Athletes Have to Lead by Example

By Ka’Oni Toussaint

If you were to ask a little child about their dream profession I’m sure that for the most part you’d hear him or her mention something about becoming a professional athlete. That’s because today many kids have a distorted belief that it’s easier to become an athlete than it is to make it into college and earn their degrees.

They’re not being taught that educated men and women are actually the heroes of their communities, including educated athletes. Instead, they’re constantly blinded by the glitz and glamour that they see being displayed around the pioneers in sports today. With the amount of admiration in the hearts of so many children, it’s hard to say that athletes aren’t role models for children, whether they want to be or not.  That being said, I believe that all athletes should be more considerate in what parts of their lives they choose to expose and become more publicly encouraging towards kids earning higher education.

Although athletes are not the primary educators in a child’s life, they are almost superhuman figures in the eyes of children, and everything they do is being watched closely and imitated by children all over the world. This is because children are like sponges, they are constantly soaking up everything that they are hearing and seeing. But the problem with this is that these athletes, they’re not always being positive and morally correct in public.

When a child sees their favorite athlete posting inappropriate sexual pictures, drinking tons of alcohol and being intoxicated in public, and doing other things that he or she shouldn’t be exposed to at that age, they tend to think that it’s okay to live this life too, and that’s what they set their minds on. I’m in no position to tell a person how to live their life, therefore proving that the things that they’re doing in their downtime aren’t okay isn’t my point.

I’m simply arguing about how athletes must be held accountable of being positive role models.  And to ask someone who chooses to be in the spotlight not to be held accountable for their actions is a falsehood that must be corrected. I feel as though there’s some invisible contract that all athletes sign once they commit their life to entertaining people all over the world. A contract that says that they vow to be a positive enforcement to communities, and an affirmative leader for children in the world. Some choose to abide by it, and others do things their own way.

Athletes must realize that they are at the forefront of the social realms today. With today’s technological advances and the ever-growing internet, their lives are literally accessible all twenty four hours of the day. And with all of this exposure, they should constantly be promoting education and things that are going to motivate children to want to become the new leaders of the world.

Today there’s a very low percentage of athletes in college who actually go on to play at the professional level. More than 460,000 students compete as NCAA athletes and only 1.6 percent of college athletes earn their way to play professional football, while 1.2 percent play professional basketball. Then, the numbers for women are even lower with only 0.9 percent of women making it to the professional basketball level.

But the children aren’t being informed about these numbers. They’re only being told that everyone has the same fair chance at making it if you work hard enough on your craft. And they’re being told to stay in school, but no one’s leading by example.

The responsibility lies with the athletes to inform them that everyone can’t be chosen and that getting a higher education is more important than everyone is making it. After all, this is what I believe that being a superstar is truly all about. It’s about paving the way for future generations. And this is not to say that athletes are not doing positive things.

There are countless amounts of athletes with personal foundations and others who donate to charities and volunteer in inner-city communities and people all over the world. But the positive things aren’t the things that are being shown. I think that it has to do with the media just as much as it does the athletes themselves. These professionals have to take a moment and make a personal decision about which part of their lives that they choose to share with the world. They have to ask themselves what image they want to portray for the world. The media is only allowed to expose what you give them.

At the end of the day, the fact is no one gets to choose if he or she is a role model, it’s something that just happens. When you’re placed in a position to be seen internationally, people just seem to be interested and drawn to what you have to offer.  Becoming a great or perfect is not something that will happened quickly and efficiently because people are who they are, and everyone has their own definition of the word ‘perfect.’

But it can happen slowly, if each individual athlete makes a vow to be someone to the kids who they wanted to have when they were earning their way to the top. Although many may hope and wish that it is a simple as athletes learning to change who they are for the sake of fans or the people around them; some people just aren’t well-suited for the role.

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