Can I Have Your Autograph?

The Power Of A Signature

— by Andrew Russell

Can you sign my jersey?

This is a “youthful” question akin to the track, hockey rink, soccer field, or basketball court, and the list goes on.

It can be such an awesome moment when a young aspirational kid is looking up to an athlete. The answer or gesture from the senior athlete to this question is critical.  The impact can be both profound and lasting, or a major letdown. Naturally, the metaphor of this opportunity extends well beyond sport into all elements of being a role model.

I remember being a young paddler, and wanting the autographs of my favourite canoers and kayakers when they competed at the 1997 senior world championships at Lake Banook in Dartmouth, NS. I was a boat-drying volunteer, looking on in awe as all of the great athletes went through “my” station. I got to witness these athletes immediately after they had finished their races. They were exhausted and eager to get back to their coaches to debrief and prepare for the next race.

Olympian Scotty Dickens competes alongside some young athletes at a 2017 event.

Olympian Scotty Dickens competes alongside some young athletes at a 2017 event.


Some athletes were friendly, others weren’t. As a kid, that impression stuck with me. There were athletes that did the little things to embrace their fans (like me), and those that didn’t have time or didn’t make the effort.

Steve Giles was a prized signature on the underside of the brim of my hat. He was one of the athletes that said “yes” enthusiastically when I approached him late in the day. Along with a few other greats, that cap with Steve’s signature got a lot of wear for the next few summers.


Let’s remember this story in the greater context of being a role model and leadership. Our behaviour has a big impact on those around us, and moments that seem minimal in importance to us on the flip side can mean the world to someone else.

So, next time your signature (or equivalent) is requested, do your best to say yes and scribble away.

Yours in paying it forward,