How Elite Athletes Inspire School Students

Gold medallist and former Australian mens hockey captain Mark Knowles says sports stars have a positive impact on students in five key ways.

Being an elite athlete, there are so many ways we can look to inspire and encourage the next generation. On the field, court, track, playing arena or in the gym, we are in a zone that allows us to express ourselves in our competitive zone.

This driven, competitive and active lifestyle can have benefits throughout society and an area that athletes need to continue to work on and give back to is through schools and student programs.

I feel a great sense of pride walking into schools and being able to speak about my journey, lifestyle choices, goals, disappointments, injuries and values. This to me is a way of staying grounded when success or failure is floating in the background. It isn't always easy and not all athletes enjoy being in the public eye, either sharing their own experiences or speaking in front of groups. Browse sports stars available to book here

Here's my five tips on ways that elite athlete visiting schools can help and inspire students in different ways.

1. Leadership

This can come in many forms for students. This can be in study groups or class, school leadership/captaincy groups and also through sports teams. We constantly work on a variety of facets of leadership in sports teams and this is no different for students. We have found through sport that different personalities have different strengths and weaknesses. Gone are the days of just the best player being the captain. Now; communication, relationships, work ethic and values all play a part. This is important in schools, as many different students have strengths that can help a group.

2. Resilience

Overcoming challenges for students is an area that needs a lot of focus. There is academic results, image, injuries and changeover of friends that can be extremely tough at this time and learning skills and ways to be resilient will be highly beneficial for students.

Athletes Inspire Students

PIC: Mark Knowles and Olivia Vivian at Mazenod College

3. High Performance

This is a space that athletes are placed in almost every day. High performance works to get the best out of students, makes them search for ways to improve outside of their comfort zone and uses conversations to grow relationships.

4. Health and General Fitness

This is essential to promote to people of all ages but can be highly effected at a young age. Giving tips on nutrition and diet, healthy options and physical activity promotes a healthy mind and body. Athletes can relate back to our experiences growing up, choices we made and the way we feel when leading a healthy active lifestyle.

5. Life Balance

So important for athletes, parents, students and people of all walks. It's so important that we have a number of areas of life to work on and enjoy. This brings balance and stability. For me, my family provide a very grounding platform around training and tournaments. When I get home from training, my boys aged 5 and 2 don't care if I missed a trap or didn't run my best beep test, they love me for being their dad and this allows me to get over small humps or challenges quicker. In our Australian men's hockey team, about 1/3 study, 1/3 work and 1/3 use hockey throughout the world. In all areas, inside or outside of sport we are looking to improve ourselves.

I hope this provides some areas to reflect on and work with. We are role models and can influence students and the community in so many ways. I love this part of being a sportsperson and would encourage us all to look outside of our training and competition bubble to help improve others.

Mark Knowles is the former captain of Australia's mens national hockey team, the Kookaburras, an Olympic gold medallist, World Cup winner and three-time International Player of the Year.

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