Everyone Guaranteed a Trophy

A friend of mine recently posted an Ann Arbor summer camp flyer on her Facebook page with the caption, “Anyone who knows me knows why this bugs me so bad! Any guesses?” 

On the camp flyer was the phrase, “Everyone guaranteed a trophy!” 

I know my friend well. No need for me to venture a guess. 

When I was growing up playing sports, I had to “earn” a trophy. Whether playing football, basketball or baseball, this meant that my team had to be better than all the other teams on the field of play. The team with the best record at the end of the season walked away with the trophy.

Furthermore, my playing time was “earned” and not guaranteed. The best players played the most. This was true even when I played tee ball (we played competitive tee ball up until the age of 8 years old). 

When I was in grade school, the 7th and 8th grade combined to make one baseball squad. There was only so many jerseys. When the final roster was read aloud, my name was not on the list. I was devastated. I had never been cut from a team in my life. 

I remember sitting by myself with tears in my eyes, waiting to see my dad’s car pull up. When he arrived, he took me to my favorite restaurant. Over dinner, he let me vent my frustration. I told him how much better I was than many of the boys that made it over me. I was better, right? To his credit, my dad mostly listened. He didn’t admonish the coach or acquiesce that I got short changed. Rather, he helped me deal with disappointment. He helped me deal with failure. He let me cope with the situation.

Developing coping skills at an early age is indispensable in dealing with life’s many challenges. However, when “everyone is guaranteed a trophy,” we as parents are not allowing adolescents the opportunity to develop these necessary skills. 

I have been coaching and instructing young, aspiring athletes for much of my life. In that time, I’ve witnessed way too much coddling and not enough tough love. As a result, I see these kids develop an attitude of entitlement. Kids whine and cry when they do not play enough or when things don’t go well for them. I have no patience for this type of behavior. 

I don’t blame the kids, I blame the “trophy givers” — the parents. 

Over the years, I’ve had parents take me aside and question why their child is not playing more, or playing a particular position more, or batting higher in the line up, or maybe I’m a little too hard on their little pride and joy. Many times, these parents tell me how much better their child is than so-and-so’s child. To their chagrin, these parents find out quickly that this does not change the situation. Bottom line, each player earns their playing time. Typically, these parents leave the program for greener pastures because, as we all know, the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side of the fence. 

For the record, I coach a team that has one of my sons on the roster. Over the past two years, my son has played the least amount of innings, has had the least amount of at-bats, of any player on the roster. Yes, he has to earn his playing time. Importantly, I ask him if he enjoys playing baseball and he always tells me, “Dad, I love it!” He’s getting all the development and training and he’s working towards a goal of making the high school team. As a father, I’m very proud of him. He’s handling his situation very well. 

Not everyone makes the team. Not every student is valedictorian. Not everyone gets accepted to their first choice of colleges.  Not every applicant gets the job offer. Not everyone gets the coveted corner office. 

Not everyone gets a trophy. 

Let your child deal with a little adversity. They’ll be better for it.