Participating in youth sports is not only a great way for kids to get much needed exercise, it teaches valuable life lessons. Even though my kids are still relatively young (7 and 9) and in the "play sports just for fun" stage, I can't help but notice how much different most youth sports leagues operate as opposed to when I was little.
My daughter's soccer season wrapped up recently. It was a great season and the girls had a blast. Her team won only 1 game this season. My daughter isn't the best player on the team, nor is she the worst. She really enjoyed being with her friends. Score isn't "officially" kept at these games but the goals do count and are recognized. Still, the girls in this league definitely knew when they had won and when they had lost.
My daughter's team played their final game of the losing season against the best team in the league. Predictably, my daughter's team lost badly. This opposing team had superior talent and the coach definitely had her players competing at a high level. I give the opposing coach a lot of credit. She was actually helping our players when they were confused and she made a point to have her players pass the ball more before scoring on my daughter's team.
When the game was over both teams went to their sidelines and celebrated the same way. Both teams received trophies. Not first-place trophies and second-place trophies. They were the same. I found it strange. I felt a little sorry for the winning team. When I was little the best team received the trophy and the losing team may have received a participation award and was instilled with a message of trying harder next time in order to achieve the trophy. How is a trophy even special any more if everyone receives the same one?
I thought maybe it was just the league my daughter had joined or that the trophy policy was because she was a young girl. But, my older son's flag football team in an altogether different league operates the same way. Trophies and pizza for everyone.
Terry Foster of The Detroit News and the "all sports" 97.1 The Ticket radio station relayed a youth sports story recently that had me rethinking some of the messages our kids are getting from youth sports. I'll also put in a disclaimer... I know Terry quite well and I'm familiar with his situation. My husband worked extensively with Terry for years in my husbands' former radio life.
Terry's daughter, 12-year-old Celine, has been playing soccer from a very early age. She's an elite soccer player and clearly the best on her team. Recently, her team had an awards banquet where all the players received an award for their style of play. Terry was pulled aside by the coach before the ceremony and was notified that Celine wouldn't be receiving the "Most Outstanding Player Award" this season because "she won it last year." Is that really sending the right message? Terry told his daughter after the ceremony and stated that Celine was disappointed because she deserved the team's highest honor. I not only feel badly for Celine, I feel badly for the girl who received the award. Even at her young age, I have to think even she knows that Celine deserved the award and that she was awarded it by default.
I can distinctly remember my youth sports experiences from years gone by. Sometimes my team got slaughtered and the losing built character. Occasionally, when we lost we received a participation certificate. Sometimes my team won it all and we received a trophy and were reminded that the trophy was a symbol of teamwork, dedication, good coaching and a little luck.
The whole trophy situation in youth sports doesn't reflect real life. Everyone doesn't get one. Trophies and awards are meant for the ones who achieve and go above and beyond.
My daughter worked really hard on her soccer skills and she had fun the entire season. But... some day the time will come where she's in a situation where second-place (or any place other than first-place) means "nice try" or "better luck next year."
I thought youth sports would teach life lessons, like they taught "back in the day." My daughter would have been happy to walk away with out a trophy, and I also don't want to be taking anything away from those celebrating first-place.
About the author:
Lisa LaGrou is the founder of OaklandCountyMoms.com. She and her team work to present quality content to their readers. Lisa likes to provide information and options for families about a myriad of topics without preaching or condoning. If she experiences something, she want to share it. If she doesn't know about something, she tries to find information to share. She's delighted when people contact her with suggestions about content and resources. For more information on how to become a member of Oakland County Moms click HERE.