So yesterday, my son’s little league soccer team ended their season with a perfect losing streak: 0-8. The coaches on both teams passed out little green trophies from a fraying cardboard box, every kid receiving the exact same statue. It was my son’s first trophy, and he promptly gave the gold figure on top a name, an underdog back story, and a comeback story that would make you weep.
As we were filing out of the musty gym, I heard a parent tersely reference “that one theory about how 'trophies for all,' win or lose, is doing the kids a disservice.” He went on to explain that the thought behind this (kakamaimie) theory is that it deprives kids of the ability to cope with disappointment.
Here what blasted through the mental PA system in my head when I heard that: GIVE THE KIDS A DAMN TROPHY. ALL OF THEM. YES, EVEN THAT KID.
It seems silly to me that we are targeting little league sports as this singular petri dish in which cultures of adolescent coping skills are cultivated. Even if little league soccer/baseball/softball/tennis/football became obsolete, I can think of a gajillion other situations in a child’s life that also present teachable moments for dealing with frustration.
Off the cuff: Math, ensuing bad grades in math, spelling bees, being picked last for kickball, not getting that part in the school play, friends who turn on you, friends who move away, your own family moving to another state, a 0-8 soccer season, parents getting divorced, summer ending, pets dying, falling down on a bike, never figuring out that one damn level in the Batman Lego video game….
But to give some street cred to my case for "Trophies for All," I will reference an op-ed piece I found on the New York Times website on this issue. It's called "Losing is Good for You," by Ashley Merryman. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/opinion/losing-is-good-for-you.html It seems to nicely encapsulate the passionate, divisive argument against these gateway drugs to failure:
Po Bronson and I have spent years reporting on the effects of praise and rewards on kids. The science is clear. Awards can be powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed. Instead, it can cause them to underachieve.
Nonstop UNWARRANTED PRAISE might be harmful, sure. Nonstop RECOGNITION? Never.
For instance, I don’t think it would be appropriate to give my kid a “Best Goalie” trophy, because that would be a very, very, very, very, very dishonest accolade.
But a trophy for participation? To RECOGNIZE him as someone valuable, despite not being some hot shot-superlative on the team? A shiny Token of Awesome to say, You showed up, kid, and man were we glad you did! Wouldn’t have been the same without you.
That is "Most likely to get my vote."
I'm not saying you can't give awards for exceptional performances. This is about no one walking home empty handed. And this practice doesn't need to extend into junior high or high school. (Except for bowling. I think everyone should take home a bowling trophy, regardless of age)
Now I’m going to take this one step further.
What the hell is wrong with empowering the living crap out of our little guys and girls? As I do in all things, I will now look to Tina Fey for guidance.
In her 2008 Emmy acceptance speech for Leading Actress in a Comedy Series, she said:
“I want to thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities. Well done – that is what all parents should do.”
This has stuck with me since I heard it. It makes sense. Tina Fey had a fearlessness that was reflected back to her in the mirror her parents chose to hold up to her. She ventured out into life expecting good things to happen because she felt deserving of them. Worthy.
(Don't think it is lost on me that my example is lifted from a situation in which a trophy is given for being "The Best"...meh)
This: Why not empower our kids with the belief that they are AWESOME: NO STRINGS ATTACHED. That way, they might not have to relearn that truth down the road. Maybe they won’t have to awaken from an “I’ll take whatever I can get” blackout in their thirties, forties, fifties, or rehab. They won’t have to then spend another decade learning how to be comfortable accepting good things. Maybe they won’t have to wait until their Golden Years to feel they are worth the best that life has to offer.
Hell yes, trophies for everyone! How about we give them wings of entitlement? (The good kind, not the a-hole kind.)
(I could stretch this metaphor to its breaking point, and say that this Sacred Trophy mentality is exactly what is wrong with the values of our economy. We have taken this senior superlative attitude towards people’s contributions to society. Some are deemed “most” or "best," and the trophy is a living wage. But I won’t go there. After all, this is really about little league trophies, and those should only be a Really Big Deal to the proud kids who take them home.)
That's my piece, and that's my peace. Thanks for taking the time to read my silly words. It means the world. Carry on...
Old Single Mom
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