Growing up, I was involved in a lot of athletics and competitive events. I have a box full of trophies, medals and certificates showing my success. As my children begin their own adventures into the sports world, their generation’s parents have created a push for participation trophies. While receiving a medal for my participation and fundraising efforts for Miles for Migraine, I took a second to reflect.
How do I feel about participation trophies?
When I received my medal, I felt good. I felt happy, proud, and I did something for a good cause and myself. The trophy made me feel like a success. My children also received participation medals for their Tball and softball efforts this summer. In our cases, we were not playing winning or losing games. We participated and were rewarded for our efforts.
I think participation should be recognized at a noncompetitive level. I see the recognition for both my children and myself this summer as motivation. The medals we received were mementos of the hard work and dedication to the race and season. My children are young and beginning to find what interests them. Children need to be motivated. My son’s league was not keeping score, there were about 20 four-year olds playing in the dirt more than playing the game. They didn’t even understand the concept of score. A game without a score is a game of instruction not winners or losers.
The only thing I can say about the medals is that they look at them and want to play next year. They have a physical reminder of their good memories and the fun they had throughout the year. If the medals were a pat on the back to say good season, I think a snack would have done the same. My son looked forward to the snacks at the end of the game as much as the game. I think a pizza party and snacks could have been just as an effective participation trophy.
Once they get into the winning and losing age of sports, I think medals should go to the winners. Will they always win and be rewarded? No, that’s life. They will learn how to overcome setbacks, see progress, learn how to have sportsmanship and how to be a team. Loosing is part of life and participating does not mean a reward is given. If you show up at work but don’t get the job done, are you still paid? Probably not for long. Sports teach lessons of winning, loosing and working hard to be the winner and best. Endless lessons can be learned without rewarding those who just showed up.
I think rewarding those who show up when it’s noncompetitive is ok. We all felt good and were reminded of our dedication. I felt proud of what I did and want my children to feel the same. Overall, I think we all need to be reminded to keep trying and getting better. I think a snack can be swapped for a medal and that the trophies can be saved for the winners once they are to that point. If they don’t have a box full of trophies at the end of their lives, does that mean they are losers? No! In fact, they may learn more from losing than winning. It’s all about the process not the gift. I will take lots of pictures to save those moments as reminders of the ups and downs. They won’t need a trophy to remind them they showed up.
Participation trophies have turned into a way of saying the game doesn’t matter. As long as you got dressed and showed up that day you are a winner. The real world doesn’t reward you for showing up. The real-world needs people to show up then do something! It’s the something that counts. They don’t need to just show up for school, they need to do something! They need to work hard and get better to be a winner in life. It will hurt to learn that sometimes they just aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough. As an overprotective mom, I don’t look forward to those moments. I will sit and cry with them when they lose but I won’t be giving them a trophy. I’ll give them a hug, a sports tap and get them back out there. It’s not the things in life that motivate, it’s the experiences.
When you fall off your bike, get back on and ride. Your trophy will be knowing how to ride the rest of your life.
Now let’s go have a snack!