Prep athletes growing less interested in professional, collegiate role models

By Chris VanCampen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17 2013 12:15 p.m. MDT

After “family,” teens mention teachers and coaches (11 percent), friends (9 percent), and pastors or other religious leaders they know personally (6 percent). It is notable that a majority of teens indicated that the people they most admire and imitate are those with whom they maintain a personal connection, friendship or interaction.

This is not to say that student athletes do not looking to pattern their careers after professional and collegiate stars.

"I love watching Steve Nash play," Natalie Mecham, former Davis High girls’ basketball standout, now with Idaho State, said in an email. "I notice the patience he has with his teammates, coaches and with himself. But what I admire the most is that He. Works. His. Butt. Off. I also loved that he still enjoyed the game. I want to develop that."

Current Roy High School softball player Addie Aiken, a sophomore, also looks up to a player whose game is similar to Aiken's own.

“I look up to (University of Oklahoma star and U.S. National Team member) Keilani Ricketts," Addie says, "because she is a lefty pitcher like me, is really athletic, and looks like she really loves the game.”

The Barna Group study showed that no matter who the teen chose for their role model, those participating in the study described a wide range of reasons why they named that particular person. The most common rationale (26 percent) was because of personality traits. For example, some of the listed traits included caring about others, being loving and polite, being courageous, and being fun. Twenty-two percent of the participants in the study also chose people that they would like to emulate; they would like to “follow in the footsteps” of their chosen role model.

Additionally, 11 percent of the teens stated that encouragement is a big reason for who they choose as a role model. Specifically, those responding to the survey stated that they like people who "help me to be a better person," or "someone who is always there for me." Young athletes generally appear to be taking a careful look at who they choose to emulate.

Perhaps the best attitude of all athletes toward role models interviewed belongs to Jonah Larsen, a sophomore football player at Riverton High School.

When asked who his role model is, Larsen said, "I don't really have a role model. I want to be like me and be the best that I can be."

Johnny Who?

Chris is a graduate of the University of Utah and Santa Clara Law School and practices law in Heber, is a father of four, an avid fly-fisherman, and announcer of many Morgan High School sports events. Email him at: cvcinutah@gmail.com.