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9 Things I Want for My Kids Instead of a Participation Trophy

Moms, we’ve made it. The end of the season is here. You’ve faithfully provided a team snack on your assigned day. You’ve sported team colors and entertained siblings on many a Saturday morning. Whether it’s soccer, t-ball, softball, baseball, volleyball, …insert spring team sport here… , you likely have an obligatory team party/trophy ceremony on the calendar. I thought while we are handing out engraved space-taker-uppers, why don’t we request trophies of our own. I’d like to request one for keeping the three-year-old and 23-month-old broken bone free and with all teeth in tact after a season of bleacher sitting. Of course, by bleacher sitting I mean bleacher climbing, running, balancing, skipping, entering, exiting, disturbing of actual sitters…you get it. But I won’t make that request. Why not?

Because it’s my job.

I’m a parent, and therefore it’s expected that I keep them safe. I don’t deserve a reward or recognition. And as for the sluggers and ball players that you’ve been cheering on? Guess what? Participating in a sport they signed up for is their job. And unless they’ve clenched the league title, they don’t need a trophy either.

After all, there is so much more I want for my kids instead of a participation trophy.  Like…

1} A competitive spirit :: Hey kids, do you really want a trophy? WIN! My five-year-old isn’t playing competitive sports, and sure, the ideas that everyone gets on base and we don’t keep score are just fine for now. But let’s reserve the hardware for when the stakes are higher and he is competing alongside his teammates to be at the top.

2} Appreciation of a simplistic lifestyle :: I don’t understand the idea of handing kids a rather heavy and somewhat pointy piece of metal that sits on a shelf or in a box. It’s wasteful. Nobody unpacks their box of goods Mom and Dad sent to your own adult house and thinks, “Man, I really love this participation trophy. I worked so hard riding in that five-point harness in the back of mom’s mini to the game where I really nailed that halftime water and snack business.” So what does one do with all of this stuff? There are companies that recycle trophies, but I am willing to bet most end up in a landfill.

3} Pride in themselves :: Completing a season of sports, dance, math competitions should be just that – completion. It should be expected upon signing up, encouraged throughout, and sure, acknowledged at the end. But does it really take the hardware to give them pride and keep them coming back for more?

4} Non-tangible rewards :: Best friends are made through sports. Emotions are sculpted through sports. There are life lessons in celebrating with teammates after victories and holding each other up during defeat. Sports can cultivate respect for authority, skill, and diversity. If we believe that sports are more than a ball, a racket or club, or net, we must agree to allow them to go beyond a trophy for showing up.

5} Gratitude :: Guess what? Mom/Dad/Grandma/Someone gave up their money and time for Junior to play ball. Coaches often volunteer and take time away from their own families. Handing out a participation trophy sure does seem to encourage a selfish “what’s in it for me” attitude as opposed to appreciation for what others do and give.

6} Body confidence :: Our bodies are capable of such power, strength, flexibility, finesse, and endurance. Play sport for sport. I don’t believe it’s the participation trophy that’s going to keep kids coming back. It’s the feeling of sucking wind and overcoming it. It’s hitting a PR. It’s outrunning the throw from catcher to second. It’s a walk-off home run or touchdown pass.

7} Selflessness :: On the playing field, athletes should approach a season thinking, “What can we earn?” instead of, “What can I earn?”

8} Being satisfied with an experience :: Sure, most kids are inherently selfish. I recently had to have another talk with my kindergartener about the day’s memory-making activities being enough and that a “goodie” bag shouldn’t be expected {or whined for}. I hope for my kids to collect people and the moments shared with them instead of things.

9} A generous spirit :: Can’t we chunk the whole “trophy ceremony” culture and instead lead by example in giving back? Take trophy money and donate it to fund participation or uniform fees for a child from a low-income family. Create a scholarship fund. There’s got to be a better place to spend money and energy.

I’ll smile, clap, and probably snap a picture when they hand our son his latest shelf-sitter this year, but I’ll admit – I’m not going to like it. If we happen to miss the ceremony for one reason or another, let’s just say it won’t be a priority to meet up and collect that participation trophy a later time or date. There’s just too much more I want for my children.

Participation Trophy

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