Dylan Alcott inspires sportsmanship and service-learning

Dylan Alcott at the Swiss Open Geneva Semifinal on July 12, 2014- Wikimedia Commons

Legendary Paralympian and 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion Dylan Alcott plans to retire from Wheelchair Tennis after playing the annual Australian Open in January 2022. Alcott’s career has included a slew of memorable moments including his gold medal in Wheelchair Basketball in 2012 and three more in Wheelchair Tennis in 2016 and 2021 at the Paralympic Games. Even more impressive than these athletic accomplishments, however, is Alcott’s dedication to supporting young people with disabilities and inspiring thousands around the world.

Through his career, Alcott has been an advocate for childen with disabilities, founding start-up Get-Skilled Access, a group with a mission to “improve accessibility and inclusion for anyone and everyone.”

Alcott was born with a tumor on his spine, and its removal left him paralyzed from the waist down with impaired upper body movement. Throughout his career, Alcott has been an advocate for children with disabilities, founding start-up Get-Skilled Access, a group with a mission to “improve accessibility and inclusion for anyone and everyone.” He also runs his own foundation, the Dylan Alcott Foundation, which aims “to help enrich the lives of young people with disabilities by eliminating the barriers of entry to get involved in sport and study through mentoring, grants and scholarships.” Alcott is also an author and media personality, roles in which he attempts to “normalize [and] … change the perceptions around disability.”

People with disabilities like Alcott account for almost 15% of the world’s population—about 780 million people. Although each person’s disability is different and allows for different lifestyles, one widely supported pathway for people with disabilities is in athletics. The 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo Japan hosted almost 4,500 athletes with disabilities competing in over 20 sports.

Dylan Alcott at Semifinals, 2014 Swiss Open Geneva, via Wikimedia by Clement Bucco-Lechat

Three months after Alcott’s completion of the “Golden Slam” (winning the four major tennis tournaments and the (para)lympic gold medal) at the 2021 US Open, people around the world observed International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Occurring annually on December 3, the day reinforces the UN’s “commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future,” and highlights an aspect of one of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.  

Although Alcott can, of course, relate to the struggles of children with disabilities much more successfully than most people, his work sets an example for the world about the importance of support for all those with disabilities. Support is extremely broad, yet quite simple. It can range from spontaneous assistance, like helping an elderly person carry groceries, to the broad work that non-profit organizations and service leagues do to help struggling individuals every day. But support can simply be the act of giving assistance. 

Althought not everyone can possess Alcott’s athletic skills, anyone can benefit from the example he sets and be inspired by his journey and his efforts to give back and support his community.

Dylan Alcott is not just a talented, successful dual-sport athlete. He is also a strong-willed individual. He has used his struggle and experiences to improve the lives of others and assist the world. He has said that he “love[s] the ability to help people” and that he would “be wasting [his] life if [he] won 20 grand slams and that’s all [he] did.”  His attitude and mindset are traits not only to be admired, but for all people to aspire to. Although not everyone can possess Alcott’s athletic skills, anyone can benefit from the example he sets and be inspired by his journey and his efforts to give back and support his community.