Pittsburgh Steelers' Linebacker James Harrison made national news by making his two sons return "Participation Trophies," awards they received for showing up to a summer sports camp.
This is what the 37-year old former Baltimore Raven posted on his Instagram account:
The message above starts out with "I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for doing nothing."
He goes on to say that "these trophies are going back until they EARN a real trophy."
Harrison has confirmed that the trophies have been returned.
Although I agree with the sentiment for the most part, I do believe in participation awards when they are age-appropriate. For instance, everyone gets a medal in tee-ball at 6 or 7. That's fine.
By 10-12, kids start to really separate by commitment and talent and those traits should be rewarded.
James Harrison's boys are 6 and 8. I would NOT return my kids participation trophies at that age. I may not agree with the trophies for just showing up, but I would not take something from my kids that every other child received. I think they understand later in childhood that they have to earn awards; the message needn't be dramatically drilled into them early.
However, I hate the idea of not keeping score and changing the rules so everyone can excel. That is done just for the parents, not for the kids. Even when parents call every game a tie, the kids know the score.
I love this scene from the movie Parental Guidance when a Sports Crazed Grandfather, played by Billy Chrystal, shows up to his son's little league game.
Children need to learn the rules of the game. They need to learn to compete. To learn good sportsmanship and teamwork. Those lessons go hand in hand with learning failure and success.
But there is a correct age for those lessons too. Very young children should be encouraged to participate. That, in and of itself, is an important life lesson. As Woody Allen said, "90% of success is showing up."
So I am all for Participation Trophies for little kids. James Harrison's boys are young enough to be rewarded for participating.
And I certainly would never rip the trophy out of my kids' hands. Instead, I would tell them how they could EARN bigger and better trophies, now that they got a taste of what success is like.
What do you think?
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