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Athletes as Role Models

In: Social Issues

Submitted By JohnOlier
Words 1834
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Athletes as Role Models
Learning Team A
August 26, 2013
Michelle Gardner

Athletes as Role Models The effect of professional athletes has always played a big role in society. Talented, young, charming, women and men smashing world records on the field or court seem to be natural role models for our youth. These athletes and their behaviors and actions are so closely observed and mimicked by the youth it makes you ask the question should they really be considered role models? Athletes throughout history have always been considered role models for young children with a gift for sports. There have been many misdeeds that have occurred that makes us question whether athletes deserve to be considered role models. Conversely, athletes make good role models for several reasons such as promoting physical fitness, educational success, self-confidence, and a strong work ethic. The role of being an athlete is a good goal to reach in itself especially with the obesity epidemic that we are currently having in America. Athletes must have a strong work ethic and devote a large portion of their personal time to training in order to become a professional. Athletes also need to display a high degree of self confidence in order to be successful. With the exception of a very small few most athletes do go to college, and are expected to be successful, which promotes children to seek further education (Williams, 2011 ).
A current example of an athlete who makes a good role model is Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas. She not only was a participant in the 2012 Olympics but she has shown a high degree of class and respect as she has gained fame. Unfortunately, there are many examples of bad role models within the athletic community. A recent case that is in the news concerns professional football player Aaron Hernandez who is currently accused of being involved in a murder. Even if he is found not guilty in this crime, his past patterns of behavior are still not worthy of him being considered a role model.
An athlete should definitely be allowed a personal life. In the same ways that we are all held accountable for our actions in our careers and personal lives, these top paid professional athletes should be held accountable as well. In the day and age of Facebook and social media, many professionals have lost their jobs because of actions that they have participated in outside of work. Professional athletes are no different from anyone else, even though they do not have a traditional career. Athletes have an opportunity to do great good with the money and the power that they hold. With this much influence, comes the responsibility to themselves and the public to conduct their day to day activities in an appropriate and law-abiding manner. This is no different than anyone else who has to abide by rules and behaviors of society and if the person cannot do so then they will be given repercussions. Perhaps it is the athleticism that should be looked at with admiration and not the person themselves. The belief in athletes as role models has its pros and cons. These individuals have significant influences on sports, fans (particularly kids), other athletes, and communities. There are two arguments to this issue. The positive aspect of having athletes as role models is that they promote fitness, inspire others to succeed, and participate in teamwork and charity work. However, on the negative side athletes are known to use performance-enhancing drugs and engage in unethical behavior or bad sportsmanship both on and off the playing field or court. The argument for athletes as role models is that their influence on sports encourages hard work and fair play. Their influence on the fans, which are mostly kids who look up to their favorite athletes to "be more inspired to hit the court, get outside and play to stay active" promotes a healthy, fit lifestyle (Ireland, 2011, para. 3). Successful professional athletes inspire other rookie athletes to emulate their successful professional sports career, and more importantly to engage in teamwork. An addition to influencing and inspiring others, professional athletes give back by contributing to their communities by aiding the homeless or cleaning up the neighborhood. The main argument against this type of emulation of professional athletes is the tendency of some athletes to behave inappropriately or unethically once they have achieved high levels of influence on sports. They get arrested for breaking the laws when they think they are above it. This could send the wrong message to fans, aspiring athletes, and the communities that support them. In addition, to stay on top of their game, some athletes have been caught using performance enhancing substances such as steroids. This last concern may influence children in particular to think it is ok to cheat by using performance-enhancing drugs (Ireland, 2011). It is very important to keep young people motivated and interested, in sports and competition. These activities promote leadership, and help regulate positive sportsmanship and good conduct. Children who have role conflict or low competency have a greater risk of dropping out of an activity, which in turn halts any future growth in sports participation. Currently, there is a lack of female athlete role models who are involved in the media or through personal contact