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Impact of Athletes on People

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    The impact of professional athletes has both positive and negative connotations; that are far reaching in the eyes of today youth. The impact of athletes goes past just an admiration on the sports field. In this new age of social media there is no sense of privacy. Impressionable youth can now follow what their favorite athlete is doing on and off the field. This leads to an exhausting task upon the athletes to be perfect role models twenty-four seven, or either be accused of leading the youth astray. It also leads to youth learning both the negatives and positives about athletes during a time where they may have yet to instill a discernment of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The importance of this influence over the youth to broader society is that society must decide if the values taught by professional athletes either intentional or unintentional those we want to be adapted by the youth. A line must be drawn between what is encroaching on an athlete’s personal freedom and what is simply the price of their chosen career path.

    It can be argued that some of the most notable people in the life of today’s youth are professional athletes. Most children can easily name multiple athletes who they admire. Even fortune five hundred companies understand the great influence that athletes have on youth. It is the reason why one cannot turn on the television without an ad or PSA featuring a professional athlete coming across the screen. According to the center for kids first thirty million children are involved in organized sports. This means there is a very large demographic of potential youth to be influenced by professional athletes. Because of how great of an impact constantly seeing these stars across the television screen be it on or off the court it stands to reason if or not this influence is good or bad over all. Arguments can be made for both sides of this discussions. The reason being is because matters dealing with human society are rarely ever black and white, and usually lie within a gray area. The impact of professional athletes is no different in that the impact of it lies within a societal gray area and carries both negative and positive aspects.

    The impact on the youth seemingly is more on the positive side and have fewer drawbacks. One such benefit is the morals and values learned through observing these athletes. “In a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation nine out of ten kids reported feeling as though professional athletes teach children mostly good things. One thousand five hundred ten to seventeen-year-old and one thousand nine hundred and fifty parents participated in this study. Three-fourth of the of the participates stated that athletes taught children that having good sportsmanship and being a fair player are just as important of a goal as winning is. Eighty seven percent reported feeling it is wrong to take a cheap shot versus an opponent. (cite)” This shows that children are picking up on the fact that good sportsmanship is important to the game and maybe more important than winning. The importance of this is that most children learn by observing and copying so the more this message is portrayed the more likely it is that a child will pick up the good lessons and apply them to their own life.

    Other lessons taught by athletes are the importance of honesty, integrity, perseverance and altruism. Most teach the value of hard work either its through ads, documentary, or PSA. One would be hard press to find an athlete who does not contribute their success to hard work and dedication. Another impact of professional athletes is their influence on the fitness levels of the youth. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention a staggering twenty percent of youth ages six to eleven are considered obese. Obesity is partially blamed on a sedentary lifestyle, so the thought process here is that by looking up to their favorite athletes could inspire them to become more active. The effort to push this narrative is seen through athletes being involved in the get fit initiatives and the go outside and play PSAs. The irony in these efforts is that for these PSAs to reach the desired audience they must be usually watching television. Due to the increasing number of obese children more research needs to be conducted on the correlation of admiration of sports athletes and increase physical activity in youth.

    Off the sports field following professional athletes can have a positive impact. Most professional athletes give back to the community in which they came from. Charitable events range from turkey and back to school drives to raising money for natural disasters like hurricane Harvey. This teaches kids how to be charitable and give back to their community. It also shows them that success is not just about uplifting one’s own self but also being selfless and uplifting others less fortunate around you. Athletes like Lebron James have stepped up their impact on the youth even more. Instead of stopping at just being a good example they are actively investing in the future of the youth in sustainable ways. For example, Lebron James has opened a school in his hometown others have given college scholarships as well as some much-needed school supplies to students. The importance of this is that there is a perceived culture around sports that education is an after thought or not important at all if someone is good in spots and has a chance of making it to professional leagues. These efforts directly combat against this negative correlation between education and sports.

    For every positive impact of professional athletes there are negative ones edged on by this era of social media that leads to all aspects of an athlete’s life being exposed. The same Kaiser Family study mentioned previously found a negative light cast upon sportsmanship that children picked up from watching professional sports. “Seventy-four percent says it is common for a professional athlete to yell at the referee, sixty two percent says that trash talking opponents is the norm; and forty-six percent says it is not uncommon for athletes to take cheap shots at opponents. The same children agreed that it was not uncommon to see those same behaviors while playing sports among their peers. (Cite)”

    This implies that children are learning the direct opposite of what most parents want children to be learning from sports. Sports are thought to teach good sportsmanship, teamwork, and how to be a good leader. The behaviors that children are learning instead is how to act out of anger when things on the court are not going the way they feel it should. One could conclude that by arguing with the referees it shows kids that it is okay to defy and be combative with authority, when they think they are being treated unfairly. By trash talking and getting into physical brawls with opponents it shows that is fine to lash out in anger and physical violence when feeling as though they are being cross intentionally or unintentionally. One recent incident supporting this point was when Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo was upset with Mario Hezonja about stepping over him while he was on the ground after falling when trying to block his dunk. His reaction was to next time possibly risk his career and a fine by threatening to punch him if it happens again. Finally taking cheap shots at one’s opponents teach that it is more important to win at all cost than to be fair and show good sportsmanship. The embodiment of these negative qualities can lead to children who feel entitled and are focused more on their selfish desire to win at all cost.

