By Heather Keller
Asst. Sports & Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
During years of playing recreational youth league sports, I had racked up just about every design, size and color of team trophies that were available in my town trophy shop.
At the age of four, I began playing two seasons of soccer a year, which eventually turned into three seasons of sports when I began to play basketball. In seventh grade I finally decided to try softball after years of telling my dad I wouldn’t play because I only wanted to play baseball.
With softball now added to the mix, I had acquired over 25 participation trophies as I prepared to go to high school.
The feeling of excitement I once had when receiving a trophy had slowly deteriorated and it was now just something I expected when the season’s award banquet was held. Trophies had overtaken my room and the ones that I didn’t like to look at anymore strategically found their way to the garbage.
The hunk of cheap plastic and metal held no sentimental value as everyone on the team was called up at the banquet to claim their identical trophy.
The idea behind giving kids trophies is that if we tell them they’re wonderful and special, they’ll develop a sense of fearlessness and then hopefully become more willing to do difficult things.
As a child, I had no sense of purpose built from those numerous trophies. My dedication to play would continue into high school. However, once competition began to intensify and coaches were not required to put every player into the game, I eventually became more aware of myself.
This realization was something that would not have come from admiring awards that everyone had in their homes. It was not about whether I was a mediocre player, or a stand-out star. It was about the false sense of security that those participation trophies had instilled into me. Even if I did not comprehend that at the time of receiving each trophy.
Children learn about life from their surroundings and what is introduced to them. I am thankful that sports were presented to me from an early age and their impact on my life has been tremendous.
As cliché as these lessons are, playing sports taught me the value of teamwork, persistence and dedication.
However, the most important aspect of sports in my eyes is the overall value of hard work finally paying off.
I don’t think that being handed trophies throughout my years of recreational sports stunted my personal growth. I also don’t think it would have shaped me into someone who believed that everything in life would be handed to me if I just showed up. Yet, that’s not a universal finding.
Parents play a huge role in the lives of young athletes. Having people I respected and looked up to tell me that playing and developing my skills in sports was what the trophy represented. For me, that was important to my personal growth.
I think that starting children in sports at a young age is good for the mind and body. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and opportunity to learn a great deal of lessons, whether they are immediately apparent or not.
As for obligatory participation trophies, I do not think they are necessary for those lessons to be learned.