It seems like every couple of days, we hear something in the news about one of our sports heroes getting into trouble — spousal abuse, an illicit affair, drunk driving, drug use, steroid scandals, and more. As a parent, it’s hard to feel confident in any of the professional athletes our children look up to. Aren’t there any good, solid, honest athletes out there our children can emulate as demi-heroes? Actually, there are! If you look carefully, and pay attention to who’s NOT being trounced in the news, there are several fantastic pro athletes who make good role models… and here are 7 of them.
When I first saw Tebow on the field at Florida State with his John 3:16 blackout under his eyes, I wasn’t impressed. Anyone can talk the talk and appear to be religious and good, but would he walk the walk and be a true Christian? So far, he has, appearing to be sincere, genuine, and truly good, a deeply religious, good-hearted man. What a superb role model for any young person, religious or not!
I don’t know much about Galarraga’s past, or his personal life, which is a good omen in itself — when pro athletes get into trouble, we all hear about it. But all I needed to see was his grace in the way he handled a blown call that cost him a perfect game this season. When the umpire who made the bad call tearfully admitted his costly mistake, Galarraga hugged him and never said a negative word about him (at least not in public). For that, he earns a place on my list. He’s a total class act.
There are few professional female athletes for young women to look up to for inspiration, but for generation of girls, Mai Hamm has been a relevant, engaging, worthy role model. She is honest, down-to-earth, and dedicated to supporting families who benefit from bone marrow transplants through her Mia Hamm Foundation. For decades, she’s inspired girls to do their best, and now inspires mothers with her happy, successful marriage to a pro baseball player and their twin daughters.
His distinctive look and wildly successful skateboarding and snowboarding career have made Shaun white a household name, especially if those households have teen or pre-teen boys in them. White is talented, but humble, and uses his visibility to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.
Pat Tillman was, by all accounts, a deeply compassionate, sincerely caring man. In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Tillman joined the Army with one of his brothers, turning down a lucrative $9 million contract with the St. Louis Rams. He served as an Army Ranger until his death in Afghanistan in June 2002, when he rushed into a narrow valley to save his fellow Rangers in the midst of a nasty firefight. His death by friendly fire was originally covered up by the Army, but the persistence of his family led to the release of the truth. From Tillman, young people can learn the value of morals over money, and courage under fire. I can’t imagine a better role model. If you want to learn more about Tillman, you must read “Where Men Win Glory” by Jon Krakauer.
I was impressed with Suh before he was drafted by the Detroit Lions, when he was the fourth-pick for the Heisman Trophy as a Cornhusker. Before he even received a penny of his signing bonus, he donated $2.5 million to Nebraska, part for a scholarship and part for the athletic center. He’s articulate, humble, and (so far), a great role model.
Even if Phil Mickelson wasn’t an incredibly talented golfer and devoted husband and father, his cheerful, even-keel demeanor would land him on my list. No club-throwing tantrums, no holier-than-thou conceit. He quit his career in the middle of a successful season to care for his wife, Amy, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and has stood by her throughout her ordeal. Obviously he takes his very public persona as a potential role model and his marital vows seriously — unlike another pro golfer I can think of…
These are only 7 of the professional athletes that we can say, at least for now, are good examples for our children. Of course, who really knows another person, especially a famous person or athlete, but right now, these men (and one woman) are admirable to say the least. Which of these pro athletes do you think is a good role model, and which do you think I’m wrong about, and why? Or is there another pro athlete you like? Please let me know!
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