Growing up with certain values, I just always thought a superstar athlete should uphold the highest standards on and off the field. In reality, this is not the case. How many athletes reach the highest levels of success and flounder because of a thoughtless event or action, which in turn ruined their careers? This doesn't necessarily make them good or bad people, simply misguided and uneducated and showing a lack of consideration and concern for future generations. Kids look up to these superstar athletes and mimic their swag, belief systems and, at times, their actions—whether positive or negative. I wasn’t any different.
I think there are few good examples of athletes today. Russell Wilson, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry and, of course, LeBron James exemplify the standards that I believe make great role models. Despite their athletic talent and rise to stardom, they lead by example, encouraging the next generation to do the same. Two of my all-time favorites, though, are Peyton Manning and Roger Federer. Having personally met Peyton, I can attest that he truly is the role model kids should imitate and respectfully, Roger as well.
To me, Peyton is a good family man, helps underprivileged youth through his foundations and charities, and he exemplifies great leadership along with a strong work ethic. With Federer, I admire his humility and polite demeanor. He never falters when faced with a defeat. Whether he wins or loses, he accepts both with grace and humility, traits that a younger generation can emulate. He is committed to his family, his foundations, and his fans. These two superstars are the true embodiment of what the Wiseman Method represents: respect, work ethic, commitment to excellence, integrity, mindfulness, leadership, citizenship, and balance.
I can't verify how Peyton and Federer might be in their personal lives, but from what I see as a fan, I think they are doing it right. Yet too often we do see superstars getting into trouble, e.g., infidelity scandals, cheating with performance enhancing drugs, or committing acts without any thought of moral principles (premeditated or not). I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt let down about Tiger Woods, the family man who admitted to repeated infidelity; Lance Armstrong, the clean-living, cancer-beating founder of Livestrong who has been at the center of a doping scandal; and the infamous OJ (enough said).
So why do role models often end up in sticky situations—do they simply have no self-control? There are some theories about self-control. Some say that self-control is like a muscle: The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Other research suggests that humans have a finite supply of self-control. Exerting it in one area of life depletes the amount of self-regulation left in other areas. Perhaps the extreme dedication and discipline needed to become a world-class athlete means there’s little self-control left to resist certain temptations. Very similar to how we’re more tempted to give into sugar cravings after a hard day of work, but with sports personalities, no self-control has much more dire consequences.
Another school of thought is that role models don’t succumb to temptations or act immorally anymore than the rest of us. It’s simply that the whole world knows when they get caught. Without condoning Woods or Armstrong’s behavior, perhaps it’s up to the public to stop expecting their idols to be angels and instead look for a realistic role model closer to home.
If a role model is a person who others (especially kids) look up to and imitate, then my sincere hope is that one day the small percentage of star athletes that represent with style and class shine so brightly that they overshadow the "bad apples" for the sake of future generations.
Good role models are vital to the young generation, so thank you to all the Peyton Mannings and Roger Federers of the world. Thank you. - JPW