Athlete Behavior and Youth Aggression
Sports have a long history that is initiated since the time that people learned to compete for the values of recreation and sportsmanship. It serves as a source of inspiration, especially for the athletes who are considered as heroes by several sectors of the society (Drugs in Sport). The regard for athletes as heroes is especially true for the youth who likewise serves as the fans that idolize the athletes.
It is seen that imitation serves as the most common form used by the youth to express the level of idolization possessed for a particular athlete. There are fads and crazes that lasted involving the style, mannerism, and behavior of the athlete who has recently played an important role in a certain field of sports. An unforgettable legend in the field of sports, which also had an impact on the youth, is Michael Jordan. In a survey conducted among the middle school students regarding the most popular in the field of sports and entertainment, Jordan ranked the first (Rucai). The ability of Jordan’s influence to reach even non-Western countries is a clear evidence of the ability of sports to transcend boundaries and bring about ideals from a particular culture to another. More specifically, its impact is significant for the youth who serve as fans for the sports personalities.
As development and growth is a process that the youth continuously engage in, one of the roles that are to be fulfilled in this stage is the exploration of identity, as posited by the theories of Erik Erikson (Moshman 81). It is stated that the youth should be allowed to search for the identity they wish to take and suppression of this would lead to a situation where the child suffers from identity crisis. Likewise, there are two main components that are related to the search for an identity or character, which are imitation and initiation (LeMier 4).
As mentioned earlier, sports have a strong influence on youth such that athletes are being idolized and consequently imitated because of the influence exerted upon the society and the responsibility placed upon them to be emulated as role models. The achievements and popularity associated with athletes have become the strongest connection that brings about the sense of imitation and the impact on popular culture that is followed by the youth. In the “United States’ Report to the International Drugs in Sport Summit,” it is reported that according to the Healthy Competition Foundation’s 1999 survey, 1 out of 4 or 25% of the youth know someone who is using drugs intended for performance enhancement (Drugs in Sport). Alarmingly, a survey done among the Massachusetts youth revealed that 3% of girls from 9 to 13 years old are using anabolic steroids whereas the usage among the same age group of boys is just under 3% (Drugs in Sport). In addition to this, the 1997 National Household Survey shows that 3% of the children from the age group of 12 to 17 have used cocaine (Drugs in Sport).
However, this is not to say that it is the behavior of the athletes alone that accounts for the widespread imitation of athlete behavior among the youth. There are other societal forces that are brought into the picture to create a full understanding of the issue. First, the media also performs a significant role with its ability to bring ideas, concepts, events, and others into every home at the most effective manner. Monaghan states that
television, it seems, appears too often to revel in showing footage of mass brawls and other misdemeanors by professional athletes…It is bad enough for those who witness such events in the flesh without transmitting the pictures to millions of others, many of whom are impressionable youth athletes. (qtd in LeMier 4).
The presence of televisions in every household has made the access of news from one side of the world to transcend through borders and reach even far-flung areas. Without proper guidance and censorship, the youth are able to receive athlete misbehavior and interpret it based solely on the popularity of the individual. It is wrong, per se, to present values of aggression and antisocial behavior to the youth that would become worse if it is sent with the purpose of highlighting these behaviors. In addition to this, there are also other means by which this is perpetuated such as the internet, cellular phones, print advertisements, and others that also have values of marketing that intensifies the vulnerability of youth to imitating the acts of the athletes.
Second, the family also has a role to play in this concern. The interplay between environment and genetic factors, together with parenting style, has an impact on the antisocial behavior and aggression of children. This means that with proper guidance from the parents, the children would be able to avoid temptations of substance abuse and violence despite the different things witnessed in the athletes’ behaviors. As youth, there should be support and supervision that comes from the family for the decisions of the children to be directed towards what is right. In doing so, the identification of what is wrong would also be achieved.
As a conclusion, it can be said that the athletes’ behaviors are considered to be an influential factor in the development and growth of youth because the former acts as role models who are imitated by the latter. However, this is not the sole part of the society that is seen to affect youth’s aggression and engagement in antisocial behavior. The media and the family still has their respective roles to play in teaching the child and directing their interests towards the better.
Drugs in Sport. The United States’ Report to the International Drugs in Sport Summit. 01 September 2000. Department Industry Science & Resources. 16 November 2008 <http://fulltext.ausport.gov.au/fulltext/1999/feddep/drugsinsport/section_2/us.htm>.
LeMier, Kaytlin. “Relationship between Athletes and Role Models.”Journal of Undergraduate Research 8 (2008): 1-13.
Moshman, David. Adolescent Psychological Development: Rationality, Morality, Identity. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005.
Rucai, Lu. Embracing Western Ways While Cleaving to Tradition. 16 November 2008 <http://www.chinatoday.com.cn/English/e2005/e200501/p10.htm>.