I don’t think I have ever felt so many nervous butterflies before until I boarded the same international flight to Wellington, New Zealand, with a full squad of professional football players.
One by one I watched as each player and the head coach took their seats. I sat there in complete awe. I remember excitedly turning to my younger brother and beamed ‘This can’t be happening to us!’
When I mean us, I am referring to fans. Football fans who enthusiastically share a passion for the game with others, take pride in their team’s colours and the community the club represents.
I sat quietly in my seat and remember telling myself, ‘The players are just normal ordinary people like me.’ I think it was my way to ease my nerves and emotions over how I felt about the football club and the season I had witnessed on the sidelines. I remember asking myself, ‘Why am I getting so nervous and emotional? Why do I care so much about this team? What makes the coach and players so special?’
Upon reflection, I think it just came down to the fact that like every other football fan out there, a really beautiful part of sports is that we often look up to professional athletes, players and coaches with deep respect and admiration.
SO… what unique qualities make up a sporting hero?
1) Inspires and motivates others
We often look up to respected sporting heroes who use their position of influence for the better and strive to deliver a worthy change. Passionate players are often admired for their ability to encourage their team-mates and fans in a positive and inspiring way.
“To me sport and physical activity have been a huge and beneficial part of life and have given me a lot of joy. In that respect, if I encourage young kids to become involved in sport that is something I would feel quite glad about. Sport is something I am passionate about and it does make a difference in people’s lives.” – Elysse Perry, Australian Test cricketer and W-League Sydney FC footballer
2) Possesses courage and resilience
Elite athletes endure a lifetime of sacrifices, challenges and setbacks throughout their sporting careers. We often admire and wish to emulate those who possess optimism, mental toughness and are able to courageously bounce back from adversity through their resilient nature.
“We have a great, enthusiastic and vibrant squad; which to many outsiders looking in, we are the team of unknowns; we are the underdogs, not many people out there in the football world expect anything from us; but I have faith, I know that this squad will do damage, and I plus the girls cannot wait for this season to get underway.” – Marijana Rajcic, W-League Adelaide United FC footballer
3) Positive role models and mentors
An athlete who demonstrates humility is often considered a role model in the community as they are in a position to positively influence others through their words, actions and beliefs. Through their behaviours, professional athletes are able to help set a positive example to mentor younger people to help shape a new generation of athletes and fans alike.
“I definitely think that the woman’s game is getting bigger as the years go on and the W-League is a great pathway for girls to play at the Australian level. It’s got great grassroots too now that the youth teams have created an avenue for players to come through into the W-League.” – Ellie Carpenter, W-League Western Sydney Wanderers FC footballer
Despite my initial nerves, I enjoyed the rest of the flight and the weekend away supporting my beloved football club.
I’ll always smile knowing that, as a fan, some players will always remain treasured heroes.
SO… what do you look up to most in your favourite sporting heroes?