CTV National News reporter Vanessa Lee stopped by my home yesterday to talk to my daughter and me about James Harrison.
The NFLer returned his sons' participation trophies because he felt they hadn't really earned them; after all, real men don't get trophies for showing up; they have to beat somebody first.
In Ms. Lee's report, my daughter and I share our views. In addition to what was said on camera, here are some additional benefits/philosophies, in my opinion, regarding participation awards:
- AVOIDING SHAME: When a child sits in a group at the end of a sporting season, there are few things more shame-inducing than being left with your legs crossed watching others receive awards while you are reminded you didn't make the grade.
- PRIDE OFF THE FIELD: As those small medals and trophies accumulate, not only will it encourage a child to participate the following year. They are a badge of honour to be recognized by peers and friends and family. Though you may not have won the championship, the hardware on the book shelf still make you feel like a player, which feels good.
- DISAPPOINTMENT WILL COME, DON'T WORRY: If the kid has real potential, disappointment will be part of the learning process, don't worry. If he or she starts ascending to an elite level, at some point they will be hitting .348, but be fighting a kid hitting .350 for a spot in the line up. If a child scores 9.25, there will be one spot left on the team for someone who can manage a 9.50. Want to feel pressure? Talk to someone just missed making it out of the NFL combine because their 40-yard dash was a couple of tenths too slow. They won't need Dad to explain their failures, but they will need him for a comforting ride home.
- RETURNING THE TROPHY = DAD'S NOT REALLY PROUD: "My dad's making me give this back." Nice. If a child learns that, unless they win, they are not worthy of recognition by their parents, how will they feel the next time they drop the ball, or miss the dive, or fall during the routine? "Boy, I hope my dad wasn't watching," or, "Boy, I hope Mom doesn't find out."
Home should be a safe place; a place where, regardless of failures through childhood (or adulthood), our sons and daughters can drag their hanging chins through the front door and be welcomed and consoled. The participation trophy is a hug from a coach. Dad's should be allowed to return hugs to the league's head office.