Trends & Features

What Impact Do Professional Athletes Have on the Younger Generation?

Whether you have an interest in sports or not, there’s no denying that professional athletes can be hugely influential among the younger generation.
Let’s see why this matters and how it helps to shape the next generation of sportspeople.

Inspiring new talent
When it comes to favourites like Mohammed Salah, LeBron James, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, it’s both the talent and the personality that has the power to fuel young people’s interest in sport.
Children are great at imitation so it’s inevitable that the ones who follow sports may begin to copy their favourite athletes’ behaviour. It could even be something that fuels a lifelong passion for sports and potentially even a career.
Research has found that 46% of young boys and 13% of young girls name footballers as role models, so it’s not something to be ignored.

The importance of professionalism
This shows that there’s more to being a professional athlete than getting the results. It’s important they maintain an image that encourages the younger generation to be the best they can be and to play fair when it comes to sports. Some athletes are great at this, behaving gracefully on screen.
But there’s another side to this. Inevitably, kids watching sports will also see examples of cheating and temper tantrums. This can’t be avoided. But perhaps these displays are useful conversation starters to lead into discussions about how a child can control urges to cheat or lose control.

The off-field persona counts too
Of course, athletes’ off-field personas also have the potential to be very influential. Athletes are constantly in the news for matters affecting their reputations, good and bad alike.
Some athletes like the renowned football player Cristiano Ronaldo and tennis star Serena Williams have a shining reputation, thanks to their charitable endeavours.
Others are famous for less favourable reasons. There are some extreme cases of criminality, like the case of Oscar Pistorius. There are many other reasons athletes sometimes damage their own reputations as well, such as illegal drug use and controversial Tweets.

Assessing their influence on kidsb
In the present day, it’s increasingly hard to monitor the information that kids can access. One useful approach could be to keep a dialogue going about what your child thinks about sporting news they have read online.

Kids can be influenced by what they see other people saying online about topical subjects. Teaching them to be digitally literate and discerning about what they read online is also helpful.

Professional athletes can be powerful examples for sporty children and teens. Helping them model their behaviour on the better examples we see on-screen is essential.

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