Former Westfield Matilda Sarah Walsh is helping upcoming footballers with her work in the Illicit Drugs in Sport Program.
Famous sportspeople have been taking up the role of humanitarian for years. Whether it’s David Beckham’s youth clinics in Harlem or the international Leo Messi Foundation, many footballers have chosen to invest their wealth and time into important projects.
But it’s not just the stars on multi-million dollar contracts who are helping their local communities. In fact, several W-League players have taken it upon themselves to make the world a better place with their own charitable works.
Drugs and alcohol, in particular, have been a burden on professional sportspeople for decades. In rugby league, we rarely go a season without hearing about how alcohol has destroyed another budding career, while the explosive revelation of Lance Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs shocked the cycling world.
Sarah Walsh is one W-League player who has taken it upon herself to see that drug and alcohol awareness and education is available for all Australian athletes. The Western Sydney Wanderer has been involved with the Illicit Drugs in Sport (IDIS) Program most of her career and it’s clear that her work with IDIS has had a positive effect on the women’s game.
“There’s two Matildas – well, one former Matilda – myself and Melissa Barbieri, so it’s a national program,” says Sarah. “We use the A-League and W-League players to deliver the program. We coordinate it [and] we send the players out to deliver it to the football community.”
But performing charity doesn’t only have to be about overcoming the negative influences in sport. After some time spent working with FFV school clinics, Amy Jackson recently started her own sports clinic business, High Aims. The program is focused on boosting the health and fitness of schoolkids while at the same time teaching them a variety of skills in sports ranging from football to AFL to cricket.
“I’m passionate about health promotion,” says Amy. “And I think there’s a lack of resources out there for young people who want to get into the sporting environment. So not only do I run the clinics with them, but I talk about the pathways and opportunities that sport can provide, and they are excited and willing to take part when they know there is somewhere they can go with their sport.”
In a similar fashion, Matildas Kyah Simon and Teigen Allen ventured out to country NSW last month in order to run skill sessions and share their professional football experiences with schoolgirls in Bourke. The Womensport NSW Girls “Get Active” Gala Day brought together sportswomen from netball, motocross, rugby and more, and allowed the youngsters a chance to meet their sporting idols and even learn a thing or two about maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.
These are just a few cases of W-League players making a difference, and they prove you don’t have to be Lionel Messi to give something back.