Supporting Canadian Athletes

Athlete Social Responsibility

The idea of giving back is not a new one, but the movement and responsibility of athletes to lead and inspire off the field of play has grown significantly in recent years.

The following is an excerpt from a backgrounder written by Erin Carter, Cyclist and past AthletesCAN Board member, in 2009 regarding her research on the topic of Athlete Social Responsibility (ASR).

Athlete Social Responsibility: An idea whose time has come

▪ An athlete-driven initiative that describes the process of developing a strong sense of responsible citizenship in sport.

▪ A process that athletes go through of increased self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-confidence by engaging in socially responsible activities.

▪ The results from a recent study show that ASR can play a vital role in an athlete’s career and can have a positive impact on an athlete’s performance, personal development, and continued participation in sport.

Why is ASR of value to the Canadian Sport System?

The idea behind moving from ‘me to we’ is deeply connected to the ASR philosophy and Canadian values. It is embedded in what is core to many athletes and in the messages they shared at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Athletes want to give back and by deliberately engaging others (individuals, communities and organizations), both the athletes and the organization will fulfill its deepest objectives. While athletes enter into sport for self-interested purposes, the shift to ‘we’ allows the athlete to experience another dimension of the power of sport. This in turn elevates the value of sport beyond the field of play and embeds the experience in community. Businesses are in communities, MPs are in communities, and athletes come from and live in communities. Because of this, people trust the athletes to know what is required to thrive and succeed in sport. It’s a trusted bond that is acquired in community. You foster a genuine partnership that can generate extraordinary results.

Athlete Social Responsibility will play an important role in helping advance the concept of athlete-centered sport. Leaders at all levels of the Canadian sport system have indicated that they want to create and continue to ensure that sport contributes to the holistic development of athletes. Put simply, ASR provides athletes with an opportunity to maintain a balance between a singular pursuit of athletic excellence AND contributing to a strengthened civil society. From sandlot to podium, an intentional use of ASR provides decision-makers with the ability to contribute to the healthy pursuit of sport by leveraging sport’s unique contribution in community. In so doing, athletes enhance their performances while also engaging in meaningful activities that help to transfer and translate the many positive benefits and values of sport.

Athletes connecting to their communities increase support for an investment in sport at all levels. ASR provides Canada with a chance to carve out a powerful global niche for itself. ASR is kids playing sport; communities thriving because sport is valued; athletes known and welcomed in communities. If you get athletes in their communities, then communities in turn will support athletes when they are striving for their Olympic/ Paralympic dreams. This is more than just public speaking – this is about building relationships and meaningful engagement and working with partners who can add value to the community based sport experience. It’s a post-modern form of advocacy that makes the link between the work we are doing in the community and bridging it back to the work we are doing at the national level.” Or a simpler way of stating it: “We are in community so community supports us.”

For Erin’s full thesis entitled Athlete Social Responsibility (ASR):  A Grounded Theory Inquiry into the Social Consciousness of Elite Athletes please click here.


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