Basic 9

Role Model

Understanding that who we are, what we say, and what we do, impacts our athletes who look to us as examples.

"Always remember the tremendous power that you have as a coach to help another human being maximize their potential; pursue this awesome responsibility daily with intensity and integrity."
-Dr. Harvey Schiller, former executive director, U.S. Olympic Committee

Karen, a former figure skater who is now a coach, knows from experience how sensitive young skaters can be about their body weight, shape and size. To help her athletes feel better about their bodies, Karen lets them know how confident she is about her own body, even though it's not what some people think is the "ideal" for skating. She wears clothes that make her feel good and doesn't let her size prevent her from wearing clothes she likes. When it comes to food, Karen listens to her body and trusts it will let her know what foods it needs to stay healthy. She eats a range of foods, including so-called junk food, if that's what her body craves. Knowing that athlete's sometimes have trouble speaking up for what they need, karen will often set an example by announcing to the group if she feels tired, hungry or has had a bad day, and will ask for their patience while she takes time to care for herself.

BodySense Connection:

Creating Positive Environments for Athletes

Coaches and parents can set positive examples for athletes in the areas of food, exercise, body shape and size. Here are some ways, in the home and in the sport club, that we can ensure our athletes are receiving positive messages about their bodies and themselves:

Celebrate uniqueness, difference and diversity. Give athletes adult role models of all shapes and sizes who are praised and valued for their accomplishments.

Acknowledge that each individual is different - with their own ideas, needs, abilities, limitations and personal life circumstances. Remember, people of all shapes and sizes have athletic potential.

Create a safe environment where athletes, parents and coaches can voice problems and concerns without fear of being judged. Encourage each athlete to express what they need and support them when theyask for help.

Give your athletes positive messages about sport. Most sport and fitness magazines feature diet, weight-loss and beauty articles. Help each athlete find role models and messages about sport that reflect the true greatness of an athlete: their accomplishments, inner beauty and strength of character.

Model a positive vision of sport. Portray sport and active living as cooperative, inclusive activities that encourage athletes to develop a positive self-image. Avoid a "winning is everything" mentality by keeping the emphasis where it belongs-on the athlete. Focus on enjoyment, health, well-being and personal growth.

What coaches and parents can do:

Demonstrate a positive self-image by showing that you love and accept yourself as well as your natural body size. A phrase to remember is, "if you want it for your athletes, you must first give it to yourself."

Demonstrate a positive relationship with food by eating well-balanced, non-restrictive meals and snacks. Eat a variety of foods for enjoyment and satisfaction. Stress to your athletes that all food is good food, because all food is fuel.

Promote participation in sport for fun, personal development and a love of movement rather than weight control or winning. Help athletes discover the many joys of being physically active for life. Teach them to value the relationships gained through sport just as much as the achievements.

Give each athlete positive role models. Let them learn about athlete's who are valued and praised for their accomplishments, who represent various body sizes and shapes. Show that athlete's are more than their body sizes.

Taking Action:

Think about messages that you send yourself about your own body. Comment on your positive attributes when you look at or think of yourself. Learn to be comfortable with your body and love it unconditionally.

Put yourself first: Next time you have to choose between taking care of yourself and doing something to please someone else - pick yourself. Each athlete can learn to value and take care of their own needs by watching important adults in their lives. Modeling self-care is not easy and does not always make other people happy, but it is an important role modeling opportunity.

Examine your environment and evaluate the messages it sends to athletes. Include all members of the sport environment to brainstorm ways to make the sport environment representative of all the people that visit, work, play, or compete there. Aspire to create an environment where everyone feels included and valued for their uniqueness.