There is nothing more important to a child than having someone to look up to and admire. And there’s nothing more important to a parent than having their child’s hero be someone who is truly a kind and inspirational figure. The people you look up to when you are young can dramatically shape what you will aspire to and model yourself after as you age, which is why it is so important for parents to introduce their kids to heroes who can lead them in the right direction.

For kids who are naturally athletic and outgoing, a famous sports player will often be their first hero. Joseph Henri Maurice "Rocket" Richard, was a Canadian professional ice hockey player who also played a formative role in the lives of hundreds of Canadian children in the 40s and 50s, and continues to act as such even after his passing. The amazing thing is that “The Rocket” is just one of many amazing Canadian sports legends inspiring young boys and girls across Canada, and every day new athletes are gaining fame for their integrity and commitment to their sports.

Yet, for shy and less active kids, these types of sports heroes can seem distant and unapproachable. It’s understandable―who wants to spend all of recess hearing about Steve Nash when you can barely dribble a basketball? For many kids, sports quickly become the enemy, as opposed to a fun activity to play with friends. This can quickly become a downhill spiral, where children see team sports, gym class, and all physical exercise as a punishment, and abstain from being active with friends, making them miss out on multiple opportunities to be social and try new things.

Role models can come from anywhere, and your child will be drawn to someone who represents what they are already interested in. It may therefore seem counterintuitive to introduce children who dislike sports to famous sports stars, especially if they are beginning to feel resentment over the fact that they are not as athletic as their peers. In reality, taking the time to talk to your children about great athletes who grew up in the same city as your child can do wonders.

First of all, introducing your child to different athletes and sports can help them stay in the loop when their peers are discussing a recent game, helping them to socialize easier. Secondly, it can show them that becoming a famous athlete doesn’t come easily; it requires a lot of hard work. Just because they aren’t amazing at something now, doesn’t mean they won’t get better at it in future. Finally, it teaches your children to find sports exciting, which is great for their overall health and well-being.

Parents hoping to start making their children more comfortable with sports by means of introducing them to sports heroes should start by taking a trip to the library, and picking out a biographical book from the children’s section to read together. There may be fewer books available on female athletes, so be sure to look online too, for stories about female athletes like Nancy Greene and Christine Sinclair.

For kids who have idolized Sidney Crosby and Carey Price for years and refuse to remove their jersey even for bath time, try the opposite approach. Introduce them to famous Canadian scientists and musicians, so they, too, can learn to be more comfortable and appreciative of other professions, and maybe gain some new role models along the way.

For a child, a role model is the most important thing, but letting your child become too focused on one person without taking time to learn or appreciate other people in other walks of life can inhibit them from reaching their full potential. For a child who feels ostracized, this can be even more harmful. By encouraging an appreciation of sports among less active children, as with encouraging a love of school in kids who aren’t so thrilled with the classroom, you can help your child lead a well-rounded, healthy, and happy life.