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Money Smart Athlete Blog

Sport parenting: The importance of laying the right foundations and raising socially responsible adults

By Demetris Constantinou CPA, Contributor

While many believe that the concept of social responsibility in sports is a recent phenomenon, it dates back hundreds of years to the Byzantine empire where chariot riders requested from emperor Justinian to pardon their followers, leading to weeks of rioting and bloodshed. Fortunately, the outcome of today’s social responsibility is not as vicious, but in principle, is the same as what it used to be when it first appeared. In short, athlete social responsibility is the ideology that athletes as role models and influencers, have a duty to society to take a stand and have a positive effect on their communities and society as a whole.

In this article, we seek to understand why raising socially responsible kids is amongst the most important pillars of sports parenting. We will further dig into how parents can raise socially responsible adults and provide some tips on the characteristics that young athletes should try to cultivate, to end up being socially responsible professional athletes. While this is by no means a blueprint on parenting, it’s important to at least understand the benefits of cultivating certain behaviors to young athletes.

Raising socially responsible kids sounds intriguing, but is it really that important? And if so, are there any benefits other than self-satisfaction? The answer is simple, yet many parents completely ignore the importance of teaching their young athletes the virtues of social responsibility. The most obvious reason to raise socially responsible athletes falls under the bigger scope of growing moral and ethical adults with concrete values that drive them throughout their lives. While these adjectives might sound cliché, the importance of growing up with certain values can be game-changing for professional athletes, who put their values to test every day by pushing to the limits. Sports is not for the faint-hearted and without fundamental driving values, no athlete can make it to the top. Having said that, there’s a more cynical side as to why young athletes should learn to practice social responsibility: the benefits that come with it.

Being a socially responsible athlete has become a strategic piece of an athlete’s image and a powerful tool that can help young athletes generate their future fanbase. No matter how great of a performer you are in your sport, fans will always remember those who go a step further and support their communities for the betterment of society. The most prevalent recent example of this is NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t played since 2016 and yet, is known by everyone for his stance on civil rights. Kaepernick’s example shows that sometimes, social responsibility in sports can be even more powerful than the sport itself and can make you known beyond the sports community. Undoubtedly, amassing popularity is a great return for exercising social responsibility, but that’s not the end of the story.

It’s currently estimated that 40% of sports viewers belong to Generation Z, which includes people born in the late 90s and onwards. One thing that we know about Gen. Z is that it pays much more emphasis on the concepts of social justice and responsibility compared to the older generations. As such, the shifting of sports viewers from Gen. X and Millennials to Gen. Z will essentially make social responsibility a prerequisite for athletes to engage and catch up with the growing fanbase.

Having outlined why raising socially responsible athletes is important, we will now provide some general guidelines on how to do so, knowing that every kid is different and that families come from various backgrounds.  The first thing that parents must choose is whether to follow a more rigid or more lax approach, or even a combination of both.

 Following a lax approach, parents encourage their children to discover on their own, any issues which are close to their heart, they may try to find out about the world’s problems themselves and figure out which problems they feel more passionate about. On the other hand, following a more rigid approach, parents can try to teach their children about the hardships of our world and how they can help when they grow up. In an ideal scenario, parents will try a combination of the two approaches, depending on the children’s age and state of mind. By following any approach mentioned above, parents should emphasize on planting the seeds that will lead to socially responsible adults. Such seeds include the cultivation of certain behaviors, the building of children’s awareness as well as the active participation in social responsibility activities.

Children are like sponges and are quick to absorb anything that’s taught to them; it’s therefore the parents’ responsibility to teach them the concepts of ethics and morality, the difference between right and wrong and behaviors like kindness and empathy. Such concepts and behavior take years to cultivate, but it’s slowly and steadily, through life examples, that children learn to practice all of the above. In the simplest of examples, children learn from what they see and follow their surroundings; it’s therefore of utmost importance that parents themselves practice the above and project them to their children. Such characteristics are the pillars of social responsibility and will undoubtedly lead to social action at the right time, when children grow to be either sports professionals or professionals in something else.

Building a child’s awareness is another important aspect of evolving from childhood to being a socially responsible adult. Awareness can be multifaceted but in practice, it teaches children that the world is far larger than the microcosm of society they’re raised into and makes them aware of everyone’s problems and differences across the globe. Such awareness is extremely important because it lets children escape their bubble and understand the issues that are out there, regardless of the child’s economic or social background. By being aware, a child can develop into a professional athlete who has a clear view of the world and its challenges, allowing for better decision-making when it comes to actions of social responsibility, as well as causes to pursue and stances to take. On the contrary, children raised in a bubble, away from the rest of society, find it very difficult not only to integrate in society, but to also understand the root causes of problems and take social actions to combat them.

Amongst the best actions a parent can take to cultivate a child’s characteristics and raise their awareness, is to encourage them to volunteer and practice social responsibility at a young age. This is not something that should be forced on children, but rather encouraged. Ideally, parents can engage in volunteering with their children and make this a family activity that will create strong memories of sharing and social responsibility, all under the reassurance of being with their parents. Children engaged in volunteering can experience firsthand the joy and satisfaction of giving back to the society as well as the importance of doing so.

 Such experiences not only give rise to some of the characteristics mentioned above, but create strong recollections that will lead the way when children evolve into sports professionals who are able to influence through their actions. It’s therefore vital that parents not only encourage social responsibility through values and principles but rather engage in action, and let kids experience the best of social responsibility and the difference it can make.

In summary, while all of the above can serve as general guidance on how to raise children to be socially responsible athletes, they’re not meant to be a parenting blueprint and should always be viewed as bigger picture concepts, rather than specific actions that need to be followed by a young athlete’s parents. Every child grows differently, and every parent follows their own best practices. Having read this article, we hope parents include the above as some of their best practices that will eventually grow young athletes, to socially responsible sports professionals.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA).  Through its education programs the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at info@moneysmartathlete.com.

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