Moran Samuel (ISR) on Giving Back
What does “social responsibility” and “giving back” mean to you?
For me it means being aware of whats going on in your country and more specifically recognize where there are weakness and where you can be helpful with your knowledge and skills. Mostly it is turning thoughts and feelings in to actions.
As sport can make you a well-known person in your country, it allows the opportunity to first be a good example to others, and therefore to reach out and help.
How has your involvement in rowing influenced the ways in which you give back?
Being a rower gave me the opportunity to reach the highest levels of sport. With the success, I felt it is a great platform to do more things and reach more people.
I take advantage of that to encourage young girls and women to get involve in sport by going into schools around Israel and talking to children about the benefits of sport. I'm a physical therapist in my professional life, I have a master in child development, and even though I can only work a few hours a week because of training, I volunteer at a daycare of refuges children in the south part of Tel Aviv.
And lastly, I have developed a program together with two partners who are wheelchair basketball players, promoting para-sport among the community and especially among children. This program gives children the opportunity to meet para-athletes, listen to their stories, try wheelchair basketball and goal-ball and other para-sports. The children learn that disability is not a barrier and that it is important to overcome difficulties in your life. They learn that people with disabilities are just people and they learn the special values of sport.
How has giving back affected your relationship to sport / your goals as an elite athlete?
I think it has strengthened the meaning I find in being an athlete. Many of your goals are personal goals, you want to be better and overcome challenges and win competitions, but then there is something more to it than just me as a private person.
What lessons from rowing and sport have helped you?
Generally I think that being an athlete helped me find strength in places where its harder for other people. I have been an athlete since I was 9 years old, and played professional basketball until I was 24. I then suffered a rare condition called spinal stroke, which left me with the disability I have today. I know that going back to sport a few years after rehabilitation gave me the chance to feel complete again. Rowing for me today is like running felt before the wheelchair, I feel in control and strong, I don’t feel any disability when I'm in the boat.
Have you had any setbacks? Has your involvement in sport influenced how you deal with these?
The characteristics that make me a good athlete also help me in my personal life. Through the years, you have so many challenges, the physical ones, and the mental ones. Dealing with losing and failure are common among athletes and by overcoming the different challenges, you acquire the ability to face setbacks. I guess the biggest one I had to face was dealing with the disability, going through rehabilitation and not giving up. Sport only happens here and now, you cannot give up through a race if you want to win so when things don’t happen like you planned you have to put it behind you and keep on going. We cannot change the past, but we can decide what we want to do next. It's true for sport and for life. I can't change the fact that I will spend my life in a wheelchair, but I can control what will happen next.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to “give back” but does not know how?
First you need to ask yourself what can I contribute and in what field? Environment, education, etc.. And what population you want to meet while you volunteer? Children, adults, people with disabilities, etc.
Than do some research in your local area and see if there is something interesting. Many athletes need to follow a tight schedule and they are afraid to commit to any extra activity, but if you are able to find 2 hours to "give back" and you make sure that every week it is on the same day and at the same time, it becomes part of your schedule and its actually 2 hours where you can be something else and not just an athlete.
For more articles on Giving Back - look at our Athlete Zone.