Athletes as Role Models


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Athletes as Role Models

Athlets have been lookd up to as role models for as long as sports have exsted. There is just something attractive about the thought of being in good physical condition and being talented in sports. But, are athlets the kind of people that children should be looking up to for direction and guidance? Many children often look up to the professional athletes as role models. In fact, in 1995 Sports Illustrated for Kids did a survey for kids who were ages 7 through 12 about who their role model was. The majority of the kids answered that a professional athlete was who they most looked up to. Only four percent of the children answered that their role model was one of thir parents. Because of today?s media, athletes are constantly in the public eye. Everything they do on and off of the playing field. Some professional athletes speak a positive message through their fame by demonstrating constructive ideas such as teamwork and commitment while they are on the field. Even off of the playing field some athletes set a good example by visiting children in schools, going to hospitals, or even setting up foundations and organizations to help the ill and less fortunate people. However, other athletes are not as considerate to the fact that someone may be looking up to them, some athletes are not concerned about anything other than the sport they are getting paid to play and themselves. These athletes are the ones that propose questions over whether athletes should be considered role models or not. A role model can be defined as a person whose behavior, example or success is or can be emulated by others, especially young people. Who would want their child looking up to someone who has been convicted of domestic violence or has a drug addiction? It is an argument of opinion that cannot be settled.
The side of athletes most commonly seen is when they are on the field. Athletes can be a very positive influence while on the playing field for many reasons. Teamwork is displayed in sports such as football, baseball, soccer, and hockey. It is where all the players working together and are all striving to reach the same goal. Anybody watching a game such as hockey or baseball can clearly see that the players must work together in both offense and defense to win the game.

