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Role models are a part of life

July 22, 2013
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor ( , The Herald-Star

Role models are an important part of our society.

As a father, I do my best to be a great role model for my daughter and son.

I will fail at doing so at quite often, but that doesn't mean I stop.

I would be a naive father to think my sports-minded son doesn't look at professional athletes as role models.

He does and I know it.

His two favorite athletes are LaDainian Tomlinson and Kobe Bryant.

The two are opposites in being a role model, both have their positives and negatives.

It is quite natural for young athletes to look at professional athletes as role models.

We must acknowledge that and we are foolish if we don't.

With that in mind, I started looking at athletes as role models and whom would I want my son to really follow and learn about.

The list:

Jesse Owens, A.C. Green, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Jeremy Linn, Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, Walter Payton, Larry Fitzgerald, Mariano Rivera, Dave Dravecky, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Jim Abbott, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Arthur Ashe, Mia Hamm, Dot Richardson, Michelle Akers, Missy Franklin, Lolo Jones, Kellie Wells, Wilma Rudolph, Althea Gibson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jessica Ennis, Pat Summitt, Mike Krzyzweski and John Wooden.

In addition, there are those like Robin Roberts, Team Hoyt and Nelson Mandella.

According to, the five qualities teens look for in role models are: passion and ability to inspire, clear set of values, commitment to community, selflessness and acceptance of others and ability to overcome obstacles.

Our teenagers are watching us at all times.

They are also watching teachers and coaches at all times.

Teenagers want to see whom we blame, our attitude, how we handle problems, if how we behave behind closed doors matches how we behave in public, do we continue to learn and do we show kindness and respect others.

Positive or negative, role models have far more of an influence on the way our teenagers behave than we tend to think.

A leader can be a leader into good or bad ways of life.

We parents must know who they are and which road they are taking.

Athletic teams have leaders, but are all the leaders positive?

Is the best player on the team working the hardest?

Do the players who know they have starting positions work hard to maintain that position?

The role models kids look at today are far different from the role models we looked at when we were that age.

I had Jerry West, Dr. J, Lance Alworth, Jack Nicklaus, Bruce Jenner, Dwight Stones, Muhammad Ali, Rod Laver, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Gale Sayers.

I wanted to play guard like Jerry West, catch passes like Lance Alworth and high jump like Dwight Stones, who is easily one of the best high jumpers of all time.

The biggest difference of athletes then and now is the 24-hour news cycle and how we all want to know everything in two seconds.

We want to comment on the Pouncey brothers, Lance Armstrong and Aaron Hernandez, to name a few.

If our role models back in the day were in trouble, we rarely heard about it. The local media kept it quiet or the local authorities took the player back to the organization they were part of and had the leaders of that organization take care of it.

Too many people are saying that athletes should not be role models.

I think they are missing the point.

It is up to us parents to make sure the role models our kids look up to that are not in their own household are good, positive role models.

Professional athletes are very good role models.

Professional athletes are also very bad role models.

They are role models, and sometimes, more than that. They have shortcomings like all of us.

The difference is they are on television, making a ton of money - something our kids (not all of them, mind you) want to do.

There are also problems with collegiate athletes and you can look up people like Marshall Henderson, Jeremy Hill and Devonta Pollard.

It is not Mariano Rivera's responsibility to act as a role model, although he should and he does, it appears, at all times.

Professional athletes choose every day they wake up how they act, just like you and I and our children.

David Robinson arises every day knowing he is a role model. As does Larry Fitzgerald, Missy Franklin, Lolo Jones, Tim Tebow and Tony Gwynn.

But, so do I.

And, so do you.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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