Football season is almost here, and with it comes crisp autumn weather, tailgating feasts, and a brand new pastime in America: Guys beating their chests against youth sport participation trophies.
Post after post on social media takes a verbal piss on anything besides first place. How it teaches kids to expect something for nothing. How it’s a tough world and life doesn’t give out consolation prizes.
Bullshit. Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on all that noise, and I can type from now to Tuesday why they need to have a beer, a burger, and STFU.
I’m in sales, and I definitely understand the connections between drive, determination, and success. High performers take home the lion’s share of commission dollars, bonuses, and awards trips. But if we take the consolation prize concept to its end, it doesn’t look pretty for most people. What if top sales reps were the only ones who ever got paid? What if the bottom 80% got fired at the end of the year? Does that seem right?
Here’s a more direct example: Millions of people run races each year. Marathons, obstacle courses, triathlons… and most of them don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of even cracking the top 100. They give their best efforts and still finish hours behind the winners. Don’t they deserve something ? Hell yeah they do!
Oddly, some of the guys I know who howl about participation trophies gladly accept their finisher medals and then run out and buy car window stickers. And they should, if that’s their thing. But what happened to the “second is the first loser” stuff they were ranting when discussing youth sports? Furthermore, these same guys had TROPHY PALACES when we were growing up, and I’ll wager the things are still junking up their parents’ attics. Those guys are doing just fine today, whether the engraver etched in “tournament champs” or “thanks for playing”.
Look, I get it. We want our kids to try their best and work hard to improve. No quitting. No half-efforts. Winning is fun and losing sucks. These are all life lessons they need. But when we toss their third-place medals in the trash, we risk sending the message that “if you can’t be the best, don’t bother.”
Kids these days need to get off the couch more than ever, and team sports are a great way to encourage that. If a shelf full of marble, gold plastic, and nameplates gets them excited to move their little asses, I’m all for it! These are CHILDREN, not Olympic athletes. Let’s build their skills, their character, and their competitive spirit. And we can do all those things without kicking them in their Pee-Wee league balls.