Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Trophies for participation?

Tonight Sam, his mom and I had a pretty lengthy (not heated, but very interesting) debate over dinner about kids and "trophies." Not entirely sure how we got on the subject, but to give you a quick overview of the two positions:

Sam/Sharon (and apparently many others) feel that giving participation trophies to all kids in team sports is causing the kids of today's society to have a sense of entitlement and we're basically rewarding "just for showing up" and not for working hard, or doing their job, practicing, trying out, etc. They both feel that is what's wrong with today's society or today's work force particularly - that employees want to be rewarded just for "doing their job" and not going above and beyond or going the extra mile (practicing, working harder, etc.) and that it partially starts with this. However, they both are of the opinion that a plaque with their team picture on it, the year, coach name, or a certificate, or other trinket type thing (just not a "trophy") is OK.

My opinion and I don't know how many others because I have never personally had this debate nor have I really thought about it before - is that the trophy is a memento to remind Zach of his team and that he completed the season.

I have to say I have a complete difference of opinion with many of the points they brought up, so I have to blog it and get some opinions (I hope to get some comments on this one, just to hear some other input - not to get a who's right or wrong, but I am curious to see what other people's thoughts are on this subject that I didn't even know was really an offical "subject" before today.)

Sam and Sharon think that a "trophy" is bad. But a plaque with the team picture, certificate, etc. is okay if it says the Team Name - Year" because that recognizes the team effort not the individual. As long as you don't put the kid's name on the trophy it's okay because then it's not an "individual" trophy. I counter this by saying - what does it matter what the "THING" is - as long as the trophy doesn't say "Zach Tramontana - scored 8 goals this season - likely the next David Beckham". I don't see the difference in giving the child a plaque with a photo of the team picture on it, his name (so he knows it's "his"), team and year, or some certificate with the same information or a small trophy as long as it doesn't say "1st place", "Champion" ,"Best Player". You're just giving him/her "something" at the end of the season (be it the plaque, certificate, trophy) to remember the year.
So whether it's a plaque, certificate or trophy - aren't you're giving them SOMETHING - some type of reward, acknowledgement or recognition for participating? Besides the fact.....the kids didn't even ASK for the trophy. They really don't even know trophies exist until us parents (who, by the way, are the ones who are MOSTLY excited to see their kid GETTING the trophy) hand them out. I can tell you that Zach's trophy for his first season is about 10 inches of a cheesy plastic soccer boy that says "Zach Tramontana - The Burn - Churchland Soccer Leauge Spring 2008". I don't see how that individualizes or recognizes him for his achievements or progress in any way, and I can tell you his head didn't grow ANY bigger after he got the trophy - he loves to play and practice just as much now as before, he has no concept of what it really means at this age.

Personally, I think it is more up to us as parents to teach our children to be hard workers, to have good work ethics and to be team players and to teach them that as they get older, sports, school and things like that get harder. That they aren't always going to make it when they try out, that they won't always be the best and that they're not always gonig to win. It's our job as the parent to be their ultimate "coach" and teach them the lessons they need to know about winning and losing and the value of hard work and playing fairly. It's our job to teach them that they may not always "make the team" and to help them get better so they want to try again and not just be quitters, and be the shoulder for them to lean on when they're ready to give up. Giving them a trophy isn't protecting them from anything or rewarding them for "showing up" .... it's nice to give them hope to want to do it again, and in my opinion unless it's the big "championship" trophy that all the kids try to win, it's just a way to remember what was "hopefully" a fun season with a bunch of friends. Kids don't "demand" or "ask" for trophies. Parents are the ones who make sure they're there at the last game because we see that glimmer of hope in their eye that maybe they'll have better luck next year, and we're the ones who remember the smile on their face when they hold that cheesy piece of plastic - even if it just goes in the closet after the next year. Maybe they'll remember the friends they made this year because it was fun - not that they expected the trophy because they showed up and played the game. I know when you show Zach his trophy he looks at it and talks about playing with Chase and Jonathan - he doesn't really associate the "trophy" with winning or losing. He just knew he got it at the end of the season when we had a party for the kids.

I am just struggling with this one because I can't compare the workforce of today with "trophies." I think parents need to do a better job of instilling the importance of the things we give our kids and the value of those things, and not to just "expect" things all the time and "expect" that the things have to be bigger and better each time. I see this happening with my friends all the time - Christmas gifts or birthday gifts have to top last years (monetarily) - rather than getting gifts that would be a) practical or b) thoughtful it's all typically about c) how much they spend because the kids know what things cost and if you don't spend more this time than last time, they KNOW. THAT is more of a sense of entitlement than anything in my opinion. And that's all kids, everywhere these days. Thirteen year olds have cell phones. iPods, 100.00 jeans, REAL Coach or D&B bags (HUH??), laptops ... these are not necessities. These have become expectations of the thirteen/fourteen/fifteen/sixteen year olds because that's what their friends have. And we're worried about a plastic trophy?? I think maybe our way of thinking might be the issue here.

I just think we as parents need to do a better job of cutting back (trust me, I am the worst.......I KNOW!) and not giving in to every whim, every fad, every thing that I think my kids would like and I think they absolutely "have to have". We're really doing them an injustice. It's NOT the cheesy gold trophy because Zach made it through his first year of soccer that's going to cause him to not be a hard worker, it's if we let him slack off and not do chores, not have any REAL responsibilities or take things (school, church, etc. seriously) that is going to cause him to be lazy or uneducated. If we just let him have everything and not work for it, or not have respect for people or have follow through to what they're suppose to do or say they're going to do that cause them to feel "entitled" to getting, getting, getting but not giving back - whether it's in the workplace or wherever. THAT is what causes problems in the workforce .... because if they do those kinds of things when they're thirteen .... what changes when they're 21, 22...30, if it's not instilled in them by their parents?

And one last thing regarding the trophy....Zachary had no idea he was getting a trophy at the end of the year. Sure he knew what trophies were - but did he know he was specifically getting one on May 12th? NO WAY! But today we asked him what he gets at the end of the soccer season coming up. Know what he said? A trophy, yay!

Sorry for the long rambling post. But help me out on this one. I put a poll up to the right, it's confidential. I just am curious as to your thoughts - because I don't understand this debate at all, and it's not a please help defend who's right, who's wrong, it's more of a .... I just need to hear what you all think. I honestly have to say I've NEVER given the "trophy" situation one second of thought before tonight. I just thought everyone got trophies and you got bigger or better ones if your team wins, if that's the kind of league you're in.

Anyway, thanks for the help!


PS: You can add comments by clicking the "comments" section below.

Here's what Zach's first trophy looked like.


Dawn said...

Well said. My little kids all get participation trophies at the end of baseball season. I see nothing wrong with it. My older kids only get trophies if they finish out in 1st-3rd place.

Anonymous said...

Main Entry: tro·phy
Pronunciation: \ˈtrō-fē\
Function: noun

1: something gained or given in victory or conquest especially when preserved or mounted as a memorial

Anonymous said...

I know I am late in commenting, but my 11yr old, son does NOT want a trophy unless his team wins. We always tell the coaches he does not want one and they try to talk us out into it and act as if we are depriving him of something, when all along it is HIS decision.