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Not everyone is a winner, and that’s OK!
Somewhere in the last 20 years, being competitive in sports became taboo. If you’re too good, try not to be as good. If you aren’t as good as others, you are told you are amazing anyway. Why is it bad to tell our children that they need to improve? Being honest with our kids about their abilities will encourage them to work harder. And hard work never hurt anyone.
Now, don’t get me wrong, positive reinforcement is always important, especially for our growing kids. Being honest about their abilities doesn’t mean being harsh. It means encouraging them. Letting them know that there is room to grow, that can only come from dedication and practice.
I can’t figure out, as a society, why we decided to accept that there are no winners in sports. Our children’s adult reality is that there are winners. And there are losers. Succeeding is something that should be earned. If we teach our children this at a young age, they are more prepared at adults.
The ‘Participation’ Trophy
My children are older now, and when I think back to the days when they first started playing sports, they played because they liked it. Then, they played because they wanted to get better and wanted to win. At the end of the season, every player on every team received a trophy whether they won or loss. Granted, it was called a ‘participation’ trophy, but they didn’t know the difference. They received a trophy, whether they won or loss. There were even a few seasons of baseball where no score was kept at all. My question is: What’s the purpose of the trophy then?
When I was younger, we received a trophy if we were in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. Period. And you know what that did? It made me work hard and practice more to get better, because I wanted that trophy.
I agree that all children should get something for participating. Sometimes it’s difficult for children to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. They should be recognized for that. But the notion of the trophy is that they won something. There are many other rewards that children can receive, that can take the place of the ‘participation’ trophy such as shirts, balls signed by the team, a team photo in a nice frame. These are great ways to recognize participation, and provide kids with something they can remember their teammates with.
The Real Issue Isn’t The Trophy
Understand that the issue isn’t the actual trophy. It’s what the trophy stands for. Why is it so bad to lose? Why is it so bad for a child to strive for something, and NOT accomplish it? Providing our children with these obstacles helps them learn that success comes from dedication and hard work. It teaches them that, they might have to try a little bit harder next time. It encourages self-motivation to practice in the backyard or outside of ‘regular’ practice time. These are all important life lessons that kids need to learn to be successful adults.
Some young adults have been raised to feel entitled. They have learned through their childhood of no winning / no losing, that just because they want something, they should get it. The ‘real world’ expects more of them, however. Now, as adults, they must must learn that if they want to excel they must try harder because not everyone is given a ‘trophy’ in the real world.
What It Really Means To Lose
If there is no winner and no loser, how do we teach our children to deal with disappointment? How do we teach our children that sometimes you can work really hard for something, and someone is just better or more qualified? It’s through the disappointment of loss that our children have the opportunity to learn about accomplishment. We should not deny them the experiences that build character, strength and the internal drive to be successful.
I’m Not Heartless
Really, I’m not!
Everyone is unique and that should be celebrated! But being unique means that not everyone is the same. Think about that. As a society, let’s celebrate each other’s strengths; not make those individuals hide it or feel bad about it. Let’s support those who have weaknesses; and if they choose, help them become stronger. It does not do anyone good to equalize the playing field so that there is no winning and no losing. When we do that, there is only mediocre left.