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Role Models and Sport

Prepared by: Greg Blood, Emeritus Researcher, Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
Updated by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Last updated: 13 October 2020
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

A role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. (Dictionary.com)

A common phrase, used in many spheres, is 'you can't be what you can't see'. The value of role models, and role model programs, is their ability to demonstrate diversity, inclusion, and to encourage preferred behaviours.

Types of role models

Coaches
Coaches at all levels exert great influence on their players/athletes.

High performance athletes
Elite and/or high profile athletes are often identified as role models, and both positive and negative behaviours come under intense scrutiny.

Parents
Parents are generally the strongest role models for their children’s participation in organised sport. When both parents are active, their children are much more likely to be active.

Increasing community participation

Role model programs in sport and physical activity are often targeted towards children and groups with lower participation including women and girls, indigenous, and persons with disability. The aim is to increase sport participation and address other broader community objectives (such as health, community development, crime, domestic violence reduction, etc.). Despite the common focus on elite athletes as role models, research suggests that people in our direct circle of family and relationships—including teachers and coaches—have more positive and long-term impacts.

Children and youth

Indigenous

Persons with disability

Women and girls

Programs and Awards

Role model programs
Many Australian organisations and programs use high profile athletes, both during and after their sporting careers, to promote positive health and lifestyle messages.

Athlete awards and recognition
Recognising those who give back to the community and inspire the nation.

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