A Sporting Example

I was talking with some parents over the weekend and the conversation turned to the impact of role models on the development, behaviour and attitude of our children.

We all agreed that parents are (and should be) the strongest influence on our children’s development. There was also general agreement that teachers and others in positions of authority have an important influence on childhood development.

Eventually, the conversation came around to the impact of the behaviour of sporting personalities as an example to our children.

Previously I have spoken in the Senate about how I believe our sporting champions are heroes to our children and how their on-field (and off-field) behaviour can send a powerful message. Often this message is positive, but this is not always the case.

Now, I am the first one to accept that errors of judgement happen and that it is often inappropriate to condemn others for their understandable human failings. Accordingly, I think we have to accept that mistakes will be made by individuals, often by those with a very high profile.

Regrettably these lapses are often made in the full glare of the public eye and are widely reported in the media. Certainly this has an impact on children, but frankly I don’t see this as something that good parenting cannot overcome.

However, sporting heroes can make a massive difference in setting a positive example for our children. My own son (who is nine) models his cricket on the good sportsmanship demonstrated by Adam Gilchrist. His football commitment is linked to the example set by the Crows leadership and the message they share.

Other parents shared a similar story, with different names, teams and sporting codes according to geography and area of sporting interest.
The weekend discussion then turned to how we might actually harness this powerful force for good, to help instil a positive message in our school-age children.

One suggestion was to invite the captains of Australia’s national sporting teams (and maybe other high profile athletes) to an annual event where they could agree on a single, unifying message for Australian sport that would permeate almost every sporting organisation in the country.

The message could be as simple as “respect yourself, respect the referee” or “healthy food helps make healthy sports”. Perhaps they are not the best examples but I am sure you get the idea. Importantly, the message would be developed and endorsed by the players themselves.

If this message then appeared on a poster in every sporting club and school locker room throughout the country, was supported by our sporting champions and was reaffirmed by coaches and parents, it could only have a positive impact on our youngsters.

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