OPINION: Excess rewards take away from a true victory
Eric Miller | Online Sports Editor
Trophy culture: sweeping the nation. All players, winners or losers, get a trophy at the season’s end. Parents even threaten to pull kids out of sports if there is no trophy to cap off their 12U soccer or 10U softball season. This is ridiculous, there is more to gain for a young child out of youth sports when they are a part of a struggling or–dare I say–losing team. “Losing” is quite the taboo in youth sports nowadays. Nobody wants to say their son or daughter “lost” a game; score isn’t even kept in Mason youth basketball until third grade. So what are we trying to teach our kids? That everything will be handed to them? That nothing in life is a competition? Everything in a life is a competition whether you want it to be or not.
Granted, there are some caveats to this tirade against trophy culture. Five and six-year-olds don’t need to be training every day for their co-ed soccer teams or that 6U tee-ball teams shouldn’t be handing out medals at the year’s end. That’s where a certain grey area comes into play: when the participation trophies need to be traded in for performance-based trophies. Around 10 or 11 is where this line should develop. At this age, kids are going into intermediate and soon middle school where athletics become more a part of the schools themselves as opposed to independent organizations. To make school teams and eventually high school teams, kids need a certain tenacity, a willingness to succeed that cannot be taught with a trophy but rather with hardships and losses.
A competitive instinct is something that can benefit kids in every walk of life. The only way to develop this instinct is to compete–to have winners and losers. Not everyone will get a trophy, but everyone will instead get something much more valuable: a passion to win and to succeed.