Monday, November 17, 2014

why i disagree with the 'every kid gets a trophy' mentality

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{cheering my sophomore year of college, and sporting the worst 'do of my entire life - braided pigtails into a ponytail, gross}

Growing up, I played sports year round - football cheerleader, basketball, track, softball and dance. There's probably still a box full of participation ribbons and trophies in my parents' attic to prove it. And, to be honest, my parents could throw away that box because, to me, those ribbons and trophies are not the point of having played a sport. To me, the point of having been an athlete is all the lessons I learned about hard work, about being a part of a team, about pushing myself, and yes, about losing.

I'm not sure when the 'every kid gets a trophy' rule came into play, but I don't like it. It really hit me two years ago when the high school competition cheer team I helped coach got a giant {we're talking multi-level} trophy for 15th place in a competition. Seriously - we got 15th place! That wasn't good! We didn't deserve a trophy. And let me tell you, my girls did not feel good about receiving a trophy for 15th place. I can still remember them looking at each other when our team was called dead last and pointing fingers at who would actually stand up and receive that 15th-place trophy. They were humiliated.

I'm sure the 'every kid gets a trophy' mentality came from a place of good - not wanting kids to feel left out or like they're not good enough, or wanting to recognize kids for being a part of a team or activity. For the record, I have no beef with participation certificates - that is assuming the kid actually showed up and participated. But I think, and have experienced as a coach {I've coached high school cheerleading for the last five years}, that while this rule has been busy protecting kids' feelings, it's also robbed them of some very valuable life lessons. And this mentality doesn't just apply to sports. I see it effecting work ethic in the classroom, in the workplace and in the world.

Think about it. If you knew that you were going to be recognized and rewarded for participating in a project at work, regardless of how much effort or work you actually did on the project, would you still give 100 percent? Or would you save yourself some time and stress and just do the bare minimum?

Here are a few downfalls, which I attribute to the 'every kid gets a trophy' mentality, that I've seen as a coach:

Please note that I am making general statements, and I am aware that this does not - in any way, shape or form - apply to all kids, or adults for that matter.

// Lack of motivation. I feel as if the adages 'practice makes perfect' and 'hard work pays off' are lost on many kids today. Once they make the team, sometimes I feel as if kids think, "well, good enough." I'm always pushing my cheerleaders to challenge and improve themselves and not to give up, especially during our workouts. But I have found that you cannot do the work for them and you can't make them care.

// Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. I'm sure many of us have heard our fair share of excuses. What happens for me when a kid has soooooo many excuses is that I have a hard time deciphering the truth. You can only cry wolf so many times.

// Misconception of hard work. Let's go back to my little work project example above. Sometimes I think that if a kid knows they are going to get recognized regardless of the amount of hard work they put into something, they save their energy and only do enough to get by, or pick and choose when they actually want to put forth effort. I mean, why go through the trouble if no pain equals the same gain?

// Feeling of entitlement. Maybe this has always been an issue, but holy goodness! Just because you made the team DOES NOT mean you're entitled to playing time. Well, unless you're a cheerleader, which makes my job harder. More than once I've considered having my girls earn their "starting" spot just like other sports. I just want to give my cheerleaders - and my kids when Shawn and I are ready for that stage of our lives - the opportunity to discover for themselves how great it feels to work hard and earn something you want, rather than have it handed to you.

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not every kid should get a trophy. I'm on the side of no, they should not. It's not that I don't want to recognize kids for their participation and hard work, I just don't want them to feel entitled to something they didn't earn. Yes, there are going to be times when a kid or a kid's team lands just shy of that trophy, even when they have worked hard for it and deserve it. But that's why the lesson of losing is so important. If a kid never loses, if a kid always gets a trophy, how will a kid truly understand what it feels like to have their hard work pay off? How will a kid truly know what if feels like to win? How do you know what it feels like to honestly, truly work hard for something you want and win?


Kristine said...

AMEN! I completely agree! I can't stand this generation where these kids and their parents think they're all entitled to something.

Kristie's Blue Jeans said...

You are completely spot on with this. This is something that has always bothered me and honestly I feel like it is detrimental to our youth. We can't teach them or prepare them for the messy world when they get a pat on the back for showing up. I thank my mom for teaching me that not everyone was going to like me and not everyone would want to me succeed. I think it really helped me along the crazy roads I have taken.

latanya t said...

I agree with you. My husband and I had this discussion and the impact of everyone receiving a trophy even they did not win, can make kids feel entitled to get something every time. In real life that is not the case. It is important to realize that even do you try to do your best, you may not always win. Hopefully, that will make one want to do better, improve in certain areas, learn a new skill set, work better as team and/or individually, or even try something completely different.

V @ X-tremely V said...

Oh Holly, I love this post! I didn't know anything about this until I moved to the field. Big Lex doesn't cut anyone, from any team (at least at the middle school)! In the middle school they have 2 basketball teams for girls and boys! UGH! And when I coached cheerleading there they only cut one girl because she was a senior, but not good enough to make varsity! Seriously? One? Might as well have put her on the squad at that point. Pathetic! If Xavier doesn't make "THE" team than he won't play. He will work his butt off on his own to make the team the following year.

Erin LFF said...

I love this and completely agree with where you are coming from. I know it's highly debated... but cmon! We all grew up learning about losing and second place (as well as generations and generations before us!) and we're all FINE. Love this post... and your stylin' hair ;)

Because of Jackie said...

I agree with this wholeheartedly. When my daughter was three she did ballet and participated in a recital. There was an opportunity to buy trophies for all the little girls in the show, and I balked. I thought the hard work of practicing, and being in the recital was treat enough. I ended up getting it for her in the end because everyone else did, and she was so young and wouldn't have understood why she was the only one to NOT get a trophy, but I would not do it now. You need to earn a trophy, playing time, etc, through hard work. And sometimes, the only recognition you get is the hard work you put in and improving yourself. Well said, friend!

Ericka said...

I totally agree. I think I remember getting some kind of medal or trophy or something after the season when I played sports when I was younger (I was a multi-sport athlete my whole life too). I think maybe it's ok when they are really young and still learning the game, but there should be a point when it stops. Have an end of the season team party or something, that's fine. But everyone doesn't need a trophy. I also know some sports/leagues don't keep score when the kids are young. I don't really agree with that either. I think they should learn to win and lose, and how to do both respectfully. I agree, that I think the idea behind giving everyone a trophy has good intentions, I just don't necessarily agree with it, at least at a certain age.

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