When you were young, was there a celebrity you looked up to? Most children idolize someone they don’t know and likely never will, whether it’s a TV star or a celebrity singer. Youth athletes often look up to professional athletes for inspiration – they want to be just like them when they grow up and they’ll work as hard as they can to try and make it happen.
This comes with obvious pros and cons. Simultaneously good and bad, athlete idolizing can be a blessing – or it can be a curse.
Pro – Increased Work Ethic
Children understand that nothing is handed to these pro athletes on a silver platter. They have to go to training camps, constantly pushing themselves to their limits in order to be the best at what they do. Children who aspire to these levels of greatness will often put in that same amount of work if they truly want to fulfill their dreams. Without this kind of motivation, we likely wouldn’t have some of the college and pro athletes we have today.
Con – They Aren’t Always Sportsman-like
Good coaches teach their teams about sportsmanship – shaking hands with the other team after a game, treating a referee with respect, etc. However, sometimes the professional athletes don’t follow these same rules. If you watch football then you’ll know exactly what we mean. Players often verbally berate refs, trash talk other players and showboat when they win. These attitudes can be emulated by young athletes and this isn’t a good thing.
Pro – Rags to Riches Stories
Children from underprivileged communities or who have disadvantages in other areas of life often look for guidance in those who have been in similar situations but who have thrived in spite of them. Many professional athletes fall into this category, from being impoverished to living in abusive households. These pro athletes show children that they can escape their current circumstances if they work hard and carve a place for themselves into this world.
Con – Scandals and Bad Behavior
Many aspiring golfers looked up to Tiger Woods as an inspiration…until scandal hit, anyway. Professional athletes are people, which means they make mistakes, are capable of having flaws and can sometimes be a bad person despite their athletic prowess. Children often don’t differentiate a person’s skillset from their personal life, idolizing bad behavior and accepting is as the norm. You can see this in how some sports players speak, do drugs and their treatment of others, and children will find this acceptable unless someone steps in to educate them.
Pro – Athletes Promote Fitness
Getting children up and active is hard enough in this technological age, but professional athletes can inspire that spark within them. Sometimes a pro athlete is who inspires a child to get interested in sports in the first place. Take the Olympics, for example – it’s extremely likely that the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team inspired a new crop of gymnasts this year.
Finally, it’s always important to take moderation into consideration. A child may want to play football just like Tom Brady or play basketball like Kobe Bryant, but this doesn’t mean they have to become obsessed. Promote individuality within children – they can dream of playing like Kobe, but their dreams are still their own.