Two-time Olympian Lea Davison explains how you could use your sporting fame to make a positive difference to society

Lea Davison realised early on that she could use her sporting fame for the greater good. Back in 2007, when she was just establishing herself as a top mountain biker, Lea and her sister Sabra set up Little Bellas, a non-profit organisation that helps young women and girls to realise their potential through cycling.

Lea has since gone on to compete in two Olympic Games, and remains one of the world’s best mountain bikers – but Little Bellas remains her key focus when she’s off the bike. What advice would she give to athletes who may be inspired to start their own non-profit?

Talk is great – but action is better
“When we were growing up through the sport, we didn’t see as many girls on the start line as boys. There would be 100 junior boys – and about 10 to 15 junior girls. Instead of complaining about a problem, we said, ‘We’re going to fix this’. We started creating programmes for girls to get into mountain biking with the goal to make them as fun as possible, so the girls were chock-full of confidence when they left.” 

Don’t be shy
“I’ve really used a lot of my contacts within the sport. I think any elite-level athlete is in a great position to leverage their contacts and their networks to make a change socially. In big years, like an Olympic year, you’re on a bigger stage – it’s really given us a great opportunity to tell the Little Bellas story.”

Harness the Olympic magic
“If you’re an Olympian or an elite-level athlete, you have a lot of power and you can make a lot of impact. That’s an athlete’s superpower: they can be a change-maker in a kid’s life, create that confidence, build a friendship incredibly quickly – and become an accessible human instead of a superstar.”

Be a team player
“When you’re an elite-level athlete, it truly takes a village to get great results. Going into it without an ego, being willing to improve, learn and listen – there’s a lot to learn and absorb, and I definitely don’t have all of the answers. It can be very humbling.”

Try to make a difference
“You really feel like you’re really making a bigger impact on the world. Seeing these girls improve, really seeing them get comfortable with themselves and become empowered over the course of the summer – it’s really something special. We’re getting more girls on bikes, empowering the future generation of females. If you have a goal and you put your mind to it, just like in sport, you can really make big things happen.”

If you’re interested in following in Lea’s footsteps and setting up your own non-profit, check out the Athlete365 Learning