Paying it Forward.……
Almost every morning I turn on the TV and somewhere around the world something tragic is happening, something negative and something that for me defies logic, humanity and breaks my heart. I have come to no longer turning on the TV. Not to be ignorant of the fact that there are ongoing problems around the globe but for the mere fact that the propaganda that we are fed through main stream media taints perspective and has the potential to change my reality into a negative one. By switching off the box, I choose to believe that there is still good in the world. That we, each individual has the capability to change something or someone, no matter how small the impact.
The other day I smiled. I was scrolling through social media and came across NRL Melbourne Storm great Billy Slater sitting with the homeless. After an early run through Sydney one morning he noted the amount of homeless on the streets. After he finished his run, he went to the supermarket bought some food and went back to the people. He gave them the food and sat with them. The food whilst a nice gesture, was irrelevant. He gave them his time, this, priceless. http://bit.ly/2aFLOen
In this day and age Sports People take for granted the opportunity we have to make a positive effect. I’m not talking about running camps or visiting schools that are organised on your behalf. I am talking about small gestures. A handshake. A card. A letter. A message of thanks & praise to a fellow athlete, coach, parent, a stranger, perhaps the ten year old that once was you. It takes minimal time but yes demands your effort. It demands being selfless (something a lot of athletes are immune to). The effect could be more than what you ever expect or perhaps will ever know.
So often you do not realise the impact we, as Sport People, can have. Recently our u/17 Women’s Basketball team won the World Championships. I penned the team and staff a letter just out of pure proudness of their achievement but more importantly the way in which they represented their country as a unit. I was flabbergasted at the response from the letter from staff, players & parents. Below is an exert from one of the 12 players.
“……… I was so excited to get your message. I met you at U/14 nationals in Adelaide in 2012 and had a photo with you. You inspired me so much that day and have been my favourite Opal. I love the way you play and I worked on my defence and teamwork from watching you. One of my coaches Nikki Bairstow a few years later went to an Opals camp and bought me back a signed picture from you which to this day hangs on my wall. So to receive a letter from you is just the best and means so much…….Again thank you for your letter and I will use it as inspiration to keep working hard and get better at the game we love and hope one day to follow in your footsteps and be an opal. Thank you……”
Such words take me back to my childhood. I remember being in Southern Districts at the u/16 State Titles and seeing my idol Sandy Brondello walk past preparing for training with the great Jenny Whittle (a person I would go on to play with at the 2006 World Championships). Not that they uttered a word to the chubby 14yr old me sitting with her teammates, but they looked and acknowledged us with a smile. 1) This made me shit my pants but, 2) It made me think they cared, 3) It made me watch their training and 4) It made me think I could one day compete like they do. They would not even know this happened, guaranteed. But I remember. It happened to me and it made a difference to the younger me.
There comes a time when you realise as a Sports Person, normally at the latter part of one’s career, that you must move beyond the skill & training and ‘pay it forward’ to others. Whilst I appreciate the bigger the profile of a Sports Person the bigger commodity you become and as such you come with a price tag. Nevertheless that does not make us immune to simple actions that for the other party could really change their world. I mean come on we are athletes; we are not curing cancer.
Recently, to kick off the Australian Boomers Olympic campaign prior to their sensational performance at Rio 2016 they visited Uluru and Patty Mills said it perfectly. “…..because what we do has a greater meaning than playing basketball…” It is so true yet so easily forgotten when we cannot see past our own noses at times in the depths of our own careers. I look back and wish I had done more. I wish at times I had not been that self-centred young athlete complaining I was ‘tired’ or ‘why do I have to do this, what’s in it for me’. I wish I had of said thank you more often to the many people that are involved in Sport purely for the love of it. And I wish I had realised sooner there was a bigger picture and that I had such a massive opportunity to have an effect.
At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you have accomplished. It is what you have done with those accomplishments that truly matters. It’s about who you have lifted up and who you have made better as a result. It’s about what you pay forward regardless of what is in it for you. If we all gave 5% more as Sports People it may mean that main stream media would perhaps focus on the positive in the world of Sport rather than all the negative and I may once again turn on the TV.
Jenni Screen is a massive over achiever in all areas of her life and her worst critic. Always seeking to learn & grow in this crazy world and sees every moment as an opportunity for development. After a professional basketball career spanning 16 years in multiple countries and with two Olympic Medals & a World Championship with the Australian Women’s Basketball Team, she now finds herself with two degrees and currently working in Sport Science with the future. Jenni is driven & passionate on assisting people reach their potential in their chosen endeavours. She is always up for a good laugh or cry. Loves a debate over a glass of red & her Great Dane is the apple of her eye.
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