DY: In Just a Few Words (#95)
EVERYONE deserves a trophy.
Lots has been written about so-called participation trophies for kids - much of it negative. They take away the hard work to be truly excellent. Kids are rewarded for being mediocre at best. These awards destroy the incentive for kids to become all they can be. Children don’t learn to compete and that will be bad for their future careers. On and on and on it goes, sometimes laced with angry political statements from the extremes of our society.
Back in the day (think early 1970s), there was a guy in our neighborhood (we’ll call him Coach) who really liked kids. This was a neighborhood with lots of young families and there was an abundance of children. Kids who played outside, often unsupervised, until dusk. There was very little traffic on our street in those days, so playing IN the street was also not frowned upon like it is today.
Lots of weekend days (and sometimes after dinner on weeknights) Coach and his two kids would start tossing a football around in the street. Very soon an avalanche of neighborhood children would join the fun. There were only two rules. When Coach yelled CAR, these kids knew they were to get up on the tree lawns immediately and stay there until the street was once again clear. And no one dared to knock over Coach’s beer. That resulted in multi-game suspensions worthy of the NFL.
So what was this all about? Football for little girls and little boys and anyone else with the courage to show off their talents at catching the brilliant passes coming from the arm of the street’s world-class quarterback. Simple, easy tosses for five-year-olds. Learning routes and the importance of always keeping your eye on the ball for the older, bigger ones. Probably good things for children to learn at an early age.
It wasn’t a game, it was just a learning experience where a good play was appreciated and sportsmanship was always stressed. It was not at all unusual for 30 kids to be in the action waiting patiently in line till they were the next boy or girl up. Never any sassy talk. No parents interfering, telling Coach how to do his thing better. Just a large bunch of kids and their street coach and supportive parents.
At the end of one season, Coach decided to award each kid with a trophy - the same trophy in every respect, but with an individualized marker attached to the trophy recognizing their improvement. Best catch. Longest catch. Shortest catch. Great improvement. Best route run. First catch ever. Rookie of the year. You get the point. Every kid was recognized in a positive way for doing something right.
I’m sure you have figured out by now that I was that coach who bought all those trophies and made sure every kid got their 15 seconds of fame. Despite public criticism of every kid gets a trophy, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Those little rascals loved streetball and so did I. They played nicely and felt good about each other and most importantly about themselves. They were all winners. What’s so bad about that?
Both my kids were participants. It didn’t hurt them a bit. And, among those who benefited was yours truly. I got a lot out of neighborhood streetball - witness the fact that I have given new life to this memory from 50 years ago or so.
It was all about fundamentals, focus and fun.
I miss it. And, I sincerely apologize to any kid who's had a miserable life because I once gave them a trophy for just being part of our streetball bunch.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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