Sports in America: Should Everyone Get a Trophy?

Chris Elliott@@NaturalBrn3illaContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2012

 We live in a very politically correct world.

We as a society have come to believe that everybody should feel good at all times, and no one should be left out. We start with the youth and the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality. Sure, it makes you feel great to get rewarded for doing something great but after having a horrible season, a trophy just seems to add insult to injury.

Now I'm not talking about the 6 year olds who come on to the field and give it their all for the fun of just playing a sport (score should not even be kept at this age, just let the little players find out if they even like the game), but when 13 and 14 year olds expect a trophy for showing up, I draw the line and I believe rightfully so. 

What are we teaching our kids?

That no matter if they win or lose in life they should be given a reward? That the ones who barely show up for practice, give half-hearted effort on the field and show no passion for whatever game they are playing should get a prize? I think not. This kind of entitled attitude not only leads kids to expect a reward for any effort given but also diminishes the concept and prestige of even receiving a trophy.

Even in our schools the tide has turned. Once upon a time in a kingdom far far away, letterman's jackets use to be the envy and desire of every upcoming freshman athlete. Just to smell the leather (or cloth when they were sweaters) as you slipped on the jacket with your school's letter on it... grand memories. These jackets were reserved for the best of the best. Now, however, it is not only acceptable but demanded that theatre and band members get letters for their efforts. I remember being shocked when I learned that some of my friends "lettered" in drama.

I call a technical, red card and time in the penalty box.

I am not here to debate or belittle the effort and talent it takes to succeed in these other areas. It is very hard work to learn to play an instrument or to take on an emotional character, and I applaud the ones that do. However, Kobe Bryant doesn't get a Grammy or an Oscar for having a 50-point game. Marlon Brando was never voted MVP of any sporting league because he played Stanley Kowalski particularly well. If we do not do this in adult life, why give kids a false impression of this in their schools?

The point is that when we give a reward for little to no effort or to every team that participates, we set kids up for failure. We give them the idea that it is OK to "just show up," give just enough effort and that at the end of the day "everybody wins." On the other hand, I understand how heart breaking it is to see a team try its best all season only to end up in last place. I have been there. When this particular team was asked by one parent about trophies, they declined them. They understood the value of a trophy and that they, even though they worked very hard, did not earn one.

Competition is life. The jobs that we have, I am sure that many others applied to have the same position as we are now holding. Not everyone gets the job. Healthy competition and a desire to be the best for a certain reward or job are beneficial in life. The old saying "No points for second place" is true as is Vince Lombardi's famous statement "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses then why do they keep score." We cannot have it both ways. We cannot expect to give away awards to everyone who plays and then expect kids to understand when they grow up that going dancing after losing the Super Bowl is not OK. 

On the other side, to just give away awards meant for sports to anyone who works hard is to diminish the value of the award. Just because I work hard to be a good soccer coach does not mean that I should be considered for first chair in an orchestra. Hard work and dedication to ones profession or hobby should be rewarded but not with another areas valued awards.

Otherwise, a future Bobby Fischer could become the next Heisman Trophy winner.