Trophies or Life-Lessons.

by Risa Green


Both of my kids had their last basketball games of the season yesterday. As much as I hemmed and hawed about the weekday practices and the games on the weekends, I’m really glad that they both played. For my daughter, basketball has toughened her up a bit – when she first started playing, if she would get bonked on the nose or the head with a ball, she’d burst into tears and come running off the court. But after discovering that running off the court means she can’t go back into the game until the next time they call subs, she’s learned to shake it off and keep playing. And my son…well, when he started this season, he was totally oblivious. On defense, he would stand in his “box” with one hand up and his other hand in his mouth, facing the wrong way and not even noticing that there was an entire game going on behind him. I won’t pretend that he transformed into an aggressive, dominant player, but at least now when he runs down the court he’s paying attention, and not whispering pyooh-pyooh as he shoots at imaginary bad guys on the side lines.


So yes, basketball has been a positive experience for my kids, and I believe that doing drills and learning to pass and understanding the dynamics of a team are great lessons for both sports and life in general. And that, I think, is a reward in and of itself. But because we live in an age where children must always be made to feel special and important and where having something tangible is always better than having something intangible, simply feeling good about your season is not enough. No, yesterday, after their team parties, my children were both presented with trophies. And not little trophies, mind you. I measured. These trophies are fifteen inches high, and depict golden players dunking in mid-air atop silver and black pillars, with my kids’ names and the names of their teams inscribed into the bases. I mean, if you walked into my son’s bedroom and saw this trophy on his bookshelf, you would think I had a sixteen year-old state champion who was being recruited by Division 1 hoops programs; not a five year-old in the Cheviot Hills Recreational Center’s Little Dribbler’s Division.



All of you moms are right on. Children who are rewarded for mediocrity grow up to have sense of entitlement any business article about how employers are having to deal with the Millennial Generation for proof. Chances are also good that the parents, who expect a trophy for their kid showing up, have not earned many accolades in their own lives.

I recently won an award at work and my 5 year old daughter said that she wanted an award, too. We told her that she would have to work hard at whatever she loved doing and the rewards would come. Better to deal with these issues when they are tiny than when they are teens.


I agree. I'm not a fan of the trophies either and it doesn't have the same meaning as it used to when I was growing up.


My 7-year old competed in a Tae Kwon Do tournament this weekend and there were no participation trophies. We talked to her about this before she went and I'm sure she would have been upset for a little bit had she not won but she did end up winning two trophies and she knows that she earned them. Granted, there were only 8 kids in her division but she won 2nd in and event and 3rd in another. Those tropies are proudly displayed in her room because she earned them (against kids bigger than her, I might add - okay, the bragging mom moment is over! LOL)

There are still activities out there that don't reward kids for just showing up and I'm glad we found one.


So agree with the comments made in this article...we were just talking about this very subject at a recent family function.
We also broached the topic with how teachers are doing this in the classroom now also with behaviour rewards, homework completion etc...whatever happened to work is work and it must be done to the best of your ability...there is not always a "reward" for completion of your regular tasks.


Risa, I also agree with this. The only time that I received a trophy was when my basketball team won in a tournament or when we were our conference champions. What I still remember to this day was the end of the year banquet when my seventh grade coach referred to me as his "Avis" player - basically the sixth girl off of the bench. Those kind words meant more to me than any trophy. To this day, he is one of my favorite coaches. Sports are all about the lessons you learn. You shouldn't get a prize for merely participating - a certificate is fine for that.


Risa, I couldn't agree more. And yet I felt like I was weird when my former husband was coaching and, instead of giving trophies, he printed out "certificates" that pointed out just how each child had improved. The looks of disappointment (from the parents!)

You get a trophy when you deserve it, you get an appreciation for trying hard and a "maybe next year."

It isn't the kids that asked for it; it's the parents that allowed (demanded?) it