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21 Aug 2018
Olympism in Action Forum, YOG, Olympic News
Olympism in Action Forum

#UnitedBy giving back - Kate Anderson

Kate Anderson is an American based in Park City, Utah, who works as the athletics manager for US Ski & Snowboard, the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding. She was selected to be a Young Change-Maker for her work coordinating the Hope Sports volunteer team at US Ski & Snowboard. Hope Sports arranges short service trips to Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic for athletes, where they’re tasked with building homes for families in need.


In the run-up to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires (5-6 October 2018), we looked at groups and individuals who, inspired by the power of sport to contribute to a better world, have used their initiative to organise projects and programmes to effect change at all levels.

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Making the most of Olympic opportunities

Though she was never much of an athlete herself, Kate Anderson grew up with a distinct love for sport. Whether cheering during football games or seeing Shaun White snowboarding at the Olympic Winter Games, she loved watching on the big screen alongside her dad. Growing up, she relished the story of her father attending the 1984 Sarajevo Games as a spectator. But she never expected to witness the Olympic Games in person herself.

Yet, since becoming the athletics manager for US Ski & Snowboard, Anderson has enjoyed opportunities of Olympic proportions, first representing Team USA as a Young Change-Maker at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, and then as a manager with the US ski and snowboarding team at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

At the YOG, Anderson provided support to over 100 young athletes. “I explored the Learn and Share area with them almost daily, and attended as many competitions as I could,” she says. “I also coordinated with coaches and athletes on media opportunities and special events, like meeting IOC President Bach. The Youth Olympic Games was a great preparation tool for my role in PyeongChang.”

In PyeongChang, Anderson’s job was to manage the friends and families of the athletes. “It was really great because I got to see the team behind the team,” she says. “These families and friends have put in so much work with the athlete. The athlete is the one competing, but their friends and family are these unsung heroes that have driven them to the mountain at 2 a.m., or taken second jobs, or dipped into their savings and supported them the whole way. So, for me to be able to support those people was really cool.”

She also got to experience some life-changing moments for herself. “I got to see Shaun White win a gold medal in PyeongChang, which is something I’d wanted to see since I was 14 years old,” she says. “I cried a little bit – didn’t think that would happen! The emotion really overtook me. It was funny because my boss was there too, and I gave him a big hug, and he goes, ‘This. This is an Olympic moment.’ So, that was definitely a highlight for me.”

Helping stars on the slopes build hope

For Anderson, the Olympics are more than the games – they’re about giving back.

“A huge part of being an Olympian and carrying the spirit of Olympism is being able to reach and interact with people from all walks of life,” she explains. “Sport is this kind of universal language that transcends borders, that transcends language barriers; there's nothing that separates one person from another person so much that you can't find some common ground, and I think that's a huge part of the Olympics. The world kind of stops for the Olympic Games.”

In her role at US Ski & Snowboard, Anderson has the opportunity to help athletes give back off the slopes. “When I first started my job, one of my projects was community engagement with our athletes. I looked into opportunities for them to volunteer, and found Hope Sports. I’ve been working with Hope Sports for about three years now.”

According to Anderson, Hope Sports teaches athletes that there are other perspectives and people who didn't grow up with the same advantages they did. It also puts them in a situation that they probably wouldn't encounter otherwise.

“In action sports, the athletes are always pushing their limits, so being ‘out of their comfort zone’ is hard to define,” explains Anderson. “Taking them out of their comfort zone in a different way and going down to Tijuana, Mexico, and into this poverty that they probably have never seen and will never experience is really eye-opening for them.”

A huge part of being an Olympian and carrying the spirit of Olympism is being able to reach and interact with people from all walks of life Kate Anderson

Hope Sports conducts service trips to various countries, but for their past few trips the skiers and snowboarders have spent their time building houses in Tijuana. They build the homes alongside the families who will live there once complete. All participants, from the athletes to the families, walk away with newfound friendships, commitment to service and an appreciation for different ways of life.

“What’s really unique about the programme is that we're building these houses alongside the families that are going to live in them, so you really get to know them and their story,” Anderson says. “A couple of years ago, we built a house for a family with a two-year-old son. The mom is on Facebook, which is cool because she added everyone on Facebook and would post team updates. This woman who lives in Mexico and has never seen snow or gone skiing or snowboarding sharing updates from our athletes when they win the X-Games or something – it’s the coolest thing to see these people, who normally would not have had any connection, interacting on social media and supporting each other and cheering for each other.”

Watch the YOG U.S. Ski and Snowboard team build homes in Mexico as part of Kate’s Young Change-Maker project.

“You are more than your score”

Besides coordinating the building of houses, Anderson also arranges talks for the athletes from former Olympians and sports psychologists to help them frame their volunteer work in the context of their athletic abilities. “They talk to them about maybe trying to shift your perspective to something more purpose-based,” Anderson explains. “Don't define yourself by your latest result. Define yourself by what you do and the people you help and your mission in life. It’s rewarding to see the athletes walking away saying ‘I'm not just a result. I'm a whole person.’”

Anderson sees the shift in the athletes immediately after the programme. “We do a wrap-up session every year at the end of the project. Last summer, one of my athletes who had recently won a medal said, ‘I think it's going to be really important post-Olympics to get as many of the medallists as possible to do a project like this. After you win a medal, you kind of are in this whirlwind and it's easy to get sucked into it. Doing this project can help keep you grounded as, yes, you've done this amazing thing by winning, but that's not 100 per cent of who you are as a person.’”

But Anderson isn’t only giving – she’s also learning, growing and seeing the benefits of giving back herself.

“I'm so grateful that the IOC has given me this platform to share my passion of combining sport and community engagement and giving back to others. It's been an amazing experience, and I'm really excited to continue working for them and showing the world that our athletes are not only phenomenal competitors, but also great people.”

The Young Change-Makers+ (YCM+) Programme, now in its fifth cycle, invites National Olympic Committees to nominate inspiring young people aged 20-25 to serve as role models for their athletes and ensure they get the most out of their YOG experience. The YCMs are tasked with guiding the athletes through the Athlete Education Programme, encouraging them to be open to cultural exchanges, and introducing them to the Olympic values and all the movement stands for so they too can return home as ambassadors of the rings. YCMs are also invited to apply for seed funding to deliver their own social projects leveraging sport to address an issue in their community. The YCM+ Programme – which is supported by Panasonic – has so far seen 19 YCMs deliver 28 projects across 17 countries, impacting over 9,000 individual participants.

Learn more about the Youth Olympic Games and the Young Change-Makers+ Programme.

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