Do Athletes Make Good Role Models?

"Gordon Bryan", "The Great Gordino"I’ve written about sport for many years. Some good, some bad, and yep, some pretty ugly. So, let’s get right to it – on balance would I say that athletes make good role models..?

Of course they do! What’s that you say, you don’t agree?

As someone who writes about self improvement, personal development and goal achievement, how could I *not* think they make good role models!

When I use the term athlete, I’m not just talking about the sport of athletics, I’m talking about sportsmen and women in general. Yes, yes, I know that some sports are about hand eye co-ordination over athleticism, but for this article I’m lumping them all in together (all I want is an easy life!)

That’s probably one reason why I’m not a famous sports star by the way – me wanting an easy life. It may look easy from the outside when you see a famous star earning ridiculous amounts of money and having fun, but that ‘fun’ is normally accompanied by ever present pain from some injury or other.

Plus, it came after years of work. Hard work.

During the London 2012 Olympics I was writing every day about whichever story had perked my interest the most that day, and there were so many to choose from! If you look at goal achievement theory, I was finding stories which demonstrated them all.
Type ‘Olympics’ into the blog search box and you’ll find them there.

Then the Paralympics followed!

From belief to visualisation, from taking action to keeping going, from trying new things to learning from others, from respect to integrity, to getting up after falling down, those key goal achievement elements were all there in abundance.

When we talk of role models, we tend to think of lessons to youngsters, showing them how to conduct themselves. In that spotlight, you surely have to take respect, dedication and hard work as good values, right? So athletes are good role models, right?

You can look at the obvious health benefits of sports participation, and you can look at how sport has financially changed the fortunes of many, so again sport can be seen to provide a prosperous future – that’s a good thing, not a bad thing!

Ok, at this point, and you probably knew this was coming, it’s not all candy floss and fairy tales. The dark side looms.

The East Germans, Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong. What a sorry list that is. Respect and integrity? Er, no. More like cheating and lying. Here’s the thing though – the outrage generated by those scandals shows how high the *positive* values are held.

So it could be argued that even then the athletes are role models, showing what can happen if you choose the wrong path.

Some people might argue that athletes couldn’t care a fig about being a role model. That they have no interest in whether they inspire or not, they are only interested is their own success.

Also, that the ‘win at all cost’ mentality is what drives this type of behaviour, creating hard blinkered characters with little compassion or tenderness.

That’s a fair point, and it’s not hard to see all sorts of cheating and foul play in the world of sport. I’d counter argue though, that this can be said in the world of life in general, and sport is no different.

The bad apples do not make the good ones any less role models – why sink to the lowest common denominator when we can look instead to the highest, and champion what they stand for?

I know a lot of people don’t like sport, and can be turned off when I write about it. I can understand that, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I find it a joy to see goal achievement, self improvement and personal development so clearly illustrated in sport, and we could do worse than follow the lessons so readily on display.

Do I think athletes make good role models? Just try and convince me otherwise!

‘Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. Here’s one of those sporting achievement articles I mentioned: “Goal Achievement – Fly Like The Eagle!”
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  • I’m not very interested in sports, but there is a very common denominator with physical arts. By physical arts I mean, dancers, opera singer (not those working with microphones), acrobats etc. Some, like musical artist mix it all up at the same time and of course also singers like Madonna, Michael Jackson and their likes belong here.

    It looks or sounds so easy, but how many years of extreme training an discipline of the body to get to that point? Since I’m an opera singer myself I know what it takes to make it sound easy. In that way I too can get fascinated by athletes and admire their determination, but they never give me the kind of emotional and spiritual lift I get from experiencing a true artist, the physical kind or not.


    • Hi Stella,
      I love entertainment as well as sports – there are a few of su that like both, but it seems the majority like one or the other in general, and nothing wrong with that.
      Oh yes, I’ve written so often about artists of all sorts too – I even consider inventros and engineers to be artists and can make good role models.
      Cheers, Gordon

  • I thought it was interesting many years ago when Charles Barkley made the claim that he wasn’t a role model. Indeed he is. He took lots of heat for it, and I hope he learned that lesson. Many of our children look up to the players we celebrate – whether they do good or bad.

    • I do see the point he made though, that the role modelling can come from within the self, and within the family unit.
      Of course not everyone has a family that make *good* role models, in which case sports stars fill the gap in a good way.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  • I hope this is not a duplicate (ok, close copy), since I left a comment and did not get a confirmation…
    There are positive and negative role models.
    The issues is not one of role models, but of the deification of these athletes that seems to occur. Whether one can carry a football 100 yards while being chased by the equivalent of 4 bears doth not make this person a great role model- how he (and it is a he in this case) lives his life or deals with adversity or some other attribute worth emulating.

    • Good point Roy, and that tallies with what I said about the druggies and cheats also being role models – role models about to live and consequences thereof!