in most communities. This fact may contribute to low perceived sports competence and high levels of gender role conflict of female athletes. This could also be responsible for a withdrawal rate in young girls from organized sports before even giving it a chance. Thus, the presence of older, successful female athletes can influence a greater psychological functioning of young females and the importance of their presence can be instrumental in generating support for the hiring of proficient female coaches. A shortage of women coaches deprives female athletes of valuable role models that may inspire and take a person to a much higher level. A large number of female athletes agree that having a female coach benefits them a great deal as they can help counsel and discuss personal issues more effectively. Another important aspect of athletes as role models is that of their conduct as juveniles and young adults before they became professionals. Aaron Hernandez, professional football player of the New England Patriots, has brought this question into focus within the media today. He allegedly shot and killed one of his friends at his house in early June of this year. There was evidence of a violent history while Hernandez attended the University of Florida. There was a shooting involved arrest that took place while patronizing a local bar known as The Swamp. The question of whether or not athletic ability at a young age should be enough to override a person’s obligation to society to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner before they become professionals is important to many parents and law makers today. After all, these are our young people’s future role models whether the athletes acknowledge this or not. To date, many colleges in America perform criminal background checks, or disciplinary histories on applications for admission. Of the colleges polled, the focus appears to be on violent crimes and those related to alcohol. Only about thirty eight percent of the colleges that do so are trained on how to interpret the students’ criminal records. There have been students in the past who have slipped through the cracks that have been involved in different types of crimes. What about gay athletes? To date, Jason Collins is the only active player to openly come out as gay in a major sports arena. For the most part, the media and major companies are eagerly waiting for this to occur. Nike is announcing their willingness to sponsor the first gay athlete. As for the racist or hateful attitudes that are expected to unfold, there hasn’t been an outcry by the public against gay athletes, and it does not appear likely to occur. These actions are things of the past. Society appears much more accepting of these lifestyles. It looks as if this is the ideal time for these athletes to come out and be proud of whom they are. Collins, who has been labeled as a civil rights pioneer, will be the new role model for all those kids who suffer depression and self- doubt because of their sexuality. Companies that sponsor gay athletes stand to gain high amounts of profits when their business grows through the outpouring of support for that businesses decision. While watching sporting events, a lot of people get carried away with the excitement of their favorite sport, at the stadium as well as at home. People should be respectful of the other fans around them especially in public, like cutting out the trash talking. This falls right in line with participating in sports as well, according to Harrison (2013), “Trash talking happens in every sport…One should always let their performance do the talking and leave everything on the field or court”. What Harrison is saying, is to have good sportsmanship on and off the field. When participating in sports responsibly, cheating is not tolerated. Cheating includes breaking the rules and/or using performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) that give players an unfair advantage. Another aspect of watching your favorite sport responsibly is keeping gambling out of the picture. There are times where there can be friendly wagers and everyone leaves happy, but most of the time gambling on games can break up friendships, cause fights, and even alienate someone that lost. When these few rules are applied while watching and playing sports, any sport can be consumed and participated in responsibly. In a picture-perfect world, athletes would live up to some of these over the top expectations, but they are human and they make mistakes just like anyone else. Everyone still has a personal opinion on the topic and the answer will vary from person to person. Nevertheless, the view on the effect of athletes as role models is wide-ranging. How sports are consumed and participated in is widespread around the world. At present, with so many different means to consume and participate in sports available, athlete’s conduct both on and off the field is under closer scrutiny than ever before. Athletes need to consider this factor when they choose to participate in any activity that could be detrimental to their image or their careers.

Harrison, M. (2013). American Image. Retrieved from
Ireland, K. (2011). The Pros & Cons of the Influence of Sports Athletes on Kids. Retrieved from
Petracca, M., & Sorapure, M. (2007). Common culture: Reading and writing about American popular culture (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Williams, L. (2011 , October 30). LiveStrong. Retrieved from Livestrong:

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