Other / hockey

Looking for a hero? Athletes shouldn’t be role models for our kids!
Being a teacher means that I am constantly interacting with young people. It's kinda a big part of the job description. Teaching grade eight provides the opportunity me to have deeper conversations, discussions and debates. I am passionate about sports and I am heavily involved in coaching so the topic of sports comes up often when talking to these kids. You never quite know where the conversation is going to go. The topics can range from the great play the previous night to who are the best players in the game. It can be a lot of fun having these debates with students because I am such a passionate sports fan myself. It is a lot of fun for me when these kids have similar passions. I work at a school where the kids are highly involved in sports outside of school and so they have a big interest in sports. Should we be glorifying athletes like Superheros? Source This week I was talking to a few students while at a football tournament. The topic of the new NHL season came up and everyone was boasting about their favourite teams. Several guys talked about being Edmonton Oiler fans because of Connor McDavid. At one point during this conversation, one of the kids made the following comment: “Connor McDavid is the best player ever, he is my hero!” He said it with such enthusiasm and passion that you could tell he meant what he was saying. This caused me to pause a moment and think to myself. This reminded me of a writing assignment I did with my students last year. Students were asked to write about someone who was a hero to them. A surprising number of those projects were written about professional athletes. It wasn't what I expected at first, to be honest. I thought I would read about how dads and moms or other family members. I thought I would hear about people they knew that had endured some sort of hardship and came out successful on the other side. The sheer number of kids who look at these athletes as heroes was a huge concern to me and hearing this student so passionately label McDavid a hero made me cringe. Heroes? Really? This is my face every time I hear someone call an athlete a hero Source The next day I came back to school and felt that I needed to do the writing assignment again with my students this year. I wanted to change the way my student thought when it came to their heroes. I wanted them to stop and think critically about what makes a hero and be more aware of how easily we tend to throw that term around in society. This was going to require getting the kids to take a really close look at the definition of a hero and start comparing that to the things that their heroes do. The first step was discussing what a hero was with the kids. A hero by definition is: A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Source When I read the definition of a hero there is nothing that makes me think of athletes and at no point did my students in the discussion talk about athletes when trying to come up with the definition. However, almost every single day we hear fans refer to these elite athletes as heroes. Why? I get that they are able to perform athletic feats that leave the everyday person in awe. We see the things they do and are so wowed that someone can actually do what they do. Watching Aaron Rodgers throw for 500 yards or Michael Jordon dominate a basketball game with ease leaves us amazed all the time. Records are broken and we cheer and bow to the newest and biggest stars. We argue about who is the greatest and then start calling them our heroes when they lead our favourite teams to a great victory. At that moment, this is what matters to fans and that feeling of victory makes us put that player a hero in our minds. Are we comparing these actions to the amazing abilities of superheroes? When I think of a Hero my thoughts immediately go to those acts of bravery in war or efforts made to help better the lives of people who are living in oppression or dealing with other human inequalities. It is the front line people dealing with these situations and sacrificing themselves to help and save others that deserve the term hero yet we hear athletes names being thrown up there as heroes all the time. Why? What about being an elite athlete translates into being a hero? Can being a star athlete even compare to the status of a police officer or fireman? How about doctors that are saving peoples lives every day? Can athletes really be referred to in the same way? No matter what we think the answer to these questions, the reality is that our kids are looking up to these athletes as role models. They want to be just like their athletic heroes. Is this something that we should be ok with? I do think that there are many some athletes that demonstrate qualities that we would like our kids to learn from and of course we can admire athletic talents and skills. What I am trying to say is that I think we need to be careful how easily we throw around the term “hero”. Amazing athlete? YES - Hero? Source It is completely normal for people to be wowed and admire greatness in sports. We have been cheering on great athletes since the days of the ancient Roman battles of the gladiators and through the evolution of the Olympics. We see these accomplishments and think of these athletes as being on a pedestal. I have been there many times myself. Cheering for my favourite athletes and boasting about the amazing things they have been able to do in the arena. I have talked about plays made as if they were some sort of godly moment but I have ever been compelled to refer to these athletes as a hero. We sometimes get wrapped up in the grandiose nature of heroic events but if we strip that away we are left with qualities that help shape the definition of heroes in our every day lives. Character traits like courage and selfless become