Last Updated 02 Oct 2019

The Misconception of a Role Model and the Relation to an Athlete

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A role model: a noun, meaning a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. An athlete: also a noun, a person who is trained in exercises or contents involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill. Two entirely different words, and two very different definitions, yet one must wonder; could it be that these terms may in fact be very closely related? Thus bringing us to the much debated issue of whether or not athletes can be positive role models.

Over the years, this has proved to be an extremely opinionated issue for many. The truth is, an athlete is simply “a person”, and if we have people who are our role models, then yes, athletes, being people, can be positive role models too. However in today’s society there is a huge misconception surrounding the term “role model” and therefore there are many mixed opinions regarding this topic. Firstly, could it be that our expectations of athletes that are perhaps too high, thus preventing us from seeing the “positive-ness” in them.

Secondly, in such a materialistic world, people often forget the difference between what they want and what they need, and therefore if the world wants to see prefect role models, with money, talent, and beauty, then they will look for that in people like athletes, because quite frankly, people are constantly in search of that “good life” concept. Lastly, there is a reason why the word role comes before model. Our role models are only models in a certain role, or as one may say forte. Athletes are role models in our society, however only in the role of an athlete, and we often forget that.

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Consequently we may need to re think our definition of a role model before we determine whether or not athletes can be considered positive influences on our society. Today, when a high-status athlete is accused of a serious offence or of cheating the game, of course it is news and newsworthy! Take Michael Phelps for example; no matter how many world records he breaks in the future, there will always be someone there to bring up the pact that he smoked marijuana at a party once. He wasn’t even in competition season, or training that day, ut he did it. He did something that many of us have done, yet because he is Michael Phelps, everything changes. We cannot consider ourselves perfect, because we make mistakes all the time, so maybe we need to allow these athletes to try and fail at the "non-athletic" human qualities, because in the end, they are simply human and, like us, they often make mistakes too. We have these silent requests for athletes. We force them into becoming our role models; we force them into achieving excellence in the athletic world.

Therefore, the mere fact that athletes are constantly accomplishing this excellence, although they are under great pressure, is evidence not of the failure of professional sports in society but of their triumph. We should be proud of Michael Phelps, because he is a positive role model, regardless of whether or not he smoked once upon a time, that just shows us that this man has the talent and ability to maintain athletic success, and the events of a normal humane life, at the same time.

We should be proud because the days of baseball players drinking beer during the game or basketball players using drugs prior to the tip-off are long gone; today we find less of the athletes who carelessly fritter away their talent, and more of the athletes who are more admirable and, more superior role models than before. So maybe we are unsuccessful when it comes to recognizing this, and as a result we require even more from them. This could be hy our vision of a role model, when it comes to athletes, is impractical and unreasonable. Furthermore, in such a materialized world as the present, we have forgotten what we need and replaced it with what we want. We used to have a good vision of the “good life” where all we really needed was the basics, which can be found on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Basics and necessities such as: air, food, shelter, sex, safety, love and belonging, self esteem, and personal fulfilment.

Now however, we have become more technologically advanced, and the media has become such a huge influence in our lives which, inevitably, causes us to forget about the basics, and instead fill ourselves with greed, and want. We now feel that in order to have a good life, we must have money, fame, health, and beauty in appearance; all of which we can find in athletes. So now, instead of having role models who are successful, and respect all of Maslow’s basic needs, we have role models who have all the things that we want.

We look at these talented athletes, and we pick out the parts of them that we want to have in our “good life” and we forget the parts of them that we need to have in our “good life”. We look at their outer selves, and forget about their achievements, and their stories. Therefore, athletes can be positive role models for us, depending on what our image of a “good life” is. Now at last we look at what a role model is meant to do for us. A role model is not just a model; they are a model of a specific role which is a vital limitation.

Like previously stated, none of us are perfect, thus, realistically speaking; none of us are models for others. Parents, principles, community leaders; we should all be modest and hope that the younger generation do not follow in our footsteps entirely. For example, in the future, I would like my children to have my voice, passion for writing and sports, and my sense of love and belonging. However, I would not like them to have my health issues, or patience skills and tolerance when it comes to ignorance.

You see, everyone wants to set good examples, we all want to have a good life, filled with our good qualities, not the bad, because then those who follow in our footsteps will be heading in the right direction straight from the beginning. So yes, of course athletes will often fail to model the role that we expect them to model, however we all make mistakes. We cannot expect them to model a role that they are not capable of leading, but nevertheless we can expect them to display good sportsmanship and commitment to fair play.

In the end, we must come to realize that the question is not exactly “Can athletes be positive role models? ” but instead, “What kind of role model do you see athletes as? ” Our idea or a role model is distorted. We have such high expectations of them, causing us to treat them as if they were not human. We also need to take into consideration, our thoughts on a “good life” the difference between what we want to see in our role models, and what we need to see in our role models, because often we are looking at the outer athlete, and not the true inner talent that they might have.

Subsequently, we must remember that athletes are models for their own specific roles, and like any role model they can be successful or they can fail at that role. Therefore we must simply judge them based on the vital constriction that comes with their role, and no more than that. We must expect from them only what they are capable of doing. The study and analysis of this issue has brought me to the realization that we have a huge misconception of what a role model is, and whether or not the relation between role model’s and athlete’s can be made.

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The Misconception of a Role Model and the Relation to an Athlete. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from

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