Pom in Oz column: Role models are closer to home than we think

Willie Rioli after the final siren sounds in the 2018 AFL Grand Final.
Camera IconWillie Rioli after the final siren sounds in the 2018 AFL Grand Final. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images, Michael Willson/AFL Photos

It’s human nature, I suppose, to look up to others, particularly those who we in some way aspire to emulate.

Sports stars, actors, musicians — most likely we all have someone we look at with great admiration or even envy.

But what happens when one of these idols falls from grace or, even worse, nose-dives with a dramatic impact on to the solid ground of real life? How do our perceptions change?

Take Willie Rioli, pictured, who allegedly tampered with a urine sample and also tested positive to cannabis.

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How many young members of our community would have had his poster adorning their walls?

How many young kids will have looked up to him and seen him as someone not only to admire but also to emulate and follow? As adults, we can process any alleged “failings” in a healthy, productive manner, but children may not cope quite as well.

We should use events like this as a teaching opportunity. Failing, falling and disappointment are simple parts of life and need to be embraced and even celebrated. After all, we prove our character not in the falling but in rising every time we fall.

As a parent and teacher myself, when faced with situations like this, I start a conversation. I talk about how everyone, even “superstars”, is human, fallible and flawed.

Yes, we can hold people up, we can look at them with aspirational eyes, while also realising they may very well let us down. We should never place our own self-esteem in the hands of strangers.

Teach your kids to reach for the stars but not to get mad when they fall from the sky.

I prefer and certainly steer my own children and students towards seeking examples from members of their own community: coaches, teachers, the list goes on.

Dirranie Kirby, the owner-operator and coach at CrossFit, is a great example of this.

She teaches the kids week-in and week-out, not only how to do certain movements but also resilience, aspiration and grit. She also puts her money where her mouth is — she goes out and competes herself.

So Coach D not only talks the talk but she also walks the walk.

She gives her students something to aim for and a clear path on how to get there themselves.

Choose your own role models wisely — choose, (or guide), your children’s choices even more so!

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