Defending The Participation Trophy


Ok so by now we have all heard about Pittsburg Steelers’ James Harrison who returned the participation trophies his 6 and 8 year old sons received stating that they could have a real trophy when they had earned one.

Admirable sentiment Mr. Harrison, and while I agree kids need to learn the value of hard work and that nothing comes for free, I have to disagree with you. You stated that effort alone is not cause for recognition, as a mother of 4 children who all play sports, play musical instruments, have voice lessons and many other activities maybe you could say I am soft, but in all honesty I am teaching my children what is really valuable in life.

How many of us have played sports with that natural athlete, the one who is a head and shoulders above the rest without even sweating? You know the one, he was running past you not even breathing hard while you busted your ass just to try and keep up. At age 6 and 8 there are far more “natural athletes” beating you than there are people who worked their life to get there.  As adults it’s easy for us to forget how hard you can work and STILL not be good enough. But in youth sports, especially for those kids below age 13, this is far more the rule than it is the exception.

When we sign our kids up for sports we shouldn’t be doing it just to teach them the game. We should be teaching life lessons. They should be learning to go somewhere every day and give 100% effort, learning to take direction and constructive criticism. We should be teaching them how to work as a team, how to win graciously and that the real competition is being better than you were yesterday. We should be teaching them that it isn’t the score at the end that matters; it’s the fact that you put in all of your effort and worked together. We want them to become coachable young athletes who, using those same skills, will be employable adults. We should be teaching them self-discipline, respect, and positive attitudes. We should be teaching them to fall in love with the game- because kids who enjoy it are far more likely to throw the ball around with each other in the front yard than if they hated it. These are life skills that will continue on with you beyond the baseball diamond, because at the end of the day very few of them will be career baseball players, but every one of them needs to learn how to be a successful adult. The end result is fleeting, the score won’t usually be remembered beyond a week, but the effort is something they will take with them every day, even when they grow up and go out into the word without us. Shouldn’t we be rewarding that at least?