11 March, 2016

Five Steps to a Successful Role Model Program

Five Steps to a Successful Role Model Program

Photo Credit: Celestine Chua

As the latest Super Rugby franchise rolls into town, the school and rugby club engagements begin with sporting role models being put in front of our youth athletes, selling them healthy messages. Many would say that this is their duty as role models; others might say this is a waste of valuable time and resources, particularly if it costs the club money. Personally I believe it can be effective, but only if it is part of an active role model program.

Everything we do and achieve is influenced by our behaviours. In order to change our behaviour we must have two things first: An awareness of the effect of our behaviour and secondly an intent to change.

Role models and mentors aim to raise the awareness of certain behaviours, both positive and negative and seek to implore the individual have the intent to change. So what is the difference between a role model and a mentor? Well, Cambridge Dictionary describes each as below:

Role Model: A person who someone admires and whose behavior they try to copy.
Mentor: A person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time.

Therefore a role model is someone that demonstrates behaviours that are worthy of imitating, but a personal connection is not required. Whereas a mentor, who could also be a role model, is someone that supports and guides less experienced individuals to undertake ongoing challenges in their lives.

In order to achieve success, we need this continuum of people within our lives. From a passive role model approach where a sports star turns up and provides a message to inspire, through to mentors who are actively involved in working to change behaviours. This provides us, as participants, with the understanding and awareness of what is possible with our behaviour and also to support us make the necessary changes.

Five Steps to Establish a Successful Role Model Program

As leaders within sport, we have the ability to implement a role model or mentoring program for our athletes. Establishing the environment for this to occur requires some focused planning, rather than an adhoc, roll the first sports star off the plane, type approach.

Here are five steps to establish an effective role model program within your club:

  1. Establish what the values being taught are and the outcomes to be achieved from the program.
  2. Recognise what level of interaction between the program participants and role models/mentors is going to be with the time available. Is it going to be a one off or more extensive multiple sessions or opportunities?
  3. Understand what type of role model or mentor you are looking for? Is it a celebrity sport star to deliver an inspirational message or someone who can provide a specific skill or ongoing support?
  4. How long does the program go for? Is this a one-day workshop or does it go for the season and form part of the athlete development?
  5. How is this linked with the rest of the athlete program? What is the specific weakness that you are trying to address in order to increase the likelihood of success?

By answering these questions, you will be well on your way to planning a successful role model program and understanding the resources required to deliver it.

Bonus Step - Remember that in junior sport in particular, the greatest role models and mentors are the ones standing on the sidelines – the parents, grandparents and other significant adults have a great effect on the development of junior athletes. Their involvement within such a program should also be considered.

If you are looking to implement role model or mentoring activities into your athlete development program, then work through these steps and remember that this forms part of the all important equation:

A Change in Behaviour = Awareness + Intent

© 2019 Paul Mead