A sporting chance: philanthropy and sport

Smart practice

Monday 01 September 2014

Philanthropy is most often perceived as providing financial support to community causes, such as animal welfare or families in need. However, it can also mean the giving of your time, for example teaching soccer skills at an underprivileged primary school. In its truest sense, philanthropy looks to solve problems at their root causes.

Sport, which is part of everyday life for many Australians, can be a powerful philanthropic tool. Although it is usually associated with recreation, Macquarie Group's sporting program, Macquarie Sports, recognises that it is also an effective and relevant vehicle for creating positive social change.

"Sport is a unique and valuable philanthropic activity," says Chris McKenzie, manager of Macquarie Sports, which operates as part of the Macquarie Group Foundation's broader community efforts.

In many respects, sport is the great unifier. As evinced in this year's major sporting events such as the Sochi Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup, people from different walks of life can find a meeting point in the participation and appreciation of sport, regardless of common differentiators like socioeconomic status, gender or ethnicity.

With that in mind, Macquarie Sports strives to develop healthy communities by providing youth with high quality sporting clinics and by partnering with grassroots sporting organisations to expand their reach. Macquarie Sports also provides athletic scholarships to sports-driven young adults, while also giving them the opportunity to obtain corporate work experience within various Macquarie businesses.

"What makes our program different is that rather than simply providing community sponsorships, Macquarie Sports is the only large corporate organisation to travel to communities to deliver these programs firsthand," says McKenzie.

Sports play an integral role in the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of youth and can help to break down barriers and improve inclusiveness among participants. - Chris McKenzie.

The program works with youth from regional towns and marginalised urban communities who have higher barriers to entry to sports due to the costs associated with registration fees, uniforms, transport and equipment.

Its clinics are run by sporting role models, comprising Macquarie employees and high profile Macquarie Sports 'ambassadors' such as Matthew Hayden, Nathan Hindmarsh, Matthew Burke, Michael Kasprowicz, Liz Ellis and Catherine Cox, who are passionate about making a difference.

"Not only are our ambassadors experts in their given sports, they also embody the ideal 'off field' traits for leadership and mentorship," says McKenzie.

Through the program, these high profile athletes have inspired and motivated over 100,000 children since the first Macquarie Sports clinic in 1999. In 2013, the program reached 5,620 children in 21 community events hosted around New South Wales and the remote Tiwi Islands north of Darwin.

"Sports play an integral role in the physical, emotional, social and cognitive development of youth and can help to break down barriers and improve inclusiveness among participants," says McKenzie.

"In addition to fostering values of commitment, discipline, respect, leadership and teamwork, which all translate well into the professional world, sports can also provide youth with the structure required to set and achieve goals."

There are many virtuous principles associated with participation in sport. Gaining an understanding of the values connected to the sporting mentality stands youth in good stead for many facets of their personal and professional adult lives.

Involvement in sports can lead youth to be more engaged in their education and develop a strong sense of self worth, as well as deter negative lifestyle choices and behaviours. McKenzie believes that the values instilled by sporting mentors help to guide young people through tough social issues such as racial discrimination, gender inequality, financial hardship, sexual orientation and cultural disputes. There is also a significant opportunity in simultaneously promoting sport as the way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, McKenzie believes that supporting and encouraging positive sports behaviours should endure through adulthood. Given the time constraints professional athletes experience with training, competition and study commitments, they do not always have the opportunity to gain corporate work experience. Macquarie Sports offers a scholarship program to provide high achieving young adults, who wish to pursue dual sporting and career goals, with financial support, training, mentoring, work experience and casual employment.

The scholarships provide a financial grant, 20 days of paid work experience and ongoing casual employment on Macquarie Sports projects. Many scholarship recipients have gone on to receive high sporting honours, including Lavinia Chrystal (skiing in the Sochi Winter Olympics), Holly Lincoln-Smith (water polo in the London Summer Olympics), Dave Dennis (rugby for the Wallabies), Servet Uzunlar (soccer for the Matlidas) and Kristina Mah (renowned karate world champion). Sport is a powerful medium used to achieve philanthropic goals, but really any pastime can be channelled into making a positive difference within the community. What many may consider to be a recreational activity has the potential to be a platform for social change – all it takes is creative thinking and dedication to have the greatest impact where it matters.


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