The statement that you can use the successes of the best global athletes as role models in physical education is mostly wrong. We have associated sport with education for more than 170 years. This alliance supports this claim. Athletes have long since moved into pop culture. They hang on the walls as posters, they are admired for their achievements and are considered stars. But do they, therefore, have an educational effect?
In the middle of the 19th century, society introduced physical exercise into many schools in Europe. Sport at school should raise resilient young people. Just a few decades later, the attitude of the competitors at the Olympic Games made them become role models for many professional activities. Many of these principles still apply today. They are the argument that promoting the sport is what drives you. But does the success of the top athletes encourage the broad population to follow suit? Reality leaves us in doubt. If the theory were correct, then many young people would have to practice those sports in which the athletes of a country are particularly successful. But the boom in numerous sports has mostly not materialized. After all, sports such as dressage, discus throwing or fencing do not have the appeal that, for example, football has. So, sport cannot rely on an imitation effect.
Interest Quickly Fades Away
Success at a significant event may raise interest in the sport in question for some time, but its shelf-life is short. The next generation of athletes will do that sport if the coaches, clubs and performance centres do a good job in promoting. You can also see that in football. That has an excellent position in everyday culture and it works regardless of the success of the athletes. That is undoubtedly also because sport has an ideal place in the mass media. Success alone does not mean an increase in interest. Only when the sport has become very well known, its representatives can also become known and suitable as role models.
The Media Are Concerned with Success and Emotion
Athletes are suitable as role models for young people only if they appear regularly in the media. All success is useless if the story does not include a variety of emotions. Only then does the athlete become attractive and worthwhile in the media and can act as a role model for others. That automatically creates certain voyeurism. Only those willing to bring private information into the public can keep themselves in the hot debate. Human fate combined with success in a sport are the best basis for public awareness. That is a shame, but it has long been a reality. Many athletes regularly do great things without being noticed by the general public. Even if they are mature personalities, they do not have to become role models in physical education. Only a few manage to attract the public’s attention and thus gain more recognition for their sport.