Role models can act as a tremendous source of inspiration for all individuals. None more so than for our children who look up to so many different people during their formative years, as they form their own personal identity and beliefs.
They can obviously come from so many different walks of life, but it is the sports role models that we are going to look at in this piece and how we can use them to help support our own children’s sporting journey.
Role models can play an essential part in positive child development and when they have a positive impact can be a valuable tool to us as parents.
Unfortunately, with the rise of social media, for example instagram many young people can be unsure who to look up to but merely follow a trend. This makes it very difficult for them to know who to take their lead from.
They may well need some help from us as parents to show them why people are good role models and what in fact that actually means.
It was interesting hearing from Florence Schelling recently who was the Swiss Ice Hockey Goaltender at the 2006,2010 and 2014 Olympics who spoke of her drive to be better as an athlete and the fact that it meant there would be no size 6 body for her(she looked great by the way). She looked both strong and athletic but was also conscious that she was bucking something of a trend amongst younger females.
She spoke of her first year in coaching and how girls when taken to the gym were reluctant to train too hard, or indeed to add too much weight to the resistance machines, as they did not wish to change their body shapes, from what they perceived to be beautiful in their own eyes. These beliefs often created from the world of social media.
Whilst some superstars across all walks of life may not have the most positive impact on some of our younger people, there are many who are doing a wonderful job in helping the next generation to live with real hope and determination in trying to pursue their dreams and goals.
Sometimes a positive role model will make poor choices. Don’t let your children assume that negative and inappropriate behaviours that involve racism, sexual harassment, and dishonesty by admired public figures or friends are acceptable. When a role model displays behaviour that is negative, you need to talk about why their behaviour is unacceptable, no matter who they are.
If this is done well, by the time your children hit their teenage years they should be able to differentiate the positive and negative behaviours of the people they admire. Most often, when role models embrace inappropriate behaviours, they lose their ability to inspire others.
However, if a child becomes significantly attached to a role model’s ideology, power, or popularity, the young person may believe the negative behaviour is acceptable.
When families learn to teach integrity and live their values, children and teens are much more likely to recognise and be inspired by positive role models.
Role models encourage us all on the path of life, helping us make tough life decisions and encouraging us to stay on course to attain our goals and dreams.
So what are your children looking for in a role model?
Someone they can have regular contact with
This is not always really thought about, but this kind of influence can be far stronger than someone who is beyond their personal reach. Obviously, social media has helped bridge this gap but there is nothing like the impact of real human connection.
Someone who is able to offer them encouragement
They can help to recognise what you do well and they encourage growth in areas that need a little work. They have experienced the big picture and despite making some mistakes of their own, they will generally remain positive pointing you toward realistic goals.
Someone who displays a fine balance of skill and character
A role model should display a passion and ability to inspire, a clear set of values, support of charities and community, selflessness and acceptance of others as well as the ability to overcome obstacles.
In a sporting context how can we as parents use role models to help support our child during their sporting experience?
Firstly, we can find some of the biggest names and teams in our children’s sport, if possible go and see them in action, if not, watch them on the TV and point out many of the wonderful character traits that they display. The character traits that they display should be the most important thing here, followed by the supreme skill that they also show.
In our parent’s workshops, we talk so much about the importance of character traits and how it can help our children achieve in all walks of life. It is an area that parents can help control and nurture hence we give this the most attention.
Look for athletes who are not only exceptional on the field but also do so much good away from their chosen sport in trying to inspire people and communities.
Do as much research as you can in each of the sports that your child plays to try and find specific examples that you may be able to use to draw upon.
Find images and words that reflect your children’s sport. Do your children put up posters of their favourite players; can you find some quotes from each of them that are inspirational from each player?
You will be amazed how children may use these to help inspire them during training sessions and matches as well as helping them pursue their dream.
Have you ever asked your child, what motivates them to play their sport?
This is a valuable question and one that will allow you as a parent to help support them when their motivation may be waning.
Can you point to an athlete in your child’s sport who went periods of struggling to motivate themselves but found a way to keep going?
Is your child the smaller player who is struggling physically?
Can you find sportspeople who were perhaps rejected at a young age by their sport for physically being too small or not selected for national age group squads who then continued to persevere and climbed the ladder despite these early setbacks and rejections?
This may help your children if they are going through a difficult period based around the physical aspects of a chosen game or sport.
Antoine Griezmann has never played professionally in his native France because no French club was prepared to take a chance on a youngster that was deemed too small and lightweight to make the grade at the highest level.
He was notably passed on by Lyon and was eventually spotted by Real Sociedad while trialling with Montpellier. Despite the reluctance of his parents, the 14-year-old Griezmann made the move to Spain in 2005 and rose through the ranks at the San Sebastian club.
After 20 goals in 50 appearances in 2013/14, Atletico Madrid prised him away for €30m and he is now considered to be among the very best forwards in world football.
Has your child been injured and struggled to come back?
Many top professionals have suffered periods of injury at some time or another. The most obvious comeback in recent times is that of Tiger Woods who went through numerous bouts of surgery, dropped to 1199th in the world rankings before returning to the top 6 and been crowned a major winner once again with his victory at Augusta in the US Masters, earlier this year.
Does your child struggle to persevere on occasions and show real determination in the face of adversity?
If the last crazy week of football is not enough to inspire then I don’t know what is. The Liverpool comeback against Barcelona and the Tottenham comeback against Ajaz in the Champions League Semi-Finals were great examples of never giving up and showing amazing levels of courage, resilience and self belief.
England strike duo Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane were nearly lost in the footballing system. The Jamie Vardy story in particular, shows real perseverance and someone who had to take a long road to sporting success. Read more here.
Has your child been disappointed and missed out on a particular selection?
Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest pro basketball player of all time.
He finished with six NBA titles and one of the best careers in league history.
What’s even more inspiring about his accomplishments was that he was able to do all this despite getting cut from his high school team, losing his father and failing at his other dream of playing pro baseball.
Inspiration is not merely an 11 letter word; it is a feeling, a surge of energy that needs to be created. It is the athlete, coach or parents responsibility to be part of the process that creates this inspiration.
At times, inspiration will be the only fuel that keeps our children going, when physical energy has abandoned them, their inspiration is part of that back up fuel that takes over, it’s that element you can’t see but you develop it in your head, the unseen element that is in all the greats. The element that helps them deliver what seems impossible.
If children can create inspiration for themselves, it will be as valuable as any other element of their sporting skills. When the technical skills in the field of play are close between opponents, it’s inspiration that can be part of that unseen element which will lift them above their opponents.
Children develop as the result of many experiences and relationships. Role models play an important role in inspiring children to learn, overcome obstacles, and understand that positive values can be lived each day.
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, sports coach, after-school program leader, or a person who just happens into a child’s life, you all have the ability to inspire!