I am a mom of three sporty boys and my husband is a dedicated coach. We spend every weekend and countless days of the week at the fields, playing one sport or another. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer… we play them all.
Often, my boys are good, sometimes even great, and I watch from the sidelines glowing from the inside out. There are also the strike-outs and errors that make me cringe and cover my eyes. Some days my kids have it. Some days they don’t. Some games the teams are on fire. Some games they crash and burn.
Yet, at the end of each season, win or lose, they all get a trophy.
I don’t understand this at all. I know it’s important to support and encourage them, blah blah, but since when did a trophy for participation become encouragement?
When I was younger we played sports because we loved to. We didn’t need a trophy as an incentive, nor were they handing them out like candy, and guess what? That was okay. What’s wrong with “Great season, guys. Next time, we’ll get em!”
Losing is not a bad thing. Without losing, there’s no motivation to be better. The only way to achieve success is through failure, yet we are so afraid of this important life lesson. As cliché as it sounds, losing builds character. And character, if you ask me, is something our young folk seem to be lacking.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the seventies, that I feel this way. Growing up, I was pretty independent. Generally, I had to be home by dark and not get into any trouble. That’s it. Can you imagine that today? Today, we are the over-protectors, over-schedulers and over-achievers. We watch their every move, give them the best of everything and try to take care of their every need.
We’re making it too easy for our kids. We shield and protect them from all of life’s struggles, so much so that we are rewarding them for nothing. Today, it seems, just showing up is an accomplishment. What will they ever strive for, if they have been handed everything on a silver platter with a shiny trophy on top?
And what about the real winners? Anyone ever consider them? You should see them on the field, jumping up and down, shouting with joy. It’s an incomparable feeling to know you accomplished something.
I remember clearly the expression on my son’s face and that of his teammates when their team came in first place in their league. Elation. Pride. I could cry now remembering those moments. It’s so satisfying and beautiful to see. They won. They were special. They put in a greater effort.
It completely minimizes the winning team’s efforts to be handed the same trophy as everyone else. We have become so politically correct that we are afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings. We need to stop over-estimating the fragility of our children’s psyches. Our kids won’t break. Let’s give them something to strive for, something that acknowledges that winning is special, and makes the losing teams want it – something symbolic… maybe a trophy??
Ultimately, sports is about having fun and gaining confidence. They kids learn to play as team, good or bad, they’re in it together. They build friendships and grow skills that will apply throughout their lives. They will lose, and when they do, we should teach them to brush themselves off and get back in there. And when they get back in there, they’ll be better for it.
Just because they don’t deserve a trophy doesn’t mean that we don’t support their efforts. I’m there win or lose. We play ball on the lawn. I watch their games. I cheer for their wins. I cry for their disappointments. I don’t see a trophy as support. I see it as an insult, both to the losers and the winners.
You win some. You lose some. That’s the way it is.
Winning is far from everything, but it is definitely something. If one of my boys gets a trophy, I want it to mean he actually won.