Straight Talk From the Mouths of Babes

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As adults, we often see the world from a more biased perspective. One based on a variety of experiences, as well as the outcomes of those experiences. Even different individuals going through a similar situation may have completely different viewpoints of that situation depending on the outcome, their personalities, and belief systems they carry. This, at times, can curb our perspective to a, well…sometimes less than accurate picture of the truth. Take the idea of elite and professional athletes as role models. There are those that would contend that this should not be the case, that these athletes are merely entertainers being paid (whether with money or media attention) to do a job, and that being a role model is not part of their job description.

And from a strictly factual position, I suppose that is true.

However, I am not so sure that factual position has any basis in reality as our youth, the ones who determine who is and who is not a role model for them, come from a completely different perspective than our own; one less tainted with bias. A viewpoint based solely on an honest appraisal of what is.

Such is the case with 12-year-old soccer and basketball player Natalie Weidenbach as she described her feelings on this role model topic in her piece, 12-year-old wonders where all the role models are, in The Seattle Times. In it Natalie describes how her view of Lebron James shifted away from role model status as she read about his “ego” and its impact on his playing ability. As she put it, “I began to lose faith in my favorite basketball player.” She goes on to describe the many athletes that are letting “us” down through their inappropriate actions and behavior and how she hopes that her generation of “pro athletes” takes stock in these mistakes, forging a path that centers its focus on more intrinsic components:

“It’s not about money and ego, but more about athleticism, heroism, and giving back. Kids need to have a reason to want to perform better, and elite athletes need to understand their role in pushing kids to be just like them. Exactly as role models should.”

Boy, I think this young lady hit the “reality” nail right on the head. It is tough to argue with such straight talk, especially when it comes from someone so young. It would be nice if her piece reached some of our elite level and professional athletes and gave them some food for thought. It just might make a difference.

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