Good and bad: Young athletes are watching their heroes closely

Good and bad: Young athletes are watching their heroes closely


By Rance Gaede, Athletic Supervisor

City of Tamarac (Fla.)

In 1993, Charles Barkley made headlines with his famous quote, “I am not a role model.” He was pretty passionate about his position. His peers at the time had varying views, as did nearly everyone else. I do think that, to a large extent, professional athletes ARE role models. It’s really part of the job. Their salaries are a direct result of the adulation of millions of fans that pay to watch them play or wear their jerseys.

Where this premise really starts to hit home is when I watch our youth leagues throughout the season. It doesn’t have to be just basketball – it happens in baseball, football and soccer, too.

Kids behave like the stars they watch on TV. When LeBron thumps his chest or poses after making a basket, kids are watching and believing that’s the way they should behave. When Johnny Manziel shows us his “money” hands after a big play, kids believe that’s ok also.

So much of what players do on the court and field these days, in my opinion, shows a complete lack of respect for the game and for those they compete against. It gets so bad that on any given Sunday (or Saturday), you’ll see a football player make a nice play and jump up to celebrate in such a way as to draw a lot of attention – but they happen to be the team that is down by more than three touchdowns and there is less than a minute to play.

Players today are so caught up in what makes them look good that they forget not only that it is a team sport, but that others are watching.  

I would rather see kids today emulate the way Kawhi Leonard behaves on the court. Or Tim Duncan. I am not really a fan of the Spurs, but I admire the way they play basketball and the way in which they carry themselves on the court.  You would never know if the team is winning or if he just made a spectacular play by watching Kawhi. He just gets his job done. Tim can get a little more excited, but again, you don’t see the strong demonstrations that humiliate other players and set a bad example for our youth.

“Role model” is a strong term. Kids, right or wrong, look up to athletes. Even if they only model their on-field or on-court behavior after their athletic heroes, then that qualifies them as role models.

I wish they would stick to playing the game and not trying to be like a professional wrestler, entertaining the crowd with their antics and not necessarily their skill.

Rance Gaede is the athletic supervisor for the City of Tamarac (Fla.), a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA) and member of the CYSA Leadership Committee.

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