Friday, 12 October 2012

Kids need books and the outdoors, not sports heroes

Many are disappointed at the example high profile sportsmen who dope are setting for sports fanatics and especially children.  So many heroes are being exposed as "cheats" in their uncompromising quest for victory.  But we shouldn't point fingers at the sports stars who set bad examples; we should be reflecting on ourselves and instead ask why we regard them as role models in the first place.

No sportsperson enters the competitive arena for the betterment of society.  They do it because they have a talent for a certain sporting code, and let's be real, they do it for the fame and money that comes with competing at the highest level.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with such a motive; what's wrong is society's expectation that athletes be beacons of society when from day one that was never their intention.

Professional sport is given disproportionate amounts of attention by our species, and where our attention goes so does advertising money and sponsorship deals.  The stakes at this level are high, and the state of sport science is such that the performance improvement to be gained from "doping" is too significant to ignore.  Any athlete who doesn't do it becomes a journeyman whose name is quickly forgotten.  When everybody is equally talented and trains equally hard, an edge needs to be found somewhere.  In today's age, the likelihood that somebody's sporting hero doesn't take performance enhancing drugs is as remote as finding life on the sun.

Many argue that sportsmen and women promote an active lifestyle among children.  Watching people play sport on television isn't going to burn too many calories though.  Going out and actually playing the sport will.  Sport should entrenched as a practice in our daily culture, not worshipped as a religion.

Kids need to be taught to harness and develop their own faculties.  Think of it: was it education and practice that made you what you are today, or someone you idolized when you were young?  Using other people as a point of reference is fine: often their discipline and outlook contains many lessons that can be gleaned for your personal development, as is the case with Michael Jordan.  But in spite of this, their significance is grossly overrated, and personal gain rather that societal upliftment is at the core of their motivation.

Sporting personalities are not out there to make the world better, so to let our children view them as the peak of human achievement is to write off an immeasurable amount of future potential.

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