You're A Winner!

And you're a winner. And you over there-- you're a winner. And so is your friend, your sister, your cousin. Hey-- even your opponent is a winner. We are all winners!

I'm a little late on the news article that swept social media recently, but it took me awhile to unscramble my thoughts on it. The article: James Harrison says he returned his sons' trophies because they didn't earn them

My first thought? Go, James! Here are his words from his Instagram account @jhharrison92:
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
Just before school began, we did Mom's Annual Summer Room Cleaning. (If you don't already do this, you should. I give a summer's worth of fair warning, and the boys are required to clean and de-clutter their rooms weekly, but MASRC-- which is oddly similar to MASSACRE-- is where I go in, and ransack organize everything mostly using an industrial sized trash bag. Among the treasures I found this year-- rocks, string, broken pencils, nuts, washers and the innards of at least one baseball.) The keeper section included dusty awards and trophies. Yes, those very same types of t-ball trophies that Mr. Harrison returned. At the time of MASRC, I almost tossed them (especially since there are several once broken, now re-glued and even a few missing arms), but I didn't because they mean something to my son.

But there was something nagging at me about the whole situation. And it came to me during my training run. The training run I was doing for an event where I will earn yet another finisher medal (or headband in this case).
I am those kids! Not only have I received participation medals-- I have them proudly DISPLAYED.

Of the 36 medals, exactly 5 have been real podium finishes. Maybe I'm trying to justify keeping my medal display, but here are my thoughts on MedalGate:

1. Earned, not given. Typically, the finisher medals we adults are given at a finish line aren't just representative of finishing one event-- they represent finishing a season of training and sacrifice, of plotting and mapping out progress. Participation trophies say, "Hey, you paid to be on the team. You may have made a great play or chased butterflies in the outfield, but who cares?! You get a reward. Everyone is equal."

2.  Celebrating hard work. The marathoner wouldn't trade that first marathon finisher medal for anything in the world. (Ok, they probably would, but go with me here.) That first medal represents life lessons that are hard to learn under other circumstances-- sacrifice, diligence, pain and mental toughness. The t-ball kid chucks the trophy at his parents and heads for the cupcakes.

3. Someone really is keeping score. Now, here is where I feel that both worlds collide. Even though there aren't any outs in t-ball; even though the powers that be aren't keeping track of each team's win/loss record... the kids are and the parents are. They know who sucks, and who is awesome. Who is in it to win it. And who is in it because it's a time-filling activity.

So, am I chucking my medal display into the trash? I considered it. For about 5 seconds. Because, darn it, I know what they mean to me. I look at them and see years of training plans, puddles of sweat, aches and pains, going to bed early and getting up at o'dark thirty. I see miles of sunrises, faces of people I've trained and raced with, and all the friends I've made.

The solution: teach your kids the value of hard work. Teach them that good character, talent and hard work can never be measured by a physical reward. The reward comes in completing a task to the best of our abilities with a positive and encouraging attitude.


  1. Thanks for your insight on this great topic! The value of teaching kids about hard work is priceless yet it is worth it. Also celebrating the medals of participation in a season of hard work and accomplishment is of value.


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