Olympic athletes figure prominently on the world stage and some have used their spotlight to raise awareness on a number of social issues (e.g., Clara Hughes’ work on raising mental health awareness). Studies examining high level sport have found that teams and athletes donate their time and resources for a combination of altruistic and self-serving reasons, in practices known as corporate social responsibility or strategic philanthropy. However, no such studies have specifically examined the precise nature of how Olympic athletes contribute, how they feel about their contributions, or why they contribute in the ways they do. The current study represents an exploratory study examining the perceptions, motivations, and pressures of contribution experienced by Canadian Olympic athletes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with two Canadian Olympians and revealed how the athletes contributed to themselves, their communities, and their sport for both altruistic (e.g., personal values, helping the next generation, or a connection to a group) as well as for self-serving reasons (e.g., obtaining access to facilities, improving future funding applications). Additionally, the Olympians felt both moral (e.g., wanting to improve the sport) and social (e.g., helping those that have helped them) pressures to contribute as a result of their success as athletes. The athletes also described scheduling, personal finances, and the bureaucracy of their national sport organization as barriers that limited their ability to contribute. The findings of this study improve our understanding of Olympic athlete contribution, provide direction for future research, and offer insights for coaches and sport psychology professionals seeking to help athletes achieve greater satisfaction with their Olympic experience.
Keywords: 5Cs model, gratitude, citizenship, corporate social responsibility