Every child should have role models that he or she looks up to. For many children, this may be their parents; for others, it may be someone they see on TV. It may be their favorite athlete, a teacher, someone at church, or even a coach. Role models can be good or bad. Many children today see reality TV stars as role models, and depending on the star, that can be a very bad thing!
So what are we as parents and coaches to do—force our children to look to someone we choose as a role model? Of course not! Children, no matter the age, have minds of their own and will make their own decision as to who to look to as a role model. It is our job to educate them on what makes a good role model.
If we are the role models that we should be, then our children will listen and respect what we have to say when it comes to the character of those who should influence them. Yes, a child’s role models may excel in their sports, but do they give God the glory—whether they win or lose? What are they doing to further God’s kingdom? These are questions that we need to encourage our kids to think about.
Earthly role models are great, and Christ-centered role models are in high demand. But it is imperative that we teach our children one very important thing about all role models here on earth—they are human; thus, they are sinners just like we are. Our children have to understand that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes—even role models!
Share the story of one very special role model—someone who never sinned, never lost, and excelled in everything that He did. Yes, His name is Jesus! Make sure to get this message across to your kids, because it will make a difference. Make Him out to be the superhero that he is!
A few years ago I had the privilege of interviewing 2012 Olympian Gwen Jorgensen for the Run for God – Junior Triathlon Challenge. Back then, Gwen had a mission. To be the best triathlete in the world, and to share God’s love in the process. Since her 38th place finish at the London Olympics, Gwen set her sights on the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Today Gwen currently sits comfortably in the #1 spot for the sport of women’s triathlon earning the title of “Worlds Most Dominant Triathlete” by ESPN.
Here is our interview with Gwen, enjoy!
Gwen Jorgensen is a professional triathlete from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who grew up swimming and running. Gwen was not a young triathlete; she never really thought about triathlon until she was approached by a recruiter in college and was asked to give triathlon a try. She said yes, competed in her first triathlon in March of 2010, and ultimately competed in her first Summer Olympics at the 2012 London games.
That sounds unbelievable, incredible, and downright awesome. But pay close attention. Too many times, people like Gwen who shoot straight to the top cannot stop patting themselves on the back. Not Gwen—she gives all the credit to the one who deserves it!
Run for God: When did you compete in your very first triathlon?
Gwen: In March of 2010.
Run for God: What or who got you started in the sport of triathlon?
Gwen: I grew up swimming and running in school, and while in college at the University of Wisconsin (where I also swam and ran), I was approached by someone who was part of the USAT [USA Triathlon] recruitment program. They asked me if I would like to give triathlon a try. At the time, I was not super stoked about the idea, since I already had a full-time job that I was about to start. USAT assured me that I could keep my full-time job; they would help me get started, they would help me get a coach, and the resources they offered me were just awesome. It’s basically like this opportunity just landed in my lap. USAT said, “Give it a try, if you like it, awesome, and if not, you can stop doing it.” Once I gave it a try, I fell in love with the sport.
Run for God: Wow! So you didn’t grow up with dreams of being a professional triathlete or an Olympian?
Gwen: Never. No.
Run for God: That is incredible! What would you say is your biggest struggle from day-to-day as a professional triathlete?
Gwen: I think it’s hard sometimes to keep things in perspective and to keep everything in balance. I am so lucky in that I have a great support crew behind me—my coaches, my sponsors, my friends, my family, everyone just keeps me very grounded.
Run for God: One question that we get asked quite a bit is “What should I do race morning to prepare for a race?” Any advice that you could offer for that?
Gwen: Remember why you are racing. Every time I am out there racing, it’s just another opportunity God has given me. I feel so fortunate to be out there racing, competing, and training. There are so many people in the world who aren’t able to do that, and I’m just really fortunate to be able to. It’s something that I think about often. You know, when I go out to race, I just try to have fun and remember why I am racing, which is to use the gift that God has given me and have fun doing it.
Run for God: What is your favorite thing to do outside of triathlon?
Gwen: Wow, I have too many! Well, I love my work; surprisingly, I do tax work part-time as a CPA. I also just love cooking, hanging out with friends, being outside, and just being active.
Run for God: What would you be doing if you were not a professional triathlete?
Gwen: Well, since I still do part-time, I would probably be using my CPA full-time. Everything else would probably stay the same. I would still be active in church, volunteering, cooking, hanging out with friends, and just trying to give back.
Run for God: When you are pushing the limits in a race, what are you thinking about?
Gwen: I just always try to remember that God has given me this gift, and I have so much fun doing it, so I need to be glorifying Him through it.
Run for God: What does your favorite workout look like?
Gwen: Anything with people. I am lucky that I get to swim, bike, and run. I swim with some great people, I bike with lots of great cyclists, and I get to run with some great friends, so any time I get to work out with great people, I feel like that is my favorite workout. I know that is so general, but I think what makes the workout is the people who surround you.
Run for God: How can an active lifestyle strengthen a family?
Gwen: I know growing up, I would bike while my dad would run. We would spend that time together just talking, and I have so many fond memories of that. Now that I’m older, we still do that when I go back home, but the roles have reversed. He will bike while I run, and I will never forget the first time that the roles switched—it just gave me chills to know that the dynamics have changed but that I am still able to spend this time with my dad. I just think it is so awesome to be out with your family, finding creative ways to stay active.
Run for God: Any other words of wisdom?
Gwen: I really think you just have to keep God as your focal point and know that He is always number one. When you do that, it will help you to gain perspective on everything in life—not just endurance sports. Now, I am not saying that this is something I am able to do all the time, because I don’t; I try, but I’m not perfect.