacle of achievement, physical prowess, and mental stamina. More importantly, they are often role models for younger generations. Not only do they face the pressure of being a role model to those at home who follow their careers, they must also be role models for children and youth across the globe while representing their country to a worldwide audience.
Having had the chance to work closely with athletes, teams, and sports organizations for over 16 years, I am familiar with the obstacles many Olympians face and the hard work and determination it takes to reach the highest level of competition. While watching these talented men and women compete on a global stage, what excites me most is knowing that they now have a platform to do good and many of them will embrace the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect.
I was pleased to see that the “Shib Sibs”, who won a bronze medal for the U.S.A. in Ice Dancing, have supported Figure Skating in Harlem in the past. Perhaps they were inspired by Meryl Davis, who won gold four years earlier and advocates for academic achievement and health education for young girls in Detroit through Figure Skating. Olympians giving back is not a new concept. A former client of mine, Tracy Evans, founded Kids Play International. She leveraged being a 3X Olympian into focusing on gender equality. Other examples of Olympic athletes who give back include Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Julie Foudy, Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, and LeBron James, to name a few.
One thing that all Olympians and all successful athletes have in common is a coach. Whether it is a team of individuals or just a single mentor, coaches can provide valuable wisdom and emotional support, in addition to monitoring the athlete’s performance and offering advice. As sports impact continues to grow globally, it is important that everyone find a trusted coach, not only to offer guidance in their careers, but a philanthropic coach to guide athletes through the process of engaging in activism and philanthropy, while protecting them from obstacles and risks along the way.
As countries walked around the stadium at the Closing Ceremony with smiles and cheers, there were skaters next to snowboarders and skiers next to speedskaters. Behind each of them, often unseen, are trusted partners helping them to do better in their sport and do better for society. Let’s think about how we can encourage similar cross-sector collaboration amongst those working in sports impact and social good. Together we can reach the podium and improve the world.
About the author:
Alisha Greenberg is widely recognized as an industry leader with an expert talent for educating & advising those making an impact through sport. As a trusted thought leader and practitioner in the field, organizations often reach out to Alisha for guidance. She serves as founder and co-director of the Sports Impact Leadership Certificate (SILC), a one of a kind training program in partnership with Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Program. Alisha is the director of the prestigious RWJF Sports Award on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Prior to consulting, Alisha spent eight years at the Sports Philanthropy Project (SPP) managing all sports partnerships with teams, athletes, leagues and others. She graduated from Indiana University, earning a degree in Sports Marketing and Management with a minor in Business. She holds a Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate from The Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown University. Visit www.sportsphilanthropy.com to learn more and follow @rounding3.