clear leaders when looking to see if someone qualifies as a hero. These are the people that are willing to do the right thing and to sacrifice themselves when it's not easy and not just because someone is looking. They give of themselves freely in order to help others and there is no expectation of reward or recognition. These are the qualities and actions that resonate with me when I am thinking of who our heroes should be. I need a hero!! Source If you are paying attention to the news at all then you have already started to get where I might be going with this. Almost every single day we are hearing stories about these elite athletes getting involved in some not so elite activities. The stars that we make idols out of and refer to as so-called heroes are committing acts that would make them far from a hero. There are repeated stories of domestic violence and fighting with fans. We have heard about dog fighting, illegal gambling and even murder. Do we want our children idolizing people who will do unspeakable things? The following are just some of the cases that have been in the news and it is just a small sample. There are many more. Just a few of the growing list of players charged with domestic abuse Source Accused of rape Source Micheal Phelps and Tiger Woods both charged with DUI Source The list of athletes caught cheating and using PED's is endless Source Aaron Hernendez - Convicted with murder Source1 These are just a few of the many cases you will learn about if you pay attention to the sports news. There are new cases popping up all the time and more high profile athletes getting added to the list of offenders. The scary part of this whole issue is how easily these star athletes are able to get off with many of these incidents. Being high profile athletes and having lots of money seem to help make many of these legal problems disappear in many cases. Even worse is how easily fans will forgive and forget once the athlete is back doing great things on the field or ice or court. These issues are not isolated to the pro players either. There are many cases of problems in the NCAA both with players and coaches. One of the most notable in recent history is the scandal uncovered at Penn State with Jerry Sandusky and accusations of sexual abuse. Even at the high school level, there are efforts made to protect young stars from legal troubles and keep them out of trouble so they can fulfil their destiny and be a great pro player. The reality is, when such efforts are made to protect these stars they learn that there is no consequence for action and in the end, they are being groomed to make mistakes without worry. The question needs to be asked Source By no means do I want to paint a picture of doom and gloom when it comes to athletes. There are a great number of athletes that are doing things the right way and setting a tremendous example for young people. We are hearing great things all the time about athletes getting involved in the community and working with charities. Just this week here in Ottawa there was a lot of publicity about the Ottawa Senators and their work with the Capital Condors Hockey Organization. The Condors are a team of players who are either handicapped or suffer from downs syndrome or other things that might prevent them from playing sports in regular leagues. The team had all the Condor players out for a practice with them this week, something that was a huge motivational opportunity for these young players. these are wonderful things for the players to do but do these things sound heroic? Or are these things that any public figure should strive to do? There are a lot of people without the same means that do these things every day without being recognized for their efforts the way a pro athlete would be. The Ottawa Senator players on the ice with the Capital Condors yesterday. One of my students was lucky enough to be there. Source I don’t see a change in this idolization of our pro athletes coming any time soon. The reality is, we will continue to pump these players up and look at them as role models because they can do things that regular people can’t do. Yes, maybe this makes them super in some way but we need to be cognizant as a society that this doesn’t make them heroes. Next time you see an amazing play and go to call that player your hero, stop for a moment and consider what you are about to say. There is a huge difference between scoring a one-handed 60-yard touchdown and rescuing someone who is trapped in a burning house. I have heard stories from war veterans that would make you cry and wonder how someone could be so willing to give of themselves to help others. We will be sharing many of these stories with Remembrance Day coming soon. These are the men and woman that I want to put up on that pedestal. These are the people who have earned the right to be called heroes. Thank god for having people like this in the world Source To be a pro athlete requires a tremendous amount of grit and determination. These players must sacrifice themselves for their sport and give up a lot to make it to the elite levels that they play but at the end of the day, these are self-serving actions. They do this so that they can be at the top of their sport and be great athletes. No to mention that they get paid an incredible amount of money to play their chosen sport. The fans pay more than you can imagine to be a witness to these great players. As much as their feats are incredible and make us rank them and refer to them as the greatest of all time, we have to remember that they are in their sport for themselves. I wouldn't say that they are selfish in any way but their efforts to be great have to be recognized as self serving. What are your thoughts about the way that we look up to athletes? Do you think they make good role models for our kids? I look forward to the discussion.