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Children naturally develop role models over the course of their lives and, while you might hope that your child's role models are you and your partner, the fact is, it's more likely that your child's role models will end up being the people they see idolised in the media. Exposing children to good role models, then, is crucial to their development into value-driven and happy adults. After all, you don't want them emulating problematic celebrities, do you?
Thankfully, there are plenty of people in the media who are good, wholesome role models that make excellent people for our children to look up to, and many of those people are athletes.
Here are six athletes who make excellent role models for children.
1. Olympian Anna Meares
Olympic track cyclist Anna Meares, a gold medalist, broke her neck in an accident just shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, she showed a resilience and bravery that not many of us can claim, when she went on to defend her title in the Olympics regardless. She managed to take home silver that year, despite the accident.
In 2015, she was the most decorated female track cyclist of all time, and in 2016, she became the first Australian to win individual medals in four consecutive Olympics.
(Hint: If you want to introduce your kids to potential sporting role models like this, just turn on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer; you'll find plenty of inspiration.)
2. Paralympian Kelly Cartwright
Paralympian Kelly Cartwright turned a negative into a positive and went on to do great things thanks to her good attitude. As a teenager, Cartwright had part of her leg amputated due to cancer.
She overcame her fear of cancer and the experience of being "different" as a teen and went on to be an athlete on the world's stage. Throughout her career, she's set multiple world records, and even climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. She works as a Make-A-Wish Foundation ambassador and received an Order of Australia Medial in 2014.
3. Serena Williams
Serena Williams needs no introduction. This tennis superstar is one of the most decorated female athletes of all time. But beyond being resilient, dedicated, diligent and talented, Williams has shown young girls what female athletes can do when they set their mind on a goal. Even when performing a traditionally "feminine" role, as a pregnant mother Serena Williams won the Australia Open without dropping a set, showing that women really can have it all.
4. Former AFL Player Nick Riewoldt
What are some of the primary traits of a good role model? Commitment. Compassion. Respect. Humility. Former St Kilda captain, Nick Riewoldt displays all of these and more. A five-time All Australian, Riewoldt led the luckless Saints to three Grand Finals in two years and won the AFL Players Association MVP in 2004.
His strong on and off field leadership is exemplified in how he carried himself during the illness and tragic passing of his sister Madeline to bone marrow failure. He, along with his family, set up Maddie Riewoldt's Vision foundation in her honour.
5. Matilda's Captain Sam Kerr
Soccer player and Matilda's captain Sam Kerr has been repeatedly praised for her good behavior, as well as her talent. Even at her young age, she's received awards for her work in advocating for females in sports and she represented Australia as a finalist for the FIFA Female Player of the Year.
Her character has been called inspirational, professional and mature. (Not to mention, as of 2019, Kerr was the all-time leading scorer in both the US National Women's Soccer League and the Australian W-League.)
6. Former NRL Player Johnathan Thurston
Lastly, rugby star Johnathan Thurston deserves recognition for his work in the sport and also in the community. Though Thurston played his last game in 2018, fans still talk about what an impact Thurston made on the game, not only thanks to his talent, but also the way he professionally conducts himself both in and outside the spotlight. In 2018, he founded the Johnathan Thurston Academy, which encourages Australian youth to pursue meaningful employment.