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Athletes: Securing their own legacy

Find out in this article what’s important for athletes to secure their own legacy. What’s involved and how do they achieve this?
The Commonwealth Games gives a recognition for effort. So these girls, whilst they’re not yet elite athletes, the involvement in the GAPS Programme has been enormous because they’ve come in, they’ve been treated like beginner athletes and they’re starting to learn what it’s like to look after themselves physically, emotionally, and through their diet. Now, regardless of whether they become elite athletes, they are life skills that they will now have and take through for the rest of their life. And will– hopefully, will pass down with other people and with their next generation when they have children. So, the lessons learnt through this programme are again enormous. And whilst, yes, it’s aimed at sport, they are life lessons for everybody.
And it is such an important thing to be able to give these people skills that they can take back into their communities and share. And already, the interest that has been generated by having some para athletes involved has been incredible. They’re writing stories, and they are becoming recognised, and people are supporting them. So, it’s been phenomenal to see that happen. The upside of all this is that, these girls, now they see themselves as athletes. And to come into GAPS Camp 3, where they’re with other able-bodied athletes from their own region, with other able-bodied coaches or coaches of able-bodied athletes, is another level of acceptance.
So, it’s one thing to come into camp with a whole heap of other para athletes, it’s a totally different experience to come into a camp with able-bodied athletes. So that’s another level of acceptance that further enhances their own self-confidence and self-esteem. And the value of that cannot be measured. From us watching and observing, is to see what they do when they go back into their communities.

Athletes perform a unique function within major sport events – both contributing to the production of the sport event commodity, as well as benefiting themselves through the major sports event experience1.

Producing an event

In terms of production, the athletic performance and drama of winning and losing are why people pay money to travel and attend events, and why so many people stop to take an interest in sports broadcasts around the world.

Benefiting from an event

In terms of benefiting through the experience, athletes receive opportunities to compete, as well as opportunities for social interaction and cultural exchange through participating in an event.

Questions for event organisers

New major sport events are popping up in the international calendars of athletes every year. This means it is increasingly important for event organisers to think about these questions:

  • What can we do to ensure we can attract the best athletes from around the world?
  • What can we do to ensure these athletes are able to perform at their best when they are at the event?
  • Beyond opportunities for competition, what are the athletes getting out of this?

As we have looked at in this course, the GAPS Programme was designed to provide a pathway for Oceania athletes into the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and to engage the capacity of these athletes to ensure they are competitive in their events and can perform to their best. The potential legacies for athletes of such an initiative include the important ones we have discussed in this course:

  • ensuring the various Commonwealth nations are represented
  • enhancing their ability to be competitive with athletes from other nations which have far more sophisticated approaches to athlete preparation

In the video above, you heard Chris Nunn, paralympic coach, explain how this has been the case for athletes participating in the GAPS Programme and how they have secured a legacy for themselves and future generations.

Legacy of performances

The legacy of successful performances can include:

  • athletes building their identity as an elite athlete and taking greater motivation into their ongoing training for the next big event
  • athletes entering the history books for gold medals and record performances
  • the more immediate practicalities of securing ongoing funding support for training and development (e.g. government funding programs and private sponsors)

Legacy of social connections

The legacies of a programme such as GAPS extend further to providing participating athletes opportunities to meet people from different cultures and, staying in touch through social media, build lifelong relationships which in turn may have the potential to contribute to both personal and professional development, as well as open up opportunities in the longer-term.1

A recent study of athlete experience and satisfaction from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games revealed the high priority athletes place on opportunities for social interaction and cultural exchange2. In fact, these two factors have a stronger influence on an athlete’s satisfaction of events than the sport competition, which is an aspect taken for granted when participating in sport events.

The GAPS Programme contributed to the athlete experience by providing athletes opportunities to come together, interact and learn about one another’s cultures on several occasions in the lead up to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Your task

You have been asked by the GAPS team to provide some ideas to enhance the opportunities for social and cultural exchange. Based on your understanding of the GAPS Programme, what are 3 recommendations you would make for programme organisers for the next time the programme runs?

Share your recommendations in the comments below.


  1. Warner S, Dixon M. Understanding Sense of Community from the Athlete’s Perspective. Journal of Sport Management. 2011; 25(3):257-271.

  2. MacIntosh E. Parent M. Athlete satisfaction with a major multi-sport event: the importance of social and cultural aspects. International Journal of Event and Festival Management. 2017;8(2):136-150.

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Major Sport Events: Winning Through Diversity and Inclusion

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