NICK’S NOTES: No trouble with trophies
The latest internet outrage cycle, inspired by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison taking aways his sons’ participation trophies, is the stupidest viral discussion since we all tried to guess the color of the dress.
Harrison can parent however he wants, but he’s pretending to be Professor Harold Hill from “The Music Man.” He’s manufacturing outrage at a problem that doesn’t exist. (Although trouble and trophy do both start with the letter “t.”)
There is plenty finger-wagging at these “leagues” that give out “participation” medals, but I have yet to see proof that the practice has irrevocably damaged our nation’s youth.
I got numerous participation medals and trophies as a kid. I thought they were cool. I wore the medals to school. I put the trophies on my shelf. They were awesome. Three days after I got them, I stuffed them in a drawer. They are probably still there today.
Twenty years or so later, I am now a responsible adult who pays taxes and has a job. I’m guessing there are plenty of adults who won barrels of first place trophies, but who now cheat on their taxes and and steal cable. Things greater than plastic figurines determine how you live your life.
If you’re worried that participation medal will give kids false sense of entitlement, your worries are misplaced. Kids aren’t stupid. As someone who interacts with youth athletes as part of my job, I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t know the difference between first place and “participation.” The kids who are motivated to do well in sports will stick with it, those who are not will find their passion somewhere else. An award for participating won’t change that.
If you’re scared about this nation being led by a generation of kids raised with participation medals, I’d say they can’t do half as bad a job as the earn-your-trophy generation that brought us the housing crisis, global warming and conflicts in the Middle East that don’t seem to end.
The anti-trophy crowd centers their argument on the fact that participation trophies will remove motivation to be their best. Taking it out on a plastic trophy is treating the symptom and not the disease.
Our culture is built on gaining maximum recognition and validation with minimal effort.
Millions of people (kids and adults) constantly check to their phones to make sure their participation in the online world is validated through emails, likes and retweets. Looking at a screen takes far less effort than participating in vigorous athletic competition.
While Harrison doesn’t like participation trophies, he does seem to be an expert on receiving recognition for minimal effort.
By Tuesday night, Harrison’s post received over 16,000 likes on Instagram. Maybe we should give him a trophy or something.