To trophy or not to trophy


For as long as I have been a parent, I have very much struggled with the fact that “kids these days” get a trophy for damned near everything. You showed up to three practices and six games and half the time hid behind your mom? Good job! Here’s a trophy for being present… sort of. I sound very old when I begin my diatribe with “In my day…” but it’s entirely true. In the 80s, we did not get a ribbon unless we actually made all As. We did not get a trophy for writing a poem for a contest unless we won. And when we failed, we were not devastated. No, the lack of constant praise made us say, “You know, I could have tried harder. Next time, I will do my very best because I want to be my very best me.” It was on us if we wanted to do better, try harder, get the prize.

However, as “helicopter parents” became a thing and the idea that participation deserved some kind of award, it seems kids are less able to cope with failure. We have become hung up on the special snowflake concept and I’ll have none of it. Sure, my kids are special to me but as the entire world goes, they’re nobodies. And if my kid was the one picking flowers in the outfield during tee ball then no, he does not deserve the giant trophy with shooting stars and flames. It’s just not earned.

But, it is a memento to remember their time playing a sport. In our case, my kids have always been mid to upper level when it comes to their team sports. They’re not #1 kid on any team, not by a long shot. But they have been integral players who had success. So in this case, I feel that each trophy collecting dust on their desks and nightstands and dressers is actually a token representing their efforts. BUT, I also can’t help but feel like we don’t need yet another trophy each and every season.

That said, Elliot’s team’s parents decided against them. At first, I was pissed. It was a quick decision on my part to rattle off an email back to the team mom to complain but on second thought, I really liked the idea. Do they need a trophy to tell them how good they are? No. Not at all. My kid got to play on a team coached by a Pro-bowler and Superbowl winner. That in and of itself was the prize this season. He learned some key facets of the game of flag football and made some amazing plays. He got to play with friends and make new friends and he has become a much better athlete. Not only that, but coach’s talks always encompassed life lessons that these kids can take to middle school, high school, and beyond.

I did realize, however, that the reason I like the trophies is that it’s a kind of closure. I get a little attached to the teams each year and hate to see the season end. Whenever we’ve had the end of season trophy presentation, each coach has said a little something about the kids and it just feels like a nice way to wrap it all up. After all, we spent roughly 12-14 weeks with these families and it just feels like the right thing to do. And I’m a little selfish and of course biased, but I like to hear what the coach has to say about my kid and how he did. What parent wouldn’t?

But in the end, we don’t need a piece of plastic and marble to tell our kid that they did well. We don’t even need the end of season hurrah. The kids got something out of the last three months and whether they realize it now or in ten years, it’ll stay with them forever.

2 thoughts on “To trophy or not to trophy

  1. Hell ya, I don’t get the thing with rewarding a child for every little thing, not a bad thing to learn that you may not win, you may not get a trophy you may even come last ( I usually did) life is full of ups and downs and we need to teach our young how to deal with the downs, the not winning the not getting a trophy or ribbon.

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