    Another negative impact is the aspect of teamwork which has become skewed in this age. Now the goal of winning as a team comes secondary to striving to be the superstar of the team. Players have become more of ball hogs or are given so much power the essentially run the franchise. An example of this Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, allegedly playing apart in the coach getting fired. Thus, reversing the relationship of the coach being in charge and disciplining the players. Then there is Lebron James and any team that he becomes apart of. If one pays attention his authority supersedes even the coach on any team, he is a part of in this stage of his career and he bends the will of team to meet his desire of what it should be. The reason why he is allowed to is because he is not looked at as a part of a team but the super star of the team. Franchises look at meeting his demands with the mindset of a promising championship win prospect and the threat of his departure to another team if not satisfied. This mindset has been adopted by the youth and school sports were more players are interested in taking as many shots or goals as possible to increase their college prospects and to be a stand out star regardless of how it effects, the team. It lends into the development of selfish entitled children who focus more on their desires and not the good of the entire team.

    Another negative aspect is the use and coverage of illegal performance enhancing drugs in sports. From Aaron Rodriguez to Maria Sharpova to Lance Armstrong, stars of various sports who were thought to be at the top of their respective games, were all outed for using performance enhancement drugs. There has been a top athlete in virtually every sport who has been accused or found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. Drugs are not the only tool utilized in cheating. Tom Brady arguably considered one of the best football players was suspended due to a cheating scandal involving him conspiring with the equipment manger of his team. They deflated footballs under the acceptable league limit leading to an unfair advantage. Though some are caught and punished severely, others are given a slap on the wrist or are never caught just under speculation. It teaches kids that cheating is not only perfectly fine, but almost necessary in order to be the best in their respective sports area. Outside of sports this by any means necessary mentality can lead to negative dishonest behavior in school, work, and home life as well.

    Off the playing field there is no shortage of bad behavior youth can observe. Bad behavior can range from bar fights, domestic violence, and fights with team members on and off the field. The bad behavior can even go all the way to the gruesome extreme of murder. The punishment for these types of aggressive behaviors have become harsher over time, but there seems to be a trend of waiting until the public forgets then allowing the perpetrator to quietly enter back into the league. There is Adrian Peterson who committed child abuse against his four-year-old son and is now back playing for the Washington Redskins. There is also Jermaine Whitehead who recently was released from the Green Bay Packers for fighting with a team member. Now a few short weeks later he has been signed to the Cleveland Browns suffering basically no consequence for this infraction. Another theme worth noting is that seemingly the better the athlete the less severe the consequences. For example, Aaron Hernandez exhibited bad behavior all through college, and the Patriots were even advised not to draft him. They over looked his patterned bad behavior due to the talent he possessed and eventually went on to commit a double murder.

    A negative impact that is seen by using social media is professional athletes divulging in vices like recreational drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sexual affairs. In this social media age kids can see all aspects of their favorite athletes lives even the parts that should be private. This leads to children feeling that these things are acceptable, and they may imitate what they see. As a society the normalcy of these types of vices can have a negative impact on society. The final negative impact is the affect professional sports culture has on education specifically higher education. A lot of athletes did not finish college and some in the NBA in particular did not even go to a university or college. This gives the youth the impression that higher education comes secondary to sports or is simply not important at all. This usually impacts the poorest of our society harder than the rest. They view making it in professional sports as their only way out. This mindset is detrimental to the youth because only about one percent actually make it to the league. Out of the few that do even make it fewer have a substantial career making enough money and staying in the league long enough that they can maintain their life style for the rest of their life and not need a backup career. So even if they do make it to the league securing a college degree can be beneficial to their future. Even if college is attended studies have shown that children believe that athletes do not have to complete school work or get leniency in grading. As a society education should be our highest priority for our youth second only to mental and physical wellbeing.

    Professional athletes do have a greater impact on our youth and furthermore our society. The ultimate task for developing the blossoming youth into well rounded functional adults lie on the parents and guardians. Like Charles Barkley once said, “I am not your kids’ role model!” and he is right. Athletes are just people and should not be placed upon a pedestal just because they have exceptional physical abilities. Society must stop glorifying bad behavior and making excuses since they are a good player. Also, athletes should be given their privacy as well, the price of being in their chosen career should not be being in the public eye twenty-four seven. If they were not hounded on social media so much some of the vices, we deemed bad behavior but that are not illegal could be handled in private. It can be agreed upon that the impact on the youth of professional athletes have both positive and negative aspects. As parents they can praise good behavior observed like good sportsmanship and charitable behavior. They can also use bad behavior observed as a teaching tool to learn why that behavior was not okay. Ultimately society shoulders the responsibility of determining what is acceptable behavior to mimic and what is not.

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