by James Viray

   
  
 
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    Source: Sean Doolittle from a Visit to the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Hospital in 2016

Source: Sean Doolittle from a Visit to the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Hospital in 2016

Update March 27, 2018: The Washington Post published an article entitled, "Sean Doolittle and Eireann Dolan may be baseball's most 'woke' couple," which highlights Athletivate's work with them.

Last month, Oakland A's pitcher Sean Doolittle and his fiancée, writer Eireann Dolan, took a stand. And invited others to stand with them. They penned an op-ed to raise awareness about the challenges that veterans with "bad paper" face and to advocate for legislation to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs health services to them. You can read more about it in Sports Illustrated here. Their in-depth understanding of the issue and potential solutions did not come without work anymore than Sean's own fastball developed without hours on the mound.

Sean and Eireann first came to Athletivate with a desire to make more of an impact through their philanthropic and advocacy work. They recognized that their efforts, and impact, at the time were spread among multiple causes and could be more coordinated. Rather than strategic, they were reactive. Their desire for and understanding of impact is something that often escapes the casual celebrity humanitarian.

After sitting down with them in a coffee shop at Spring Training last year, we got a better sense of their backgrounds, interests and goals. We took all of that in, looked at the landscape of social causes and eventually selected support to veterans as their focus. But, to really make an impact, we knew they would need to hone in on a more specific aspect of that very broad issue. In the weeks that followed, the Athletivate team took Sean and Eireann through a series of conversations with experts on veterans' needs to identify a singular issue for their work. The list of veterans' needs is long and selecting one issue was not an easy task, but was made easier by our focus on impact--where Sean and Eireann's efforts could drive the most change. After deliberating on the multiple options, the Athletivate team made our recommendation and Sean and Eireann agreed that improving support to veterans with "bad paper" would be where they could do the most good. More briefings followed--this time with academic researchers, advocates and veterans with specific expertise on the "bad paper" issue.

Sean and Eireann were extremely committed and put an amazing amount of time into learning about the issue from the perspective of the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the veterans themselves. But, they didn't just stop at learning about the problems, they probed the potential solutions--from regulatory reforms at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to legislation. They didn't want to just raise awareness about a problem, they wanted to drive a solution.

Compare their approach with examples from the recent past of other athletes who have been quick to speak up about a societal problem, but had nothing to offer for a way forward. 

We'll have to wait to see if the legislation gets passed. And, if it does, it will only be the start of the needed changes. But, it's a good start.

At Athletivate, we set you up for success in whatever your cause. We help you develop your own understanding of the different sides of an issue so that your own perspective is informed, not ignorant. We'll position you to not only speak up about a problem, but to lead out on a solution. That's what an Athletivist does.