I was planning on posting a different blog about sports this week, but with all the attention surrounding James Harrison making his sons return their participation trophies I decided to switch it up.
I may not be a mother, but as a former collegiate athlete I have pretty good insight into the lifestyle. As a high level gymnast I remember winning, but most of the time I remember the trophies I didn’t win. The countless 2nd and 3rd place medals, the endless tears, and the heartbreaking losses my teams endured throughout the years. I also remember my parents being at every single meet, watching on the edge of their seats hoping I wouldn’t screw up knowing I would beat myself up. I was harder on myself than my parents were on me. They let me drown in my sorrows until I decided to work harder. They didn’t console me, they let me console myself and were always there, at arms length, if I needed support from them. That’s what made me, and many of my friends and teammates, successful in the sport. Winning was rare, it still is.
It seems like society has turned sports into “everyone gets a trophy.” When in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sports are about teaching kids discipline, hardwork, perseverance, and to keep pushing themselves to be better. When have you heard a parent say, “I put my kid in sports so they can participate.” How are they going to improve if they get a trophy for simply being present? At some point you have to let them fail on their own, without receiving a trophy. Then, you have to let them overcome that on their own.
I want my future kids to learn how to be a gracious loser and a humble winner because the feeling you get as a champion is worth the pain you suffer as a loser. Parents should be there supporting, encouraging, and pushing until their kid is successful in whatever it may be. If that means making them give back their participation trophies, then so be it.
Losing betters you as an athlete and as a person.