After four years as captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and a decade-long meteoric soccer career spanning the U.S., U.K. and Canada, Jay DeMerit retired as a professional soccer player last year due to on-going injuries.
Now the star athlete is spending more time on another one of his passions: mentoring the next generation.
His dual roles as Whitecaps ambassador and ambassador with Team Play Better, are allowing him to help teach youth to be “good at life” and integrate charitable giving into sports skills development.
“I’ve constantly been surrounded by 16- to 19-year-old kids who are very single-minded and who have little empathy for others,” said Jay, who credits his empathy and leadership skills to his parents, who are both gym teachers, and to an early-career soccer coach who maintained an open and egalitarian approach to team development.
“My vision is: let’s go beyond ourselves and enrich others. I want to enrich kids to be empathetic and well-rounded people. You need other skills besides sports, and my job, as someone in the public eye, is to fight for those values.”
“If you have empathy in you, it’s your job to teach that to other people.” – Jay DeMerit
Together with his wife, Olympic gold medallist freestyle skier Ashleigh McIvor, DeMerit is also putting the wheels in motion to launch the Rise & Shine Foundation, a multi-faceted organization located on 10 acres of land in Pemberton.
Along with corporate retreat services, Rise and Shine will feature unique sports camps for kids that blend skills training with personal and career development. “The three-day curriculum will have rotating coaching with 50 professionals who can offer ideas about everything from nutrition to being active to career possibilities.”
DeMerit recently visited the Chimp office to kick off his Team Play Better ambassadorship, and we had the chance to learn a bit more about his foundation and to chat about his views on charity.
Chimp: What does charity mean to you?
JD: Charity is all about giving back and it’s a two-part thing for me: doing my part as a person, whether that’s with time or money, and as a pro athlete it’s about giving my time as an ambassador for others to help them raise money for their causes.
Chimp: When did charity first become part of your life?
JD: Charity was part of my life from a young age. I had teachers as parents, and they were very involved in the school and the school board. I also used to have to raise money to go to soccer tournaments.
Chimp: What charitable causes are most meaningful to you?
JD: I want to help people understand their capabilities. This can come through advice or mentorship, but ultimately I want to help people make change in a positive way.
Chimp: How do you act on your spirit of charity?
JD: I’m giving my time, creating kids’ camps and acting as the face of organizations I believe in. My kids’ camps through the foundation will focus on creating well-rounded leaders, not just good soccer players. We’ll encourage kids to be healthy and active, but also to make good decisions to be successful at life.
Chimp: If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the world, what would it be?
JD: I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity in life to do something meaningful – to go for their dreams. I would give everyone that opportunity if I could.