Do Youth Sports Influence Later Philanthropy?
I have always had a personality that cared about others. I have many weaknesses, but my one great strength is empathy. When I am with someone, I immediately place myself in their shoes. Another factor that has shaped my being is sports. I have loved sports from a very early age. I enjoyed playing individual sports and team sports. The thrill of competition is something that I have loved and have never forgotten.
My wife says I can remember the scores and games from little league to high school, which took place decades ago. The fact is—she is right. Research says you tend to remember events when emotion is involved. If you mention the word sport or coach to me, my memories come alive.
I am a board member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis. I was asked recently if I would personally sponsor a table and volunteer to participate in the 61st annual Marion County Indiana High School Football Awards Program. Having played high school football, I jumped at the chance to volunteer for this event. When you see several hundred football players, coaches, managers, cheerleaders, band members and supporters attend this event, you get excited.
The Kiwanis Club gave awards, such as Great Player from each school, Academic Scholarship, Most Valuable Player from each school and other forms of recognition to those attending. While the high school football season is over, I realized the blood, sweat and tears each player gave to their teams. Many senior players attended and for many of them it was the final time they will play organized football.
The featured keynote speaker was Tom Allen, head football coach at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington. IU is in the Big Ten Conference and Coach Allen is at the top of his profession. There are only 127 head football coaches at the highest university level in the U.S. I was expecting Coach Allen to talk to the young football players about winning and losing. What he really talked about inspired me and others in the audience. He said that he deals with his players on two levels. One level is that playing time on the field as determined by their football performance. A second level, and more important level, is how these players live their life—now and in the future. He strives to positively impact his players every day.
He wants his players to believe in themselves and each other. He wants his players to be role models and provide positive examples to others. He expects them to give time, talent and treasure to causes they believe in when they are older. He wants them to love each other and their university. He went in depth about how he struggled to achieve success. The more he spoke, it made me wonder about the impact playing sports and my coaches were in molding my philanthropic foundation of service to others. He noted to the audience that they will be the community leaders of tomorrow and challenged them to lead.
In the Journalist’s Resource article titled, “How Youth Sports Influence Leadership Skills, Volunteerism,” the author noted that athletics are a key feature of the high school experience for most American youth, whether they are athletes or spectators. The National Federation of State High School Associations announced in 2014 that sports participation reached a record high of 7.8 million high school students for the 2013 to 2014 academic year.
In 2000, an academic study at the University of Illinois provided a survey from 931 World War II veterans to determine if youth sports may have influenced these veterans’ career paths, leadership skills and the likelihood that they volunteer and donate to charity. Those veterans that played at least one varsity sport tended to rate higher scores on leadership, self-confidence, volunteerism and donations of money even after 55 years from graduating high school.
In the Michigan State University article titled, “What do Youth Sports Teach our Children, Really?” the author stated that sports provide key life skills, such as social skills, that are likely to last a lifetime; competitive skills that promote positive competition that is important to one’s development; sportsmanship, a behavior that is a lesson that children learn when they play in sports; and leadership abilities to assist others, which is a life lesson in building character, being task oriented and understanding the impact of effective coaching.
The author used an example of a coach that told her son’s team in the football huddle that if you give 100 percent on the field, you will give 100 percent in life. She pointed out that sports and coaching can affect youth in long-term ways, the implication of which is what players learn they apply to later life in a very positive way.
Health Fitness Revolution’s article titled, “Top 10 Health Benefits of Youth Sports,” noted that youth sport participation promotes mental and psychological advances. It is well known that children who participate in sports tend to excel in academic performance and sociability. Several of the benefits of sport for youth include: boosts self-esteem, builds character, develops teamwork skills and provides guidance to make the right decision.
This article from the U.S. Soccer Foundation pointed out that for many student athletes, the positive influence of a coach is profound and life changing. It’s more than wins and losses; it is about developing a child into a healthy, self-confident adult through the wonderful medium of sport. The author thanked all of the coaches that dedicated their time to positively impacting the youth of today.
The topic of youth sports influencing philanthropy certainly needs additional study. I know how sports and my coaches influenced me. They gave me the social skills to enhance ways of leadership to serve others through charitable acts. Many of my former teammates have also provided great examples of parenting, grandparenting and serving others before self. I would not change my life path and encourage youth to engage in sports. Believe me, it will affect them positively for the rest of their life!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, educator and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 10 years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 26 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.