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10th Anniversary Spotlight: Our Inspirational Ambassadors Share

We have amazing Ambassadors, powerhouses in both the sporting and humanitarian worlds, who have graciously lent their support and expertise to the Beyond Sport family over the last decade. With less than two weeks until the Beyond Sport United Conference and Global Awards, they've shared some great memories and thoughtful insights on the power of sports and youth engagement. Though they are typically inspirations for young people, in line with our youth focus, we've asked about young people who are inspiring them. 

Read on and then let us know about young people who are inspiring you using #BeyondSport10.  We hope to see you in New York September 12 - 13 to celebrate and share in person!


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Donna de Varona
Olympic Gold Medalist (Swimming), Sports Broadcaster, President – Damar, Inc.

To me, going beyond sport means using the lessons learned in sport to enhance the world outside the competitive arena.

Being part of the Beyond Sport family continually connects me to many giving and visionary like-minded individuals who reinforce my belief in humanity. My favorite experience has been watching and experiencing Beyond Sport grow from an idea into a global initiative while offering hope and support to the many humanitarian programs throughout the world.  

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Research confirms that younger generations want to make a difference and often support companies that provide leadership and funding to worthwhile causes. It is not only good business to give back to global initiatives, but it makes sense on many levels.  Employees gain inspiration and pride when associated with firms that are committed to humanitarian programs as part of their philosophy.

I cannot name just one young person whose inspires me, but I give a shout out to the volunteers who support the Special Olympics and other organized sports programs and activities.  


Michael Johnson,
Multi-Olympic Gold Medalist (Track & Field), President - Michael Johnson Performance

To me, going beyond sport is going beyond just playing sport and being entertained by sport.

Sport for sustainable social change is so important simply because it has proven to be more effective than anything else in breaking down barriers and producing positive results where change is necessary and difficult. Sport is extremely popular around the world and is universal in itself. It is familiar to everyone. Every person has either played sport or watches sport.

A favorite memory of mine was reconnecting with Muhammad Ali at a Beyond Sport event in London on the eve of the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. I had first met Muhammad Ali who was an athletic hero of mine, over 20 years before while helping with one of his charity endeavors. We were both working in a shelter for homeless and bonded over our desire to help others using our status as athletes. Later he would come to support my charity efforts as well attending my events focused on raising funds to support at risk youth. It was great to reconnect with him along with Nick Keller (Beyond Sport Founder & President).

I believe if businesses want to be successful they will need to show that they are about more than just providing great products or services. They will need to show that they are responsible to the environment and they are good citizens of the world. And they can do that by being authentic and truly being good corporate citizens and by finding something that they truly believe in to support with the resources they have. This will be important for growing their business customer base and attracting and retaining good employees.

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One young person who inspires me is not a name you know now, but you will. Fatma Said Ahmed. Fatma was chosen by my Foundation’s, Michael Johnson Young Leaders project, three years ago as a young leader and she has inspired me with her strong belief and desire to be the positive change in her community that she wants to see. She has already succeeded as a leader in her own community and is well on her way to being a role model for many other young people who want to also be positive forces and who see sport as the key tool for achieving success in their community. Fatma is actually not an athlete, but long ago recognized the power of sport and believes strongly enough in it that she has developed programs exclusively using sport to address all sorts of issues in her community. She is now sharing her knowledge and her programs with other to implement in their communities.


Tamika Catchings
WNBA Champion and Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist

To me, going beyond sport means that its more than just a game, it’s about life.

As a Beyond Sport Ambassador, I appreciate the celebration of the wide variety of both sports and people – it’s obviously a big deal.  Attending the awards banquet last year, it was great to see the different ways athletes from all over the world are impacting their communities through sport, advocating for things such as gender equity. 

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It’s great to showcase these accomplishments by people of all backgrounds, sizes and ages. Sport can help solve some of the world’s most critical society issues. The little round ball is able to break down barriers, build bridges and allow people of all backgrounds to work together and interact safely. On youth engagement, athletes do a good job of supporting different initiatives and platforms. Teams can continue to support the programs their players are passionate about, which young people and fans are likely to support as well.

Editor’s note - Catchings told Ebony about a young lady who attended one of her Catch the Star Foundations' first clinics. The young lady looked up to the basketball star, but by the end, was an inspiration for Catchings: “Her mom came up to me after the clinic and said ‘my daughter has a problem, she hates to wear her hearing aids but she does now because of you…We actually worked it out through Big Brother Big Sister where I got paired with her. It’s been really cool to watch her grow. It’s been fun to kind of be her mentor, be her big sister…It’s easier to do for yourself but when you can do for others and the smile that you can put on other people’s faces it’s so rewarding.”


Ethan Zohn
Co-Founder Grassroot Soccer, former American professional soccer player (and Survivor: Africa winner!)

To me, going beyond sport means discovering your own greatness and then inspiring greatness in others.

We are all working together to create a healthier, happier world. I use the word “we” because I’m talking about the entire sport community. Business, athlete, charity, parent, tech…I feel there is a way we can all work together to create wonderful partnerships that can achieve everyone’s objectives. Creating shared value, winning partnerships is essential for this community to grow to scale and make a real dent in global issues.

In 2014, Grassroot Soccer hosted Beyond Sport at The Nike Soweto Training Center. We had our GRS Skillz Coaches, music, food, soccer, games, celebrity guests, speeches. The entire world coming to South Africa to celebrate sport, create community and save lives. It was one of the coolest Beyond Sport events we have been a part of.  

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A young person inspires me is Grassroot Soccer’s Yamkela from Cape Town, who said: “I am dedicated to building a new South Africa, a team that will fight HIV by all means. People are dying out there, so why should I watch people die? Let me be part of this team that is making progress, something I see that is working. To attract the youth, bring them all together, and share knowledge, share what we have. This is how we can build a new generation that will be free from HIV. I feel proud of myself. I am a Footballer.”

Don't miss your chance to network with thought leaders and change-makers to explore how sport is creating positive social change in communities across the globe – and to celebrate organizations that are using sport to make the UN Sustainable Development Goals a reality. Tickets are going fast for Beyond Sport United & Global Awards – make sure to get yours today


Lewis Pugh completes 330-mile swim in support of protecting our oceans