Athlete activism upsurge encouraging next generation to speak up for social causes

Sky Sports

Stars such as Serena Williams and intelligent sports marketing inspiring UK talent to promote campaigns; Olympic gold medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh and Tokyo 2020 hopeful Molly Thompson-Smith among those using their platforms to achieve change

It's the "gumption" of the younger generation that gives Helen Richardson-Walsh hope for the future.

The Olympic gold medallist wants more sports stars to show they care about social issues by speaking out. She's seeing encouraging signs; that those coming through are getting more savvy about social media and are recognising the power of their platforms. There's an improved understanding that you can be a high achiever and an athlete activist, but that it takes initiative and self-confidence to succeed at both. Richardson-Walsh is ready to help harness that enthusiasm.

"When I was younger, I'm not even sure I'd have recognised it was necessary," she admits, when asked if she would have felt so comfortable in the past to address inclusion, gender equality, and mental health. These are three issues which the hockey champion - who won almost 300 caps for England and Great Britain - has brought to wider attention through discussing her own experiences, at events, in interviews, and on social. But even in her youth - "I was a grumpy teen, often moaning" - it was never the case that she didn't care enough, just that she lacked direction.

A pointed comment from a teacher sticks in her memory. "She looked at me once after I'd complained about something, and said simply, 'What are you going to do about it?' It's only in recent years that I've truly started to appreciate what she meant."


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