When did it become fashionable for everyone to get a trophy on a Mill Valley youth sports team just for showing up? When did it become acceptable and even encouraged to reward children for simply participating in a game?
This may not be exclusively a local modern day tradition, but it sure is typical of Mill Valley to play the touchy-feely, don’t hurt anyone's feelings game.
I’m not a total scrooge on this subject, but the line of when to start treating kids like kids, and not like babies needs to be re-drawn. (You might also say this about the narcissistic baby boomers who refuse to grow up, and take responsibilities of adults. Stop being your kids “pals” and start being their parents.)
I’d like to propose a NO TROPHY zone for all youth sports beyond the age of 7. Why seven? It’s a lucky number. It’s a lucky number AND it gives most kids who start to play an organized team sport at an early age the chance to get at least one worthless “I showed up trophy.” These kids will put in on their shelf for three or four years, and when the middle school artwork comes in, and they have photos of David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman on their walls, the meaningless “I showed up” trophies will go into a box and into the attic.
There are many tokens of appreciation, or artifacts of recognition that a child could receive for participating. How about a team photo signed by the coaches? How about a certificate that explains what they did special to contribute to the team? How about a Timex watch so they will learn to show up on time to practice? Up until the current generation of personal self-esteem became the norm, trophies were given to individuals who went well and beyond the call of duty.
In the sports world, trophies were doled out to those who excelled beyond the average player. Most valuable player, most inspirational player, most improved player… These are feats that require extra skill and extra effort. Showing up in school, and just listening to the teacher may get a kid a passing grade, but there is no reason to reward athletes with special recognition for simply doing what is required of all players. That is to show up for practice, participate, work as a team player and give your best for the cause of the team.
By rewarding kids for nothing beyond just participating, we not only given kids a false sense of self worth, but also in turn fail to reward the players who DID go beyond the call of duty and deserve special recognition.