Sports Heroes and Private Action for the Public Good

9, 10, 11, 12

To introduce students to famous people who have acted for the public good and to identify how philanthropy affects the public good.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne or Two Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • list sports and philanthropic accomplishments of Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, and Jackie-Joyner Kerseee.
  • identify the benefits of private action for the public good.
  • Sports Heroes Analysis Chart Handout
  • Internet access to read about the three sports heroes


  1. Write Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee on the chalkboard.

    Ask students if they know anything about them and discuss each person’s sport (baseball, tennis, and track). These athletes were well known because they excelled in their sports and were generous or ground-breaking in their citizenship. 

    Ask the students to name their current sports heroes who also are using their fame to make a difference for society. 

  2. Distribute Sports Heroes Analysis Chart Handout. Using the following questions, discuss the column labeled philanthropy:

    • What does philanthropy mean? (the giving of one's time, talent or money to the benefit of humanity)
    • What are the benefits of private action for the public good? Can students identify how these actions they listed help the public?
    • Ask the students if these philanthropic actions show responsibility?
    • In what philanthropies do you already participate? (For example, scouting projects, school projects that help others, neighborhood clean-up projects, or environmental projects.)
  3. Ask the students what they personally might like to do to be a responsible citizen and what effect those actions would have. Define responsible citizen as one who acts in a virtuous and ethically responsible way as a member of society.

  4. Tell students that they are going to learn more about the philanthropy of Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, and JackieJoyner-Kersee .

    Divide the class into groups of three to five students and assign each group one of the athletes listed on the chart. Using Derek Jetersas an example, show students how to fill in the chart for their athlete:

  5. Hero: Derek Jeters

    Sports Achievement: NY Yankees Shortstop

    Philanthropic Achievement: Jeter began the Turn2foundation

    Impact on the Community: Turn 2 Foundation Since 1996 has raised over $8 million dollars to provide youth with a place to “turn to” in place of drugs and alcohol

  6. Have each group research their sports hero, filling in the information on the chart. The information may be gathered as a research project on the Internet or in the library or using the attached handouts as the source of information. When all groups have completed their task, return the class to a whole group format. Combine the information obtained.

  7. Day Two:

  8. As a whole class, share the information from the chart completed on the previous day. Ask the students how the information was new or surprising to them.

    A large copy of the chart can be posted in the room, or the chart can be displayed using computer projection.

  9. Distribute The Matching Game game board and tell the learners that they are going to play “The Match Game.” In this game the people listed on the game board are famous philanthropists. The challenge is for the learners to see how much they might already know about the philanthropists listed on the game board.

    • Randomly read each philanthropist’s story from the handout Matching Game: Philanthropist Stories  and give the learners time to find the name of the philanthropist that they think the story represents and have them place an “x” that box.
    • The first learners to ”x-out" four across or five down /or five on an angle “wins” the match game.

    Playing this game a few times will give the learners more opportunities to learn about the philanthropists and their contributions to the public good.


Pair each student with a partner. At the completion of the lesson, each student should describe to his or her partner a way that society as a whole benefits from philanthropy or the good actions of its citizens. Taking turns, each partner should state a sports achievement, philanthropic achievement and the impact on the community of a sports hero studied today.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
      2. Benchmark HS.7 Identify and give examples of the important roles women and minorities have played in the civil society sector in history.