I’m So Proud!

Everyone deserves a trophy!

One of my sons — I had to swear I wouldn’t tell you which — got 8th place in summer bowling! Out of  how many teams? Well, I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but it was a single digit number. Naturally he got a trophy!

P.S. For the record, the 9th place winner (can we possibly call him the, er, loser?) gets a “Horse’s A**” trophy, which my son says he was aiming for. Because THAT, at least, would have been pretty cool.

63 Responses to I’m So Proud!

  1. Elizabeth September 7, 2010 at 4:50 am #

    This is awesome. I am cracking up here. I mean… no disrespect to your son, of course. YOU’RE NUMBER EIGHT! But for a teenage tournament? This is great. So of course the first prize trophy is just that much cheaper (literally and figuratively) because of it.

  2. Vinny September 7, 2010 at 4:51 am #

    I hate this so much.

    Politicians have been racking their brains for years trying to figure out why our students aren’t as competitive as others around the world. It’s becoming more and more obvious why they aren’t; look at what happens in competitive fields like sports! 8th out of 9th wins a trophy. What’s the motivation? The trophies are pretty much meaningless!

    I’m not knocking your son, but my head explodes when I see this. Trophies are given for great achievements, not showing up. That’s why our kids aren’t competitive any more. We’ve been spending entirely too much time instilling in them this “we’re all winners” crap.

  3. Sarah at Bella Luna Toys September 7, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    Love it! My son came in next to last in a sailing regatta this summer. He didn’t get such a handsome trophy, though!

  4. Allison September 7, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    One of my proudest mom moments:

    Last year’s Cub Scout Raingutter Regatta, when my 8-year-old son didn’t win any races since he kept blowing over his little wooden Harry Potter boat (which he made and was really cool looking, by the way!). When they were giving out the trophies, to everyone of course, he didn’t take his, saying he didn’t actually win anything. My heart melted!

    He’s obviously caught on to my annoyance with the “everybody wins” mentality!

  5. EricS September 7, 2010 at 6:16 am #

    @Vinny: At that age, I don’t think “competitiveness” should be the main objective. Really, it’s about sportsmanship and participation. The competitive aspect can come later. I’m a pretty competitive person, but not to the point where I’m pushing my nephew or other kids friends. Some kids aren’t meant for sports (no implication intended Lenore). So why push them at something they either don’t like, or something they just aren’t wired for. That’s the problem with sports parents. Just like helicopter parents instilling their fears on to their children, so do sports parents instill their own self competitive nature on their kids. There will be plenty of time for true competition. But when your that young, just learn and enjoy the game. The competitive nature will come out when they’re ready. Again, kids are very perceptive, so they know that even an 8th place trophy isn’t as good as a 1st place one. But getting a trophy period, encourages them to try harder. Telling them they’re losers, and losers get nothing at that stage will only discourage them more. They don’t know how to deal something like that. Let them enjoy their moment.

    Good for your kid, by the way Lenore. Congratulations. Even an 8th place trophy out of 9 is something to be proud of. It’s an achievement. Gives kids a sense of satisfaction of working with a team. You can also look at it as it’s not last place. 😉 Unlike Vinny, I feel this helps in motivating those that are true competitors at heart to strive for a better finish. Not only in sports, but in anything they set their minds and hearts on.

  6. timkenwest September 7, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    Wow, if this is what they handed out 8th place, how did First Place fit his/hers in the car?

    Anyone else remember when they awarded “merit” or “participant” badges?

  7. SKL September 7, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    LOL! Great job!

    My kids get “certificates” for participation all the time, and I rarely save them. The only one I recall saving is the swimming one, because it has check marks for what they’ve mastered and a recommendation for what class they should take next.

    But people think I’m terrible! How can you not treasure that piece of paper that proclaims you were a big enough sucker and had enough money to put your kid into a non-selective class?

    No thanks – I’ll save my file space for the real accomplishments. But Lenore, I just want you to know that you have real competition when it comes to being the Worst Mom in the World.

  8. Vinny September 7, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    @EricS You’re arguing that water is cold, You’re telling me I’m wrong because it’s wet.

