This whole concept (when it was first "mentioned" by the mass media in August 2015) went in one ear and out the other because I thought the whole story was absolutely foolish. But now that I think about it, this should really be given a bit more attention more than ever. It's gotten pretty nasty out there.
Oh no, I'm kicking this off with a video. (whine whine whine) But if you haven't seen this advertisement, watch it. It will set the tone for this whole thing.
We're definitely going this route. It's either going to make you pull out a lighter and sway it, or it's going to make you rage-quit this read before it even begins.
If you played a sport when you were younger than the age of ten, there was a chance that you would get recognition at the end of the year for being a team player and participating to the best of your ability. That recognition would come in the form of either a medal or a tiny plastic trophy. If you worked really hard and played like a monster, then you were as happy as a clam when you were given your little plastic weapon of pride. (Sidenote: Don't lie--you probably used the thing as a sword at one point or another.)
In August of 2015, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took his viewpoints on this practice to social media, for his two sons earned awards for participation in the sports they were playing. Some of the things he had mentioned alluded to effort, and that your best isn't always enough. He had wanted the awards to be taken back, as his sons didn't respectfully earn them, and he wants his boys to become men by learning what it truly takes to achieve something like a trophy or a medal.
You can read what he had written in this article here.
At first read, Harrison's words can come off as sounding rather harsh, considering that you never wanna hurt a child's pride for supposedly earning something. On the other hand, reality can be pretty harsh as well. Sometimes you will have a day where, no matter how hard you try to get something done or to accomplish whatever you need to, it isn't enough, or someone just magically happens to outdo you. It sucks, but it happens, and don't deny that something like that has never happened to you. The world isn't out to screw you up, but to be the best at something, it takes more than just blood, sweat, and tears. Heck, it might even take an arm and a leg.
These kinds of "awards" are usually pretty appropriate for those who love to play a sport, but aren't simply quite getting it, or they're slower learners and show the great amount of effort each time they play or practice. I can't begin to tell you how many people I had played with in the very beginning who had made this ridiculous improvement as time progressed and became really good to the point where they were making varsity teams in high school. Like, the participation award is seen as recognition that you worked your butt off and you deserve praise for getting as far as you did. Then, that becomes your vehicle to keep moving forward and get even better.
But it isn't always like that...
The practice of participation awards may be solid and unfortunate proof in regard to the age of entitlement. While one person excels, one who may not perform as well is getting something that wasn't exactly earned. It's like you could slink right through and mess around as much as you want and still "earn" a trophy for being on the team. In society today, it isn't as if most children are doing the bare minimum just to get by--in fact, a lot of them are getting swamped by an errant education system and unnecessary stress--they don't have the quality of "effort earns rewards" instilled in them soon enough. They don't know that hard work gives the greatest rewards (or awards in this case). In fact, it's like a "I know I'm gonna get it anyway, so why bother trying anymore" attitude, and they'll simply plateau without making any sort of push or effort toward getting to where they need to be.
I get it. I seriously do.
If this life were easy, we'd all be millionaires at our physical apex and go through life without a care. I'd have gotten an Oscar by now for every single script I've written in the past four years. And trust me, some of them are baaaaaad. But honestly, we all have to earn what we want, and even though we might be absolutely awful at things we enjoy or have a passion for at first, that's the reason for why we train or practice or place more focus on that particular point. If it brings you happiness, there's no time limit and no limit to our will. Why get an award for wasting time on something you don't care for or won't put energy into? Plus, sports aren't exactly something you can jump right into. They will often take a lot of preparation, knowledge of the rules (don't touch the soccer ball with your hands unless you're the goalkeeper, duh), and some sort of physical conditioning, a.k.a. "knowing your limits."
While there are times and places for casual sports, like a quick game of basketball with your buddies, the mentality from that doesn't always translate well onto a more competitive playing field. Sure, sports are meant to be fun, but training a ton and then displaying your greatness on a professional level is fun as well. Those two examples exemplify two completely different definitions of "fun," but not all fun constitutes the need for you to win an award for just showing up each time. If anything, the award you earn for showing up is that you simply showed up. People who suffer from anxiety or low self-esteem may not even show up at all. That aside, there's more to the game. The rewards and awards from sports aren't always materialistic in nature. They're usually mental, emotional, and physical in the sense of being in better shape and condition.
Showing growth may not be represented by a trophy or a medal, and it might be high-time for kids to see that instead of materialistic entitlement. Actually, adults (most notably the parents) might need that realization too.
Oh, just so you know, these last two sentences above hurt to type out. Why? Because it shows how immature the fields of youth and teenage athletics have become. It's despicably cutthroat in every sense of the term, and the entitlement syndrome hits all age groups addressed like a wrecking ball.
When you "win," you don't always win. You win when you grow or when you accomplish a goal. Too bad everyone wants a big giant cookie for that so the whole world can see it.