One of the most significant differences is that the US has a population of more than 200 million, whereas Australia has a mere 20 million people. This automatically means more opportunities to get larger numbers of highly skilled young sports people together for meaningful competitions – there is just more talent there to start with – over ten times more, to be precise.
Another difference in the US is the tradition of private philanthropy. In Australia, we have a tradition of trying to give everyone 'equal' opportunities, and to emphasise that 'it is more important to join in, than to win'. Hence most of our youngsters get their first foothold in a sport by being 'good at it' at school, in the compulsory weekly games or annual athletics or swimming competitions – and only then, if their parents are willing, do they get extra coaching or encouraged to join weekend competitions.
In America, by contrast, there is more private money put into various sports (basketball, gridiron football and baseball are the most notorious); and 'talent scouts' look out for promising youngsters and offer coaching at a higher level.
Also in the US, once youngsters get to College (University) age, there is a plethora of 'sports scholarships' available – something an anathema to the Australian culture, where University years are traditionally meant to be for intellectual pursuits. These scholarships are often available for youngsters not born or educated in America, that are recruited from overseas countries.
Something similar happens with all aspects of education – sport is not singled out. Many of the Nobel Laureates from the USA, for example, were not born there – including the Australian born and educated Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prizewinner in Medicine for 2009. This is a cultural difference, indeed.
So it is no wonder that America's sports stars stand-out in a league of their own; their status equivalent to movie stars in some cases. Inevitably, around them, everyone from publicists to sports agents builds a public persona; and the media grabs hold of this image and sets it up for general acclaim. Top sports stars live in a totally different world from that of your average Jill or Joe.
Some of these points I have made previously in an interview with Dan Wooding in Los Angeles in February 2009 which can be viewed on the .
A recent story illustrates the effect this has on a whole range of people. A baseballer super star's wife admitted to stealing a baby. The woman faked a pregnancy and her husband was misled to believe he was going to be a father, because the image of a 'family man' would enhance his reputation.
On top of all this is the tradition of American Christian Evangelism. The PAO conferences were an eye opener in a host of ways: they have a philosophy of building up Christian thought and behaviour, including the importance of Christian marriage, within the community of athletes. The conference's aim to show athletes and their partners practical ways to take this world view into their superstar-like lives.
The emphasis is on an individual to repent of personal and habitual sin and seek forgiveness for each sin by Jesus Christ. Salvation comes through an invitation for Jesus Christ to enter into the individual's heart. This new world view of following Jesus they become a new creation in Christ. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.
This "new world view" for the individual enables them to enact an attitude change which occurs, in some cases, instantly; for others, it take a little time. In essence, top athletes have a basis of integrity in which they too can now becomes 'evangelists' and in so doing bring their fellow top athletes to Christ, along with the crowds to whom they speak utilising this public platform they have as athletes.
The formula works well, and in America it has been fine-tuned since the 1950s. But it works in America because no one knows the real 'you', there are just so many people, that to stand out in the crowd you need to have 'a personality' and people identified as 'stars' are respected for their wider views as well as their sporting (or scientific) expertise. Their whole lives are scrutinised.
In Australia, this platform takes on a different shape. People really want to get to know you, to see who you really are, before they want to hear you 'spruik' about religion. One's integrity at every level is challenged in Australia. It was said by Roy Masters, a former football coach and now sports writer, that an Australian professional athlete can smell a phoney a mile off.
These different attitudes are consistent with the different attitudes to 'authority' in Australia and America, and the modern trend in Australia to be more informal when addressing people – even prominent people – and not to use any formal title they may have. For example, American sportsmen will address Bill Smith, their coach, by the title 'Coach Smith', but Australians will call him 'Bill'.
This Australian culture is taken into account in our Well-Being Australia mission, which specialises in elite athlete respite at two facilities: Basil Sellers Moruya on the NSW south coast and Basil Sellers Tweed on the NSW north coast. We aim to create situations in which each individual begins to feel comfortable about one to one discussion of such weighty matters such as deep beliefs and moral frameworks.