Emma Raducanu: What Price 21st Century Role Models?

Author: Alastair McIver

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Emma Raducanu: What Price 21st Century Role Models?

After Emma Raducanu's triumphant US Open victory, Alastair McIver considers the place of role models-and where we might find them.

The world doesn’t really talk much about role models these days.

Back in the day, they were all the rage. They had a sense of value, of purpose, something that identified them as worth following, aspiring to, even copied-though I wouldn’t recommend it. 

I once played a club level tennis match against a man who idolised tennis great John McEnroe. He had the same clothing, a similar haircut, and branded headband. He even attempted the long-looped lefty serve that so epitomised the American’s brilliant game.

Sadly, any similarity he may have thought he had with the real McEnroe ended when he stepped on to the court. In a nutshell, he wasn’t very good, something which led him to throw tantrums whenever he lost a point – which was often. Sadly, he became the object of ridicule. And yes, I am being serious.

Who Are We Choosing To Follow?

I am no better, of course.

Most of those who I idolised growing up have now either been ‘cancelled’, or are in jail for serious criminal misdemeanours. I am of a pre-online vintage which used to put posters of my heroes up on my bedroom wall, famous pop stars, footballers, tennis players. I even remember having a picture of Gary Glitter above my bed. Today, he is currently serving time at HMP The Verne in Portland, Dorset, for sexual offences.

It does beg the question: who, in today’s opinionated world, are we choosing to follow-and what are we, and our children, influenced by? Maybe the latest teenage sensation, Emma Raducanu, will become the influential 18-year-old that children will now look to for direction in their lives.

Who knows?

Values That Last A Lifetime

Indeed, who really knows anything about young Emma at all, other than she is a fantastic tennis player who may, if she is not careful, be overwhelmed by all of her success. Having a great forehand is one thing. Having integrity, honesty, patience, kindness, goodness, loyalty, self-control, and maybe an ability to forgive, to name but eight, are values that last a lifetime. They are not just for the court.

If we believe that we are all flawed, and fall short of the glory of God, then chasing after one person’s success because we like the look of them, or like the way they sing, or dance, or play tennis, is not necessarily going to satisfy us, or our children.

Yet it’s a frightening thought, is it not, for those of us who are parents of teenagers, that these days we and they are exposed to so much opinion online, in the school playground, socially.

Jesus Is The Ultimate Role Model

If we are Christian parents reading this, we know that there is really only one to whom we can turn to as our role model: the sinless one, Jesus. Others in the Bible, the murderer Moses, the doubter Abraham, the adulterer King David and many others who have fallen short, are, by God’s grace, redeemed-as we all can be, and part of God’s eternal story of redemption and salvation for mankind.

I suppose the lessons we can all learn from living in an era which has journeyed from role model to influencer, are twofold. Firstly, we need to remember that we are all unique, created for purpose. Our role is to discover that purpose by making right choices about who we listen to. And secondly, choosing our heroes requires us to look beneath the surface, to a person’s character.

The forehand drive, the way they hold their guitar, can draw us towards them, but the qualities that lie behind the skill are surely worth an additional, even if a cursory, look.

Share this


See all results for

You may also be interested in...

Book review: 'Tides Of Blessing' by Russ Fairman

Book review: 'Tides Of Blessing' by Russ Fairman

In 'Tides Of Blessing', read a remarkable story of adventure and meeting the God of surprises in Russ Fairman's Sailing Mission.

Film Review: Father Stu

Film Review: Father Stu

Mark Wahlberg's movie 'Father Stu' will leave you teary-eyed and have a powerful impact, says Kristina Cooper.

Film Review: The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

Film Review: The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

The story of televangelists Tammy and Jim Bakker, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, is something of a morality tale, whose protagonists are treated as naive rather than evil, says Kristina Cooper.