In today s society, we are running out of good citizens for our children to look up to in a positive way. For many years, there have been many controversies surrounding the lifestyles of America s professional athletes. A great number of children love to play and watch sports every day. An interesting question that comes up frequently is should athletes be role models? For many years athletes have been role models, and I have trouble understanding why they should not be considered role models. Each day athletes get an enormous amount of attention on television and they have become the most popular and influential figures in the media today (Daulton). Athletes have a great work ethic, which is also a good influence on today s youth. Young people see sports stars every day, and understand that they have what it takes to be successful. These are all good reasons why athletes should assume the position of role models. For many years, sports heroes have traditionally been role models for youths. Recently, athletes have been getting paid millions of dollars for their efforts, and their names and faces appear on everything from sneakers to billboards (Globus25). Their words are repeated and broadcast around the world. This was all brought to a new level when the professional basketball world came into contact with a man named Michael Jordan. Jordan, in the intense environment of professional basketball, does things that amaze everyone (”Michael” A28): “Many knowledgeable judges reckon he is the most thrilling player to ever step foot onto the basketball court”. To be successful in athletics, people must have qualities such as perseverance, dedication and the ability to keep cool under pressure situations (Globus 25). Jordan has been successful due to all these qualities on and off the court. Jordan is intelligent, articulate, notable for good sportsmanship, and devoted to charitable work, all of which make him an excellent choice for a positive role model. Much controversy began in 1994, however, when professional basketball star Charles Barkley let the entire world know that he was not a role model (Edwards 32). He stated that what he does with his life is strictly his own business (Georgantas and Gilbert). Some people agree with Barkley, saying just because someone is an exceptional athlete does not mean he or she is the perfect parent, friend or spokesman (Globus25): “Even rich, famous, and successful people get sick and face the same problems other people do. The also make mistakes. Separating an athlete s professional and personal life can be tough for everyone especially young people.” Many people are shocked by this statement, while others feel that sports figures should not have anymore social responsiblity than anyone else (Edwards 32). The reality is that Barkley may well have been speaking for an entire generation of athletes. These people have a good point that the main responsibility of athletes is to do well at their respective sports. They all must try to understand that children are easily impressed and are going to mimic what they see and hear. Charles Barkley for instance saw himself as a child, like Julius Erving or Wilt Chamberlain. He must know how important they were to his dream and desire to be a basketball star; or maybe he just chooses not to accept it” (Georgantas and Gilbert). There are athletes committing serious crimes such as murder, rape, drug abuse and more. “Even the smallest off-color remark by a high profile athlete is likely to find its way into the sports column” (Edwards 32). Do we want our children to look up to people who cannot take control of their own lives? Maybe this was good advice by Barkley; perhaps we should choose someone else to fill the position. Many athletes have been shown to be positive role models. Many high profile athletes work hard at doing positive things for the community. They raise money for charities, and try to act as mentors; they can also be seen talking to student groups and volunteering their time to programs that help kids stay in school and off drugs (Globus 25).Some sports stars have overcome daunting obstacles to rise to the top of their sports. For example, in 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the modern major leagues. More recently, hockey star Mario Lemiex showed courage after being diagnosed with cancer. He missed many games; yet came back strong and is one of the games best hockey players (Globus 26). Qualities such as these help everyone realize that many goals can be achieved if he or she works hard and believes in themself, especially against the largest odds. These kinds of examples let children know that if they can just show a little bit of determination and courage it is very possible that they can achieve what seems to be impossible. To be successful at anything, especially a sport, you have to enjoy what you are doing. Some of the greatest sports figures, past and present, are ones who do not get caught up in the glory and hype (Globus 26). Being successful can be somewhat difficult especially if the crowds are cheering for someone else. Many successful athletes realize that there are more important aspects to life than winning. Some athletes let everyone know that they lost, but they also gave it their best shot. These qualities are all very important for children growing up in today s society. Not everyone is going to win every game; children often get very emotional when dealing with complicated situations. When kids see their favorite athletes lose, but they have performed their best, kids can realize that losing is just another part of growing.
Athletes must constantly work on improving their skills. In the competitiveness of athletics, people have to put a lot of practice into maintaining and improving your skills (Globus26). If you do not practice you will never be successful or accomplish any of your goals. We are constantly telling our children that “practice makes perfect,” but it is a wonderful influence when they see their favorite sports stars training hard, trying to improve. Another reason why athletes are good role models is their ability to perform under intense pressure. The power of positive thinking is a wonderful trait to have. Good athletes can focus their attention on what they are doing (Globus 26). If we can relate these qualities to our children, it can be very beneficial. Letting them know that if they feel like a winner, show spirit and determination, there is no telling what they can accomplish. Athletes have proven that they have what it takes to be a winner, or they would not be where they are today. That is what makes them role models. It takes an enormous amount of dedication to be a professional athlete. Stories about athletes teach everyone about working hard and believing in ourselves while being passionate about what we do (Globus 25). Teachers, coaches, and parents can all show many of the same qualities as athletes. They all can set good examples for our children to see, but it is our sports heroes who appear on sneakers and billboards (Globus25). Athletes are excellent examples of what children need to know to help them be successful in today s society. Many people feel athletes cannot handle the responsibilities of being a role model. What about the athletes who lack sportsmanship, say inappropriate comments, and even commit crimes; what kind of influences are these on our children? If athletes are going to act in irresponsible ways, maybe we need to look for better people to fill the position of role models. Why should we have to find new role models for our youth? Maybe it is not their fault maybe it is the people who keep letting them go; we need to just stop giving these people another chance (Kaplin 66). Athletes may come to realize that being an athlete is an enormous responsibility, as well as a profession. Eliminating athletes second chances will also allow our children to help realize when they do something wrong, there will be a big consequence to pay. “Unfortunately, we cannot choose who children idolize; therefore, athletes must realize they will always be role models no matter what their level of play” (Georgantas and Gilbert). America may be too tolerant of its sports heroes who fall from grace. Today there is a double standard in the way should handle these athletes. America has always been the home for second chances, but do our children need to know that if they do something bad that it is fine because someone will keep giving them another chance? (Kaplin 66) Cheryl Miller, a ladies basketball coach, said in an issue of Current Health 2, “You can be a role model for how to be, or you can be a role model for how not to be. It is up to you” (Globus 27). Should athletes be role models? Americans will have to try to answer this question for many years; but the fact is there is no correct answer. We cannot make athletes act as role models for our children; however we can help influence the way athletes act. I believe that professional athletes should have written statements in their contracts stating that they should commit themselves to helping out others in society. The way they could help out the others in society would be attending charities for children, such as less fortunate injured children. Athletes may also participate in group homes helping the elderly. The second way we can improve the athletes in their attribution would be giving free tickets to the less fortunate, provided by the athletes. Since athletes make enormous amounts of income it would not be a burden on their financial status.I Also feel athletes need to have a list of rules included with their contract. If we provided them with a bit of discipline it may benefit them as well as the children.