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This display of teamwork can be easily be reflected by anyone watching. For example, if a young boy who plays on a little league hockey team is watching his favorite professional hockey team play on television and he sees how the players are constantly passing the puck to each other and are working together to score, then he can display the same conduct at a later time during his own game. Dedication is another positive characteristic that can be displayed by athletes. It takes a lot of dedication to be good a playing a sport. Sometimes a game may not be going quite as well as expected and the team may be making a few careless errors, but to win the game the players must stay dedicated. The athletes have got to keep thinking positively and stay committed to the game. Motivation is another positive aspect of athletes. Players and coaches must stay motivated as well as motivating each other. It is very important for athletes to know that someone is supporting them. An example of motivation on the field is when a baseball player hits a homerun. The entire team steps onto the field and waits at home plate to congratulate their teammate. Once again, the simple gesture of motivation can be easily mimicked by a child watching. A some what different perspective of positive influences of athletes is the fact that if children look up to athletes then they will want to get off the couch and become active and stay in shape so that they can look and act just like a professional athlete. If a child admires a certain athlete that they see on television then the child will want to imitate that athlete and possibly join a sports league of some kind. It is proven that children who are active in sports are less likely to become involved in drugs and because they have a higher self-esteem. Also, obesity is a growing problem in today?s world and sports can promote eating properly and staying healthy. The Wheaties cereal company demonstrates this by displaying professional athletes on their cereal boxes so that children will eat Wheaties just like the professional athletes do.
The positive influences of athletes can also be seen off of the playing field. Professional athletes are well known for going out and helping with charities and fund raisers. Many famous athletes such as Troy Aikman and Lance Armstrong have started charities in their own names to help raise money for children overcoming cancer or other diseases. There are also foundations that allow sick children to meet their favorite athlete and allow the children to spend a little bit of quality time with the athletes. Some athletes will even take time out of their own schedule to go and visit junior high and elementary schools to encourage the students to stay in school and to promote drug awareness. The involvement in charity work and within school systems displays an athlete?s generosity towards other people and can also show the unselfishness of the athlete. By the athletes doing these acts of generosity, it shows children that it is acceptable to do something pleasant for somebody that they may not even know. Another quality that athletes can demonstrate off of the playing field is commitment. Professional athletes cannot simply walk off the field and give up when they make errors during a game or if they get discouraged. Although an athlete may not want to continue on with the game, they stick with it, they stay committed. Many children have a tendency to want to quit something if they feel they are not good at it but if they can see that athletes have flaws and are not perfect at what they do but that they continue to stay committed to the team, then maybe the child will feel like they too can remain commited to their own team.
There are many ways that athletes can have a positive affect on children or even any other spectators both on and off of their playing field. Qualities such as teamwork, motivation, and dedication can all be easily spotted on the field. Athletes can also help promote eating healthy and staying in good physical condition. However, there are also many qualities off of the playing field that can be viewed as positive influences for children. Some professional athletes are very active in charities and foundations for sick and less fortunate children and others visit students in schools. Either way, the athletes are demonstrating kindness to other people and that is a very good quality of a role model. However, there is another side to athletes that is not so generous and caring. Although athletes practice a lot of very positive manners, they are still humans and they do make mistakes. Some athletes can get carried away during a game and become very rude and disrespectful towards coaches, other players, and even fans. There is a wide spread of problems off of the field such as drugs and gambling that tends to get a lot of athletes into trouble. There are also problems such as illegitimate children and athletes committing crimes that are unfavorable in a parent?s eyes as their child?s role model.
Although there are many positive examples of athletes being good role models, there are also many negative examples. While on the playing field many players and even coaches often get very angry when things do not go quite their way. Players and coaches will yell and sometimes actually fight with one another with no respect for the spectators or their own teammates. Hockey is more commonly known for its violent fights and its overall aggressive features. Sometimes players will try to hurt their opponents by using the sport against them. For instance, sometimes in baseball, a pitcher might throw the ball and purposely hit the batter. An extreme case of this aggressiveness is clear when referring to the boxing match in 1997 between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. Tyson was so mad and frustrated during the fight that he bit a part of Holyfield?s ear. What kind of parent would want their child to go around biting other children all because of what they saw on television? Athletes will also display bad conduct by throwing equipment or punching and hitting the things around them. If a child were to copy this sort of behavior somebody near by may end up injured or hurt. There are also less obvious ways that athletes are bad influences while on the field. Sometimes players will cheat so that their team can win or even just to make themselves look good. In baseball, some players put cork inside of their wooden bats so that the bats are lighter and easier to swing. Some players or even whole teams will take money as a bribe to purposely lose a game. For example in 1919, the Chicago White Sox received money from someone and agreed to wreck the World Series. Actions such as cheating can even be taken outside of just sports. If a child caught on to their favorite athlete cheating then he or she might try to cheat in school because it appears to be acceptable. Just as the good examples can be mimicked by children, the bad examples can and unfortunately will be mimicked too.
Role models can set bad examples while on the playing field but their example off of the playing field can get even worse. One of the greatest problems among athletes is addiction. Some examples are drug addictions, alcohol addictions, and even gambling addictions. Although there is a drug policy for professional sports, many athletes use drugs anyway. Various professional athletes stepped forward and spoke about the wide use of drugs and it is estimated that about 20% to 60% of all professional athletes use some sort of supplement or stimulant. Drug use among young people in today?s society is already too high, now children are hearing about and watching their favorite team?s players talk about using drugs. Alcohol and gambling are also two major problems with athletes. Some athletes will get drunk and say things do things that they did not mean and then they can end up arrested. Getting arrested and being in trouble with authorities is not something that should be seen as acceptable to children. Gambling is yet another problem within the sports industry. Players often bet for or against their own team for large amounts of money. Sometimes the gambling can even go as far as turning into cheating by teams purposely losing games for money. Yet another negative factor to athletes is illegitimate children. This is mostly a problem within the NBA. In 1998, an NBA agent who dealt with paternity claims figured that there is a child for everyone in the NBA and for every guy that does not have a child, there is another player with two or three children. Children should not grow up thinking that it is alright to have multiple children with multiple people. Another problem that affects children is watching athletes skip college to pursue a career in sports. These days it is nearly impossible to find a job without some sort of college degree and the odds of becoming a professional athlete are about 22,000 to 1. Some people see that a professional athlete might have skipped college and went straight into playing a professional sport so maybe they can do it too, then they lose sight of realistic goals and the education needed to really succeed in the world.


Athletes can set an example wherever they are, whether they are on the playing field in front of thousands of people or off the playing field out doing their own thing. Athletes can be both a positive and encouraging role model or they can be viewed as someone who is not a good example for children today.


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