In the past few years I have heard comments from various people about how the current generation is being spoiled by getting trophies and ribbons for participation in sports activities and team membership even if they are the least accomplished person on the team. The last person across the finish line gets a ribbon at the school field day just the same as the first. It is usually a frustrated comment such as “Everyone wins in this generation. We had to earn our trophies and ribbons”. This topic of trophies came up recently for me and it made me think about the significance of trophies and awards.
Way back in the 1960’s, many of us were recipients of awards for being part of the team, participating in field days and other activities where we did not “win” any event or competition to earn those awards. This is not a new thing our current generation is experiencing.. Those who make the statements about this generation being coddled by getting awards for doing “nothing”, might be able to trace back through their memories to see if maybe sometime in the past they did get a team trophy in soccer, softball, T-ball, or swimming, just because they were on the team, or maybe it was a participation ribbon. As a recipient of awards for participation, and for competitions where I won, I believe there is value in the both types of awards. This article is about the trophies everyone gets.
A person who is near and dear to me, recently passed away. Among the many items that she owned were her sports awards. Many, many sports awards! Bowling trophies, softball trophies, golf trophies, and skiing medals and awards. She won a lot of awards through her skill and hard work at these sports. What could be done with all of the awards? Something that would honor her accomplishments. Family members really had little room to display them at their homes as a tribute and in memory of her. Although she was famous within her family and community, we did not think it was the kind of fame that would draw a crowd at a charity auction. You know, like when the personal belongings of someone like Babe Ruth goes up for auction to benefit a cause.
It was decided to donate the awards, but to whom? I had heard of teachers re-purposing trophies to give to their students. The accomplished athlete who earned all of the awards was also an excellent teacher so we decided to reach out through social media to find a teacher who was planning to award some deserving students. A first grade teacher, Carol, was in search of these treasures. She gives an award to each child for some wonderful trait that they have that helped them succeed when things got tough during the school year. Yes, everyone gets an award.
When Carol came to my home to pick up the trophies, she recounted a story about giving out these awards in a previous school year. At the end of the day when all of the children were leaving school, Carol had overheard a child telling their mom about their trophy. When that child said “See, I’m not a loser.” it encouraged her even more to continue with this program. The trophy was visible, physical proof to that child that they had value.
So Carol searched out donations again this year. As a result, earlier this week, a small student walked out of school with a trophy. She has a special trait that helps her succeed and she knows she has value. Her teacher says so. And she has a trophy to prove it and to remind her of it. Each of her classmates also have special traits and are successful and they have the trophies as evidence of their accomplishments.
So the team trophy a child earned represents stepping out of a comfort zone to be part of a team and perseverance to stick it out to the end. The participation award a child brought home after the field day shows that the recipient had the courage to put themselves into the activity. They did earn those awards even if they all got one! Success is not always equal to winning. That little first grade student Carol told me about, not only earned a bowling or baseball trophy, they also earned respect and self-worth by overcoming something that was a challenge to them. They are a success. The trophy just helps to remind them when they might need visible evidence of their value.
Lynn Benson is the Managing Member of Benson Products, LLC and a retired Physical Education teacher, former Aquatic Supervisor, and the mother of 3 and grandmother of 7. Lynn is the inventor of Splash Count portable sports clock and counter. Splash Count is a 4 digit 6 inch display that can be used as a timer, pace clock, scoreboard, play clock and more. It is battery powered and waterproof for use anywhere. It now has a signal horn. This article is based on Lynn's observations and opinion.