Why do we keep score at youth sports games? Why do we give awards? Why do we give trophies to championship teams?
This past month, there have been several parents who have brought these questions to me. In most of these situations, the parents were sad that their child didn’t get the trophy or the medal. “He was devastated.” I’ve heard more than once.
One parent even requested that his child be given a medal just to make him feel better.
Let me address what I feel is the value of giving awards, trophies and medals:
It affirms those who have worked hard to reach levels of achievement. Affirmation encourages kids to keep on going. We all love to be affirmed. It is a great feeling to be recognized for a great pass, or for doing something that has contributed to a win. To just give someone a trophy because he/she was sad takes the real value away from the purpose of the trophy. It loses the meaning. There should be purpose behind a trophy. The trophies our kids have saved over the years are not the ones they got for being on a team, but special awards they got for being recognized for something unique they did.
Giving awards can motivate and can be used as a tool to cause kids to work harder to improve. It’s a great time to evaluate what areas you can make progress in. I’m not saying that this is always fun. We all want to walk away with the hardware, but that doesn’t always happen. We don’t have to like it, but we do need to learn how to accept it.
Life skills can be learned. We’re not always going to get our way, or get what we want in life, so let’s learn how to deal with these minor setbacks and disappointments, and move on. Sometimes as parents, we try to protect our kids from the agony of defeat, but often in doing so, we rob them of some of life’s best growing opportunities. I remember seeing the tears different times of my four kids as they didn’t win the big prize. I look back now and am glad I didn’t step in and fix the situation. Getting a meaningless medal would have taken all the enjoyment out of watching their faces celebrate when they did win a hard fought prize. Often a child gets overlooked, and even when he may deserve recognition, he doesn’t get it. He may have worked hard, and still come up short of an award. This is the opportune time to talk through why we do things. Is it all about the prize at the end, or do we work hard and give our best effort, because we can feel good about the progress we’re making, and what we’re contributing to a team? It’s a tough one to teach, but if they can get it at a young age, think of the kind of adult they will be.
As parents, we can help guide our kids and give positive direction so that not winning a trophy doesn’t devastate a child, but we can help them see it as a bump in the road.
I advocate that the priority in sports needs to be fun. Awards should not take away from that goal, and they should never be the goal, but there is a place for them in youth sports.
So, my answer to the “Should we have awards?” question is… “Show me the medal