By the time my first-born was three years old, we had to fashion a makeshift 'hall of fame' in his room. He had medals from soccer, trophies from skating and t-ball, ribbons from swimming lessons, and too many certificates and player-of-the-game prizes to count.
Phenom, right? Superstar athlete, best at everything he tried, winner of all games, will it be NBA, NHL, MLB... how will we chose?
There were about a thousand other kids just like him - and they ALL needed trophy cases. Because everything our kids do, these days, ends in a gala, a championship, a medal ceremony, a graduation... and everyone wins.
I'd questioned what we were teaching him the first time he brought home a full colour, pricey-looking trophy from skating lessons during which he barely stood up for 6 months.
First - what the heck is this for?
And second - how much of my registration fee went to paying for this?
Oh, and third - where are we going to put all of this stuff?
It wasn't until a few more sports seasons ended that I realized the bigger question really was: Does this medal/trophy/ribbon even mean anything to my kid when everyone gets one?
We have old trophies in the basement from my husband's parents house. They have inscriptions like "League finalist" or "3rd place women's tennis" or "Hole in One". They MEAN something. The person who received them - individual or team - WON something or placed well.
Now, most of the trophies my kids bring home don't even have anything written on them, because they haven't won ANYTHING! They just showed up.
My husband and I have both enjoyed competing in sports. When it comes to our kids, especially in the preschool years, all we really wanted them to do was participate and have fun. Commit to being on a team and try your best. That's it. Preschool sports usually don't have 'finals' or 'championships' or even keep score half the time. Which is great. So why do we feel they all need to be 'rewarded' with a trophy at the end, just for showing up?
My internal jury was still a bit out on this question, because of course my kids like getting the trophies and medals and showing them off and wearing them around and displaying them. So who was I to take that away from them? But still I wondered 'what will it mean when they actually do win something... or when they don't?'
I found out this week.
That once three-year-old is now almost eight. His hockey team didn't make the final championship game this year. So he will go and watch some of his friends play instead, and he will (hopefully) be a good sport and cheer them on. And as we discussed the logistics of going to the game and the importance of cheering on other teams, he asked me: Do you think we'll all get a trophy?
Can't blame the kid. This may be the first year of playing sports where he didn't get a trophy just for showing up. And I'm glad. Because I asked him, Do you think you should?
He said, No, because we didn't win. The team that wins should get the trophy.
Ah ha. That's what I've been thinking these past five years... and I don't think my kid needed to be eight before he figured it out.
So what do you think - do all kids need a trophy at the end of every season? Or can they begin to learn at a young age that they don't need to be rewarded just for showing up?