Sports Heroes: Best role models?

It is easy for kids to admire professional athletes who stand out in their sport. This admiration often takes the form of “hero worship” and gives kids someone to mimic in their path to adulthood. Just like their heroes, most kids can easily see themselves making the winning score or receiving the praise and lifestyle that comes with success. Many parents encourage this behaviour through buying jerseys and seeking autographs.


Professional sports are a form of entertainment just as television programs are. Like actors and actresses, professional athletes become celebrities and gain additional exposure for the things they do away from the game - blurring the line between performance and lifestyle. Parents can not always control what kids know about their favorite players. As personal celebrity becomes intermixed with professional accomplishment, kids can begin to mimic an athlete’s personal actions and mannerisms as well as an athlete’s professional skill. Kids can become confused about what it is they are trying to imitate.

However, as recent news accounts only reconfirm, professional athletes do not always make the best role models. A professional player’s conduct away from the game is often unknown. Most fans do not really know a player’s morals, ethics, work habits, and respect for teammates or for fans. Thus, most parents do not really know if they want their child to grow up mimicking the life choices of a specific professional athlete.

For kids who want heroes and parents who want role models, there can be conflict. One way around this conflict is for parents to begin distinguishing between admiration for a player’s abilities and admiration for a player. For example, saying that a professional player is a great athlete is different than saying a professional player is a great person.

Parents can help focus their children’s attention on players whose community actions are admirable even if the player’s game actions are not at the superstar level. Helping kids understand the difference between a player as a person and a player as an athlete is the key to providing the right role models for children.

8 comments:

Expat From Hell said...

OK, I'm in. I just read a couple of your posts. Got just a glimpse of football madness while living in Europe. Now I come home, and my own country is again swallowed up. Keep 'em coming.

ExpatFromHell

A.Jaye said...

Sporting heroes as role models is always a bad choice. Ability is God given - genetics if you will - whereas conduct is personal choice/falibility. Young men notouriously make bad choices. Repeatedly.

It's up to parents - fathers - to be theier children's role model.

Yeah. I know.

tozcal2009 said...

It was in the Sixties when I was a teenager in Germany. My eldest brother trained swimmers in Offenbach and other German locations for the Olympic Games. He once remarked, that it was a darn shame that kids in that era had no sports idols. All they had was heavy advertising of big Cigarette brands in TV and Cinema. The admired celebrities like Brigitte Bardot and fashion models showing off the first bikini swim ware. It was too early for Nikes and beautiful biking gear and all the rest of a symbol of sporty life style. Boris Becker and Michael Schuhmacher were not even born yet. Later, both were idols, yet both were really poled differently. Last not least, nowadays, it's good to find sports idols in more and more different fields.

ruly said...

don't forget to watch match MU vs barcelona

Ciss B said...

Finding a hero these days is impossible, at best! Your article is thoughtful and right on, too. I am a lover of baseball (Minor league)but not much else in the sports arena...but I like your writing.

ASWANI said...

Great post. Totally agree to what you said in your post.

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