May 3, 2023 | Athlete role models

By Vasilia Polycarpou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy

Athletes have always been seen as role models in society, due to the values sports participation represents. Sports are seen as a physically and mentally healthy stress outlet, with participants being encouraged to express and improve not only their physical state but also their mental wellbeing; setting goals and working towards their achievement, whilst forming social relationships in the process. Therefore, athletes are seen as role models playing a crucial role in shaping youth development and encouraging sports participation.

To begin with, it is widely supported that children who have athlete role models are more inclined to pursue sports themselves, being inspired by the athletes they admire. Athlete role-models, who lead by example, help them see the countless benefits of sports participation, including exercise, team-work, healthy competition and working towards the achievement of a goal. Tennis legend Serena Williams, has been a mentor and coach to young girls, through the Serena Fund she has set up, providing guidance and support, as well as resources for these young girls to succeed in sports and beyond.

The valuable life lessons taught through sports participation are also worth mentioning. Athlete role models are associated with high levels of discipline, perseverance and resilience, never giving up on their goals, despite the obstacles and struggles they may face in the process. These skills are essential to have and can apply in all areas of life. However, it should also be highlighted that athlete role models are those athletes who are not afraid to talk about their struggles and be vulnerable, since things may not always be as ‘perfect’ as portrayed. World-renowned gymnast and Olympic medalist Simone Biles, has openly shared her experience and struggles with mental health, encouraging young people to ask for help when needed; always prioritizing their mental wellbeing.

Moreover, athlete role models and their behavior on the field can be a source of inspiration for young people, encouraging the development of a positive attitude towards sports and competition. Athletes showing respect not only for their teammates but also for their opponents, the fans and the game itself, competing fairly and ethically, highlight the importance of good sportsmanship. Developing such life skills is crucial for young people in building character and leading a well-rounded life.

Finally, successful athletes from different social and cultural backgrounds, can serve as a reminder that anyone can succeed in what they set their mind to as long as they are willing to put in the hard work. Such athlete role models can serve as ambassadors for diversity and inclusivity, promoting positive change in a way a broad audience can relate to. A great example is professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, a known advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality, and social justice, always promoting women’s soccer. Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is also a great role-model for young people. He set up the Stephen Curry Foundation for underprivileged youth, providing them with educational and athletic opportunities and support. Furthermore, he has also used his platform to raise awareness for racial equality.

All in all, the positive attitudes, behaviors and values athlete role models represent play a significant role in shaping not only the sports community but also in influencing the development of young people’s lives. Therefore, it is important to not only promote but also celebrate athlete role models, emphasizing on how their actions can teach valuable life lessons and be a source of inspiration and guidance for young people in pursuing their dreams.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA). Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at [email protected].

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