Why Athletes Become Children’s Role Models

Sports Illustrated for Kids conducted a survey for children ages 7 to 12 asking about who their role models are. The majority of kids, 12%, stated Michael Jordan, more than the 4% surveyed who stated their parents as their role models. Is it true that children today look up to athletes more than their parents? If so, should athletes accept the responsibility of being a role model?

Athletes are constantly in the public eye. Their every move is either photographed or is written about in the morning paper. Isn’t it only fair that we give them some privacy? Athletes constantly struggle to balance their private life in their homes and their public life outside of their homes. It seems like they need to change their behavior just because they play good ball. Asking someone to act differently in public because of a talent they possess is ridiculous. Athletes are doing what they do for entertainment, not to serve as a child’s role model. Charles Barkley stated “I am not a role model! Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids” (Ponti 1). Children need to see that athletes were chosen because they possess an athletic talent, not because they could give money to the poor. A role model should not be chosen by children because of fame and fortune. They do not have a section in their contract that states they have to be a role model. Why should they alter their life for someone they have never met?

A role model is a person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate. Do we want our children to copy the actions of athletes today? Latrell Sprewell became upset during a basketball game and strangled his coach. Mike Tyson has been jailed for biting off an opponent’s ear and for battering his wife. O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his wife. If children look up to these athletes, what are they gaining from them? Last year, Kevin Johnson and some Knicks got into a fight and the next day, kids were pushing each other in games. When asked, the kids said that K.J. did it, so why couldn’t they? (Attner 1) Wouldn’t a parent feel better if a child was looking up to a doctor, teacher, or some other profession whose goal is to help other people?

The fact is because these athletes are in the public eye, they do become role models. Children everywhere recognize what they do on and off the court. Karl Malone explains that “athletes don’t choose to be role models. We are chosen. Our choice is whether to be a good role model or not” (Ponti 2). An athlete knows that there are kids out there looking to be just like them. Athletes endorse a shoe brand, a certain drink, and pose for a poster that will soon hang in rooms everywhere. Because kids look up to these people, they will go out and buy the shoes, drink the drink, and buy the posters. Setting a good example for kids, off and on the court, is crucial to children today. If a child idealizes a person, he or she will watch his every move and try to imitate him. If athletes know that they are someone’s role model, don’t you think they should act as a positive role model?

Athletes work hard to become what they do. You do not become a pro football player or an Olympic skater because you posses a lot of money. Athletes earn success. In making the team, one earns the right to become a role model (3). Being a pro athlete shows children what hard work and dedication can result in. Athletes have made their dream come true. They need to realize that there are children looking at what they have accomplished and looking to do the same. Although athletes do not ask to be a role model, the label is put on them because so many children look up to them. Knowing that you are someone’s hero should make you realize that everything you do will effect someone. Everybody needs to set a good example for kids, athlete or not. You never know if you are someone’s role model or not.

Works Cited

  1. Attner, Paul and Deenise Becenti. “A culture of responsibilities.” The Sporting News 28

    March 1994.12.

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