Joe Black column on role models

“You may not know it, but somewhere, sometime, little eyes are watching you. You are a role model for somebody.”- Joe Black

I took my youngest granddaughter to a soccer game recently. It was the Maryville Lady Rebels sub-state game against Science Hill that they won 3-0, qualifying them for the state tournament.

This is the second time she’s joined me on the sidelines of a soccer game. She loves soccer. She watches the game closely. She’s 7 and just decided to quit ballet to spend more time on soccer. But this isn’t a story about the soccer game. This story is about role models.

Before the game, at the playing of the national anthem, the MHS soccer team stood at attention, with their right hand over their heart and their left hand behind their back. My granddaughter and I stood, too, facing the flag with our right hand over our hearts. I saw my granddaughter look at the line of girls in front of her, all of them with their left arm held behind their back. Slowly, she did the same.

I didn’t want to disrespect the national anthem but I knew I had to have a photograph of that. I snuck my phone out and almost without looking, took a snapshot of the scene before me. I had no idea if it was any good at all until I looked later. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. This one spoke volumes, at least to me. These high school girls are role models, sometimes when they least expect it.

You never know what little person is looking at you, not just learning how to play a game but also how to behave, how to talk, how to walk, even how to stand attention at the playing of our national anthem.

The granddaughter has a special affection for Lady Rebel Emma Rice. She took a few private soccer lessons from Emma this fall. I’ve known Emma for a while now and I can tell you that there is no one out there that I would prefer over Emma to teach her how to play soccer and be a teenager.

Emma gets it. She is passionate about the game and is always giving 100 percent, but she also seems to have a good grasp on what it’s really all about. Same thing for Karly Wolford. I’ve watched Karly over the last couple of years and she is one of my all-time favorites. She’s a triplet with two brothers and she loves those brothers beyond measure.

Abbey Kolarik is one of those Lady Rebels that I’ve known most of her life. Always polite, she moves with grace and style and I can think of no one that I would prefer my grandchildren emulate other than her. I saw Grace Oliver once handle what could have been awkward social situation with maturity and …well … grace.

So here’s the thing … you may not know it, but somewhere, sometime, little eyes are watching you. You are a role model for somebody.

If you find it difficult to always be on your best behavior, to always be polite, to never use language that you wouldn’t want everyone to hear, to always be the best version of yourself, then maybe it makes your life harder.

If you want to be a positive influence on those around you, if you aspire to always make good decisions, then accepting the concept that you are a role model for someone can make life easier.

This role model thing is either an opportunity or a burden. But good or bad, never forget that someone is watching you, wanting to be you.

Email Joe Black at to write to him.

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