Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Is An Athlete Anyway?

I was thinking about the concept of the athlete after writing about a potential honor code in athletics. What exactly is an athlete? Merriam-Webster defines athlete as "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina." This is a purely physical definition however; today, we expect athletes to be much more than just physically talented people. They should have some level of moral and ethical behavior as well as being a talented enough orator to handle the often overly critical media with grace and charisma. However, is this expecting too much from these athletes who are still obviously human? I think about how, in high school and college, the athlete needs to hold his or her grades up as well as perform at a high level on the court or field. However, what if the most talented athlete in the school had no desire to study? He or she would not be able to play on the team and therefore could not be an athlete representing that school. I think that these measures are valuable as they encourage the athlete to be more than just an athlete. We all get sick of hearing the term "student-athlete" because it is long and somewhat awkward, but that is what we expect of athletes while they are in school. They should be able to perform as a student as well as an athlete. I do not know what you would term a professional athlete because we expect them to obviously be an athlete as well as a role model or perhaps an example. Therefore, should the athlete be termed as the "example-athlete?" Personally, I think that even if we do not use this term, the athlete should be aware of the position that he or she holds. When I was a young child, I conformed to the rest of society by saying that Michael Jordan was my favorite player. I never raised him to the idol-like level as some people did, but in the mid-90s, who didn't want to Be Like Mike? With a player with such great media exposure, he or she will be will be perceived as a role model to follow even if he or she hasn't done anything worthy of following (this is a general statement, not targeted at Michael Jordan). Here is where the problem lies; some athletes who are perceived as role models are really not people children should be emulating. How to solve this? It is either going to take a change of the values of professional athletes or a more discerning eye from the public to see through the athletes who are just plain athletes, not "example-athletes." There are plenty of role models in the world today, but not everyone who happens to be in the news and be extraordinarily talented in one area is by necessity a perfect example to follow otherwise.
© 2009 Jean-Marc Kuffer / CC BY 2.0

No comments:

Post a Comment