The Responsibility of Professional Elite Athletes

March 18, 2021

Presented by Ask, Listen, LearnU.S. Paralympian, athlete mentor, former Navy Seal Dan Cnossen

To children, professional elite athletes are real-life superheroes. It is one of the great off-the-field gifts that we are uniquely placed to capture a child’s attention. And as another superhero (Spider-Man) knows: with great power comes great responsibility. We can think of responsibility as twofold. First, there is the sense of responsibility for athletes—to use that ability to connect with children and pass down what we have learned in training and competition. At its core, that is the power of Classroom Champions: it provides a platform for athletes to translate their most fundamental lessons to kids in a fun and captivating way.Secondly, responsibility itself is the lesson. We all grapple with or juggle myriad responsibilities—legal, moral, civic—every day. But the foundation of success and improvement is personal responsibility, responsibility of the self. That means responsibility for taking care of your body and your mind. (Rest assured, the competition is taking care of their bodies.) Athletes know that earning greater professional responsibilities emanates from a solid foundation of self-responsibility. That may seem like a simple lesson, but children need to hear it out loud.Of course, when kids learn about athletes, they are impressed with what we can do with our bodies. Having a healthy, athletic body is a gift, but it’s also a responsibility—take good care of it, and you will be rewarded in return. That part is less obvious, so athletes need to share it openly. Being born with intellectual, musical, or athletic abilities is a gift, but those gifts are merely seeds—they blossom only through the care that self-responsibility brings.Being in a position to provide mentorship is its own special gift and responsibility. Classroom Champions succeed by matching the very small but unique and eager population of elite athletes with the very great demand of classrooms for engaging role models. If we take the field of competition as a metaphor for life, then we get out of the sport what we put into it; there is no substitute for hard work and responsible living to prepare. That is a lesson athletes have learned by trial, and one that Classroom Champions can help us share.