Pittsburg Steelers Linebacker, James Harrison, seems to be everybody’s favorite dad these days. The news story caught fire last week that he took away his kids’ trophies for participating in a track and field meet because he wanted them to earn one. It seems simply participating in a sport isn’t enough for this elite athlete/dad – you need to win for it to count.
Over the years I’ve read the countless articles saying we’re raising an “entitlement generation who thinks they need a trophy for everything.” I’ve heard the complaints about how this is terrible for a kid’s work ethic (because you need to know how to sweat and work when you’re 5). To be honest, I’ve always felt the same way. Who do these kids think they are getting recognition just for showing up?
But then again…
For every parent who gripes about this “trophy generation” I want to ask:
- What about the “trophy” called a paycheck you get for just showing up to work every day? I know that isn’t so for some jobs, but for many of us who have time to complain about this budding generation of shiftless youth, we have the luxury of working at jobs where every so often we don’t give 100% or “win” our job for the day. If kids shouldn’t be recognized for just showing up, then how about we all agree to give back the money (recognition) we receive on the days we linger a little too long on Facebook or texting with friends under our desk?
- Maybe parents should consider giving back every 5K t-shirt they received after completing a Couch25K? Or every half-marathon medal they received for finishing that first big race? After all, who cares that you wanted to do something healthy with your life and feel better as a person – you didn’t win the race so it doesn’t count when you just finish.
- Maybe instead of thinking of participation trophies as compensation for doing nothing, we should treat with their true intent – as a way of congratulating a kid for finishing a task. In a world where everything from hobbies to jobs to marriages are seemingly disposable whenever we don’t think we’re winners, maybe it’s a good thing to teach kids the art of starting a task and seeing it to completion. After all, God said patience was a fruit of the Spirit – winning didn’t make the top 9 (Gal. 5:22-23).
- Maybe we should worry more about kids falling in love with sports (or whatever trophy-giving recreational activity), and worry less with kids falling in love with winning all the time. The world would be better off with people who know how to love something more than just being right or winning all the time.
I’ll admit that I’m at the front of the line among competitive parents (and my kid is only 3). But when I stop and take a step back – and maybe even watch how much her little 3 year old self loves simply playing soccer or doing gymnastics – I might be lucky enough to remember that I’ll gladly take a closet full of “Congratulations! You Tried!” trophies if it means raising a kid who knows how to give her all, finish what she starts, and how to love every step of the journey…even when she doesn’t always win.