Should We Give Trophies for Participation?
The number of trophies in our house makes the late Michael Jackson’s award room seem paltry. My kids? Trophy. Winners.
Oh that Ooph, she is a nauseating bragger? No.
Less than one percent of those trophies were earned by winning a championship. Or extraordinarily hard work. Or for being number one at…well? Anything. They were earned for, wait for it, wait for it…participating.
When did we start this ludicrous process of giving out trophies just because a child signs up to play on a sports team? One year we were mailed a trophy after the season because Keenan broke his hand on the second day of practice and didn’t show up the rest of the year. True. Story.
It isn’t the actual trophy that bothers me, though the image of a giant pit in the center of the earth filled with unearned trophies does turn my stomach. The rub is that we are stripping away the real meaning of “reward.” We are rewarded in life for hard work. Going above and beyond what is asked. For doing something extraordinary.
In life we don’t get a trophy for participating. Hey Bob, thanks for showing up to work today and sitting in that really uncomfortable chair. Since you sat there the WHOLE DAY, I am going to give you a trophy. You know what? The whole office is going to get a trophy today. Just for showing up.
The reward for participating on sports teams is the participation itself.
It’s also the lessons learned. The memories created. It’s the camaraderie and being part of something bigger than oneself. How to win gracefully. How to have class when you lose. How to deal with a coach or another player you don’t care for and still work hard. How to handle taunting from someone on the other team. How to make huge errors in the middle of a big game, pick your dignity up off the ground for the next play and go make it up to yourself and the team. How to be a star and be humble. How to be smaller than the rest of the team and work harder than anyone else to prove yourself.
Those lessons? Those are the rewards. Not some worthless trophy that your child doesn’t give a crap about anyway. They would much rather have a scoop of ice cream. Trust me.
Our children need to understand that life doesn’t hand you unearned trophies. You don’t get rewarded simply because you are there. You get rewarded when you work hard, stay focused and do something extraordinary.