When I reflect on my own journey growing up, I think about how fortunate I’ve been. I’ve had special people in my life that recognised my potential, as a cricketer, but also as a person. Two of those people are local cricket identities Enrico Di Venuto and Tim Coyle who have both been important mentors to me. Looking back, I was lucky to have cricket and people like them around me. For many young people, they are not so lucky and lack the support network I grew up taking for granted.
A few months ago, just as COVID-19 restrictions were about to hit, I met with Scott Harris at a local coffee shop in Hobart. Scott is the CEO of Beacon Foundation, a national not for profit supporting young people to complete year 12 and carve their future career paths. It was a sombre conversation as the reality of the pandemic was becoming evident. Scott described how we were in for a serious time ahead and that the greatest impact would almost certainly be felt by our young people and that if a proactive approach was not taken this could be felt for many years ahead.
Realising the severity of the situation, Beacon Foundation had reached out to see if I was interested in being their National Ambassador for Be@Connected, a new online learning series they had put together in response to education moving online. The series was to focus on life skills that would help our young people get through this challenging time and give them inspiration and learnings for now and for the future. I could sense the commitment of the organisation to make a difference in a non-fuss and genuine manner. Knowing just how much this kind of support had meant to me growing up, I didn’t hesitate in joining the cause right there and then.
Be@Connected took me right out of my comfort zone. There I was talking about being a good listener, the benefits of having a mentor and the importance of being your authentic self, offering insights and support to young people across Australia. Despite feeling nervous and unfamiliar to the situation, I knew it was the right thing to do.
I watched the series unfold with new topics introduced by key speakers all providing a sense of hope during times of hardship. The series made me stop and think further about the challenges that our young people face and how this current situation will impact them.
As the weeks passed by, the final episode of Be@Connected was quickly approaching. In the early hours of a crisp Wednesday morning I met Nayton, a year 7 student from Bayview Secondary College (formerly Rokeby High School). He was the student who had won a competition to interview me and wrap up 6 weeks of Be@Connected. When I finally got the opportunity to meet Nayton I was so impressed by the young man before me.
I couldn’t help but think back to my days at Bayview, the same school I had attended and how fortunate I have been to find a pathway that I absolutely love. Nayton had prepared the questions for that session, giving an insight into what mattered to him and his peers. He asked me about how to build resilience and handle stress, as well as my values and the role that mentors have had on my life.
There is no way that I would have had the confidence or courage to do what Nayton did that day. Growing up has its challenges and this experience reminded me of about how important it is for us to support our young people to give them the best possible chance to head on a positive pathway. Now more than ever our young people are going to need us. As a Dad myself to two small children, this now has so much more importance for me.
I’ve always been conscious of the role I can play in helping others, both as ‘Tim Paine the cricketer’, and ‘Tim Paine the person’. I would like to think that I’ve always remained true to my upbringing, I know for sure how quickly life can change.
I came away from the Be@Connected series feeling compelled to further support young people and the important role Beacon has taken on. The role that we all should take on, as members of our community, to help our young people navigate the enormous challenges and opportunities that come their way. We must all step up and take responsibility.
Take a moment today to ask yourself, what role you can play to support our many young people playing the game of their future where the playing field is not always equal? I know that if I didn’t have Enrico and Tim that early on, my life journey could have been so very different.
I worry about the post-COVID reality of youth unemployment and disadvantage. We need organisations, like the Beacon Foundation, that provide a link between education and industry. The opportunities they will create into the future, are so important.
Let’s all do our bit to give our young people the best possible chance to live their dreams. They deserve it.
By Tim Paine, Australian Test Cricket Captain. Originally published via Mercury.
Be@Connected is a new set of 12 free online learning programs, streamed on YouTube. The series will feature a range of prominent and inspiring speakers from a variety of fields covering topics including communication, resilience, wellbeing, problem solving and adaptability. The short series is specifically designed for students across Australia to support them through this period of great uncertainty. Be@Connected is free and students can watch the sessions on YouTube where they will be available throughout Term Two. Simply subscribe to the YouTube channel and join us!