Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Louise McCuaig, Senior Lecturer Health and Physical Education in Schools, The University of Queensland

In my profession of health, sport and physical education, you hear the term “role model” bandied around often. Sports stars, physical education teachers and coaches – along with Olympic athletes – all attract equal amounts of praise and criticism regarding their status as role models to young Australians.

However, research around role models provides a sobering counterpoint to the rhetoric surrounding the superstar approach.

As educational psychologists Judy MacCallum and Susan Beltman have argued, a role model can be defined simply as “an individual who is perceived as exemplary, or worthy of imitation”. But the meanings and enactment of the term are often assumed and devoid of clarity.

Others, such as Penelope Lockwood and Ziva Kunda, have pointed out the potential influence of a role model depends on their success being perceived as relevant to those observing them.

According to this research, a high level of similarity between one person and another across various domains results in a greater likelihood that they will draw a meaningful comparison.

However, it’s not just relevance that matters, but also whether of not the individual perceives that those relevant attributes are actually attainable. If a role model is so clearly beyond their capabilities, their influence could indeed be demotivating.

As Lockwood and Kunda say, “models of attainable success can be inspiring and self-enhancing, whereas models of unattainable success can be threatening and deflating”.

In the latter situation, a role model’s success may highlight personal failures and shortcomings, and make lesser achievements appear paltry, resulting in feelings of inferiority.

From this perspective we can see the dangers that accompany an overemphasis on promoting extremely fit, “sporty” and obsessively health-conscious sports stars or PE teachers as exemplars of healthy, active living for children and young people.

In the first instance, young people need to consider the sporty or healthy lifestyle as relevant to their own life aspirations. And, should relevance be established, access to socioeconomic resources, opportunities and capacities that ensure the realisation of such attributes must be considered attainable.

While this research suggests that we err on the side of caution when idolising role models, a recent conversation with one mother offered new faith for an idea overburdened by hype, slogans and pampered sports stars.

image Rocco and Brendan at the local pool. Author provided

In that hotbed of social commentary, the local hairdressing salon, I heard of seven-year-old Rocco’s keen admiration of Brenden Hall, one of Australia’s world champion Paralympic swimmers. Brenden trains at the same pool as Rocco, and has become a superstar in the eyes of this aspiring young sportsman.

Upon winning a school award, Rocco asked his mum if he could get a photo with Brenden to celebrate his achievement. In fact, the photo was to be a consolation prize.

Rocco had been devastated to learn that Brenden’s Paralympic battles would take place in a faraway country, denying him the opportunity to cheer his hero along in person.

Shaking with excitement, the photo opportunity dutifully secured by mum, Brenden took the time to explain the ways in which Rocco could share his Rio 2016 journey.

Of course, Brenden didn’t disappoint his fan, winning gold in his first race.

As Rocco’s mum further confided, “when Rocco tells me he doesn’t feel like sports training, doing his homework or getting out of bed, I ask him how easy it would be for Brenden, who has lost his leg, to make excuses and not go swimming training every morning. For Rocco, this little reminder usually does the trick.”

Humble it may be, but this exchange between mother and son reminds us all of the small but significant ways in which our Paralympians have become real role models.

As with our Indigenous athletes and female AFL players, Paralympians provide us with tangible evidence of a determination to overcome adversity, disability and marginalisation.

Unlike some of their better paid and higher profile mainstream peers, our athletes with a disability provide young Aussies, their teachers and parents, with concrete examples of how – sometimes against all odds – we can strive to achieve lofty aspirations.

Although more funding, international television coverage and London success have no doubt improved Paralympian’s resources, matters of attainability are put into perspective when we compare our life opportunities with those who face the daily challenges of disability, within and beyond the sporting arena.

Authors: Louise McCuaig, Senior Lecturer Health and Physical Education in Schools, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/paralympian-role-models-media-hype-political-rhetoric-or-the-real-deal-65482

Writers Wanted

Why this Queensland election is different — states are back at the forefront of political attention

arrow_forward

Cervical, breast, heart, bowel: here’s what women should be getting screened regularly

arrow_forward

Will I or won't I? Scientists still haven't figured out free will, but they're having fun trying

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

AppDynamics Solves Visibility Gap Between Traditional Infrastructure and Cloud Environments

New Full Stack Observability Platform, Integration With Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer and Cloud Native Visualisation Features Provide Cross Domain Insights and Analytics of Business Perfor...

Hotwire Global - avatar Hotwire Global

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion