The selfish pursuit of greatness
Jan 25, 2017
“I will sleep soundly tonight, and for the rest of my life, knowing I made the right decision. I will never allow myself to be defined by the accolades I receive, rather the integrity I carry through life.”
Half a year ago, Evan Dunfee became a household name after his first Olympic appearance and a grueling 50km walk. His choice to refrain from an appeal not only inspired a nation and beyond, but also gave a much needed reminder of why we participate in sport. Why medals don’t equate to the true nature of competing in sport.
That being said, this affirmative outlook on sport hasn’t always been rooted in the Canadian race walker. He admits to having perceived sport in the past as a selfish pursuit of greatness for himself. As a child playing hockey, he didn’t recognize the inherent value of kids unable to score goals. Kids that weren’t the best players. Although the physical nature of bullying didn’t exist, the darker emotional and psychological aspect of making others feel worthless prevailed amidst the team.
“Looking back, I realize how wrong I was. Especially in a team mindset where it becomes a lot easier to rally people and segregate the team if you have a couple people willing to think that way.”
In addition to being the bully, Evan was also once the bullied. Being the shortest kid in class with big round glasses and red curly hair unfortunately made him an easy target for the ruthless. Eventually, Evan learned about the impact of pre-emptive strikes; by being the bully himself, he could avoid being bullied. In adopting that mindset, Evan found himself flipping back and forth between his differing identities of being a bully and the bullied throughout his childhood in sport, and especially, team sports.
Heartfelt memories from both sides of the equation have given Evan the unique perspective of knowing what bullying feels like, inside and out. In addition to showing compassion to the person being bullied, he extends his kindness to the bully themselves, as destructive actions are merely the tip of the iceberg.
“We misunderstand what they’re looking for, realizing a lot of the times that they’re just as insecure. That’s simply their way of reaching out for help.”
The existing prevalence of bullying in sport can be difficult to identify, even for those immersed in sport. Before the #ERASEbullying campaign, Evan was trapped in his bubble of individual sport where bullying was an elusive concept that no longer seemed like an issue. He now sees how pervasive it still is, which has been eye-opening, to say the least.
“…I found myself adopting a new outlook. It’s been cemented this year in the idea of sport being this place, especially for young kids where it acts as a microcosm for real life where you have to learn and use all the skills you need in the real world as an adult, like teamwork. Sportsmanship. Hard work. Determination. I think sport provides, or should provide, a safe environment for kids to learn all these things at their own pace, and sort of mimic all of the skills they need outside of sport.”
As an athlete and a coach for young children, Evan reflects on who he is today as a result of his experiences through sport. Had he listened to everyone who had bullied him in the past, he would have quit sport a long time ago and made the biggest mistake of his life. That’s why he encourages those who are currently facing challenges to unite their voices and speak out.
“If sport is something you’re incredibly passionate about, don’t let one person stand in the way of you pursuing that. Find ways to rectify the situation. To eliminate that barrier so that you can continue to do all the wonderful and amazing things through sport that exist.”
Moving forward, Evan advocates in hopes of seeing tangible and positive changes in sport that create a safe environment for everyone. Join him in standing together to #ERASEbullying in sport by taking the pledge.