I’m a firm believer in the power of sport to make a positive change in our communities, but it’s important to remember that sporting organisations shouldn’t be expected to provide health care or welfare services—that’s not what they are designed for.
That’s why it’s heartening to see the way in which sporting clubs and bodies are increasingly working in partnership with other organisations to meet the needs they have identified amongst their participants, as well as in the wider community.
Whether that is the Collingwood Football Club encouraging players to volunteer their time to provide a safe place to live for the homeless as they renovate houses for The Salvation Army’s Magpie Nest program, or the annual ‘Pink’ Test that helps the Jane McGrath Foundation raise funds to fight cancer, sport’s ability to make the world better is strongest when we are working together.
Why does it work so well? It’s the same as with any partnership. It’s about identifying the strengths that you bring to the table. Sport has a unique place in Australian culture, able to excite a level of passion Aussies distrust in anything else. When you harness that passion for a worthy cause it allows you to make contact with an audience that would otherwise be out of reach.
It’s a lesson we can apply to our own lives. We may not have the ability to influence the masses of people that sporting bodies do; however, we can use what influence we do have to make a change in our own spheres. Just because we can’t reach thousands at a time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother—one life at a time soon adds up.
If we want to make a difference in our community a good place to start is to work out what it is we can do—and what we can’t. For example, I can’t provide counselling services, but I can give my time to collect money or raise awareness of the people and programs that can help.
Most of us want to make the world a better place, and to make a difference in people’s lives. Despite this desire, it can be easy to think that the problems we see are beyond us, that we don’t have anything to offer. However, it’s important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone, and that when we work together we are stronger.
We can see the proof of it when we see sporting bodies helping charities like the Salvos change lives, or local sporting clubs partnering with schools—and it’s just as true on an individual level, too. That’s where we can start to make a significant positive difference.