Lascelves Graham, Guest Columnist
In his article 'Don't expect sports stars to be role models' (Gleaner, February 22, 2013), Mr Orville Higgins, in making the case, states, "A man who has superb sports talent is still a man, with all the frailties and deficiencies that ail all of us." But isn't this ruling out all of us as role models, not just sports stars?
In referring to sports stars, he proclaims, "Many of them, truth be told, are not particularly bright, outside of the sports which they dominate." The implication is that because one is not bright, one cannot be expected to exhibit pro-social conduct, to have principles, values, attitudes and behaviours that the society would want to encourage in all its citizens. I wonder if it is this hypothesis which causes ISSA and the principals of our high schools to demand less academically of our sports stars - 45 per cent average in four subjects only.
By far, the greatest attribute of a role model is an ability to inspire others, and few are more inspirational than sports stars. Role models are educators, civic leaders, mothers, fathers, clergy, peers, sports stars, other celebrities and ordinary people encountered in everyday life. Anyone can inspire one to achieve his/her potential in life.
We are all role models, whether we like it or not, especially if we are successful in a particular domain. Our spheres of influence vary, and this is where stars of all types differ from ordinary folk. Stars impact greater numbers of persons and hence can serve to enrich and motivate many more (young) lives.
MUST BE GOOD CITIZENS
Oftentimes, the society spends a lot of its (scarce) resources nurturing and developing sports stars. Stars get more money, more glory and more privileges. It seems only fair and reasonable that they should at least be expected to be good citizens, good role models. As in all endeavours, some sports stars will fail as role models.
Sports stars may be better trained/prepared than many to be good role models. The very nature of their area of expertise emphasises many traits required of good citizens, especially if sport was allowed to perform its educational/socialisation role in school, which is to help students learn life values: hard work (discipline), teamwork (sacrifice, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, etc.), and fair play (ethics and integrity).
However, our society must do more to increase the probability of producing better citizens (i.e., positive role model sports stars, etc.) by strengthening its socialisation institutions like the family, schools, etc. Hence, among other things, the importance of looking at the socialisation role of sports in schools versus sports at clubs and other such institutions.
The intensity of sports competition in our schools, especially high schools, the win-at-all-cost mentality of our high schools, as signalled by the recruitment of youngsters based on their sports ability only, undermines the development of citizens with appropriate values and attitudes.
That is why the emphasis in schools should be on a rounded education - not on winning at all cost.
Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham is a chemist and former Jamaica football captain. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.