Every Child…Wins?

I was talking to our neighbor’s grandson the other day. He was sharing with me that he had just finished up his baseball season, and had gotten a trophy. I said, “How nice.” At the ripe old age of eight, he responded with, “Everyone gets one,” – with a mixed expression of disappointment, while questioning it’s purpose. Wise beyond his years.

What is the purpose of everyone receiving a trophy? Is it for the betterment of the children, or the parents? Children know when they have done a good job – whether it is making their bed, doing a project for school, or playing sports. When everyone gets a trophy, that kind of wipes out the whole purpose of working toward something…to achieve, win, or reach your goal.

It can be difficult for children to work through a disappointment, unless they are given the opportunity to learn ways to deal with it. Some disappointments can be but a fleeting moment, while others take time to work through. If children do not learn how to deal with the little disappointments in life, how will they be prepared to meet the bigger ones? Or, are we building them up to expect, in a sense, what they have not earned? Perhaps feeding a sense of entitlement? Being a part of a team can be a great experience, in itself, and one that a child can use outside the game.

My children have received trophies from various sports over the years…along with everyone else on the team. It might have meant something in the moment, but there was no connection making it special. One that held a sense of accomplishment. Winning a spelling bee, being on the honor roll, or going to the state championship meant more…because they worked toward a goal, and achieved it. They enjoyed sports, and being involved in the game. They played on different levels, with various skills, for as long as their interest was there. It was not about the trophy. They usually wound up in a box in their closet. I am still trying to get some to their rightful owner…how many years later? (I may start re-gifting them on their birthday. : )

I don’t know about you, but to me, it is important to work toward a goal, big or small. A sense of accomplishment grows from within. Being a part of a team is an accomplishment. Having the support of family at games is encouraging. Dealing with disappointment is a stepping stone toward maturity. All are character builders. Everyone cannot be the best player, but…they can be encouraged to do their best. Children know when they have done their best. I don’t believe we are doing them any favors by not recognizing that. I believe children have a greater respect for what they have earned, or accomplished.

You know when you go to a fair, and businesses will offer promotional samples? They have pens, bags, a variety of items…all free. You may use some of the items, or visit one of the businesses. Both can be very useful. However, don’t you tend to take things you really do not need, because…they are free? Now, you have this bag of “stuff.” You get home…and where is it three weeks later? Maybe in the same spot, or in a drawer somewhere, or even hanging on the back of a closet door…for who knows how long. It may even find a spot next to the trophies, in the closet. It is just too easy to collect “stuff.” Our children don’t need “stuff.” Nor do we. “Stuff” can over-ride purpose.

Did you ever ask your child or grandchild about their trophy? I have heard many times over, “Everyone gets one.” I think that realization is more disappointing, than having only three children receive a trophy – for reaching specific goals, as a member of a team. Doesn’t that set a higher standard for working toward a goal? Encourage players to work harder? Set the stage for working through disappointment, instead of discontent? Build character?

Just some thoughts on a topic that has crossed my mind periodically over the years, having attended many sports awards dinners. Seeing the expression on my neighbor’s grandson’s face brought back these thoughts once again. I did not know how to answer him when he told me he had gotten a trophy. I could tell by his face that it really was nothing special. “How nice” was a feeble attempt on my part. I sensed he did not think it was nice. Honestly, neither did I. A trophy represents winning…a “victory.” If everyone gets one, where is the victory? To me, more is lost.

A trophy has got to mean something more than participation in a sport, alone.  Is it really in a child’s best interest? An important point to ponder.

3 Responses for " Every Child…Wins? "

  1. Ron Shaw Ron Shaw March 25th, 2015 at 12:11 am 1

    Suzanne, extremely well said. You are spot on!

  2. sholko sholko March 24th, 2015 at 11:54 pm 2

    Ron, Thank you for your comments, and most of all…for reading my blog. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and respect your input. I wholeheartedly agree, we are all unique. The practice of “everybody wins” does little to support the recognition of this “marvelous fact.” Such practice represents a lack of encouragement to work harder, or do better (when everybody wins) – when in all actuality – nobody “wins.” It becomes meaningless, as you inferred, and is void of the very foundation it takes for anything to meet with true success. And that would be, respect. This practice evolved from good intentions, I am sure. However, I like your reference to the Georgia morning dew. Suzanne

  3. Ron Shaw Ron Shaw March 17th, 2015 at 2:22 pm 3

    Suzanne, I could not agree more with every point you’ve made above, as well as with your reflections on such bland practices.
    We are all unique in our own way.and we should encourage and allow each person the opportunity to display that marvelous fact within their own skill set. Give them something to rise to rather than shrink from.
    Hopefully, most of us will not be shocked when “almost” becomes, “nothing really” due to such nonsense approaching meaningless.
    Thank you for your observations that are as current and prominent as this morning’s dew.I hope such practices will fade away as quickly as the Georgia dew.

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