Sports Tomorrow – Day 9
“For twelve years, Barça has had most possession in 887 of 902 games”
Barça Innovation Hub’s Sports Tomorrow event has been opened by Pau Gasol. The former Barça and NBA player highlighted how important it is for the leading minds in the worlds of sports and technology to come together at meetings like this to share their knowledge with each other. That’s especially so at such an uncertain time as the one we are experiencing right now due to the pandemic, a problem that has shown how important innovation is in the world of sport.
For Gasol, however, sport is not just a business or an entertainment form. It’s a lifestyle. Investing in sports is investing in children, he says. It is something that shows what a country or a city is like. In his case, sport was the great teacher in his life. He will never forget the values that he has learned, such as dedication, sacrifice, ethics, respect and, above all, learning. In fact, he has never stopped learning and doesn’t plan to ever stop, because he wants to stay associated to sport for the rest of his life.
He is fascinated by the impact sport has on society. It is not just about players and coaches, there is a whole community behind it. It is essential for children to have professionals as role-models to look up to, they dream of being like them. Gasol has travelled with Unicef all around the world and has been able to see for himself that wherever you go, sport creates bonds that help children to socialise. It is even therapeutic, and has helped child soldiers to find better lives.
Gasol would also like players to take a more active part in business, and to learn and invest in it. He dislikes the way that athletes are expected to be passive subjects, and do no more than be athletes. They are encouraged not to voice their political views, denounce injustices, or invest in business, yet they have feelings and opinions just like anyone else.
He is therefore extremely grateful to the NBA for being like a big family and allowing its players to express their opinions. They have been able to speak out against injustice and racism, support Black Lives Matter or encourage their fellow citizens to vote.
The proof that athletes are people like any others, he insists, is that they also get depressed. No matter how much they win or how far they have come, any athlete at the top can sink emotionally, and they often end up needing to ask for help. Mental health is not only important for them on court, but also off of it, when they get injured or, most importantly, when they come to retire. That is why he is calling on clubs to pay greater attention to the final years of their players’ careers and help them to deal with the next chapter in their lives.