    Competitiveness is not a bad thing. Sportsmanship and participation are not exclusive from competitiveness. You can reward participation and sportsmanship without giving every single kid who plays a trophy. Trophies should be given to the best kid on the team, the best team in the league, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding kids who perform better than other kids and it doesn’t have to be done at the expense of the 8th place team in a league of 10.

    You say giving them an 8th place trophy makes them strive to do better. I think giving the best a trophy makes the trophy and getting one much more of a reward when they hit the level to earn one. Obviously I’m not saying losing teams should have to be berated as losers (something you implied which I never said) because that’s just idiotic (but good job using a strawman), just that the reward isn’t worth much when you don’t have to really earn it.

    Participation gets a tee-shirt. Winners get a trophy. Teaching kids that there are things to strive for and that you don’t win awards in life just for being present makes much more sense to me, but I know that’s revolutionary in 2010.

  9. Vinny September 7, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    That first sentence should read:

    “@EricS You’re arguing that water is cold and you’re telling me I’m wrong because I’m saying it’s wet.”

  10. Becky September 7, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    @EricS, you say “at that age” competition shouldn’t be the main objective, but we’re not talking 4 year olds here. Based on the trophy, it looks like this was a teenage competition, and when teenagers sign up for a summer bowling league, they should be able to handle a little healthy competition without the promise of getting a trophy even if they come in last. I really don’t think giving every participant a trophy encourages kids to work harder to get the #1 trophy. After all, if your boss gave everyone a raise, no matter how hard they work, would you still be determined to work as hard as the hardest-working employee?

  11. Tamara September 7, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    LMAO!!!!!! Congrats to your winner of a son! Did he find the trophy funny?

  12. Tamara September 7, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    I just took a good look at the trophy. You know, for first place, all the pins should be knocked down, but I really feel like 8th place trophies should show the pins still standing. Just a thought.

  13. leah e. September 7, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    i agree with vinny. if everyone’s a champion, then no one’s a champion.

  14. Donna September 7, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    I agree with Vinny. Giving everyone a trophy negates the accomplishment of actually coming in 1st and EARNING a trophy. Giving everyone a trophy gives you nothing to work for. Why work to improve your skills to come in 1st if you’re just gonna get treated the same as Lenore’s son who came in 8th (non offense to your son, Lenore)?

    @SKL – I throw all those things away too. I think I even threw away the trophy she got for participating in Tumblebus at 2.5 but it may still be floating around her room somewhere. I did keep the swimming certificate for awhile because it truly was an accomplishment in my mind. My child went from refusing to put her face in the water to swimming on her own in 7 lessons. I was impressed and kept the certificate.

  15. KarenW September 7, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Lenore, that looks EXACTLY like the participation trophies my kids received for bumper bowling! Pretty cool for a 6 year old, not so much for a 14 year old.

  16. Mrs Embers September 7, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    I don’t get it. I mean hey, good for your son! But the whole “everybody gets a trophy” thing. I don’t think everybody getting a trophy is the best way to teach kids the value of playing for fun and good sportsmanship- I think it just teaches them that the value of the game lies in the prize (whether you win or lose), and that’s the point of playing. You’re going to get rewarded whether you try or not, and I think that might lead to a “what’s in it for me?” mentality that sticks with a person for a long time.

    There’s no need to rub it in if a team loses, of course, and I think the team that gets the trophy is in an excellent position to learn how to be gracious winners. And by all means have a certificate or ribbon for a team or individual who’s showed the best attitude or been most supportive of the team or whatever, and encourage everyone to play fair and have fun. But I think kids should learn to go home happy with how they played and how much fun they had, with or without a trophy- maybe especially without.

  17. Jen September 7, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    In competitive gymnastics the awards are given out to half the number of participants. My son who works very hard at gymnast and loves the sport said one year when there were 45+ entrants in his category “Oh I am so glad that I was not 25th!”
    He was 27th or some thing like that, he and I talked about not getting a medal is way better than being 25th. We are told year after year that this is done so that more kids will stick with it. Why stick with it just for the trophy? Im looking for those kids to drop out so that the competition is real. Year after year I hope that we will come to the realization that competition is healthy. Like some of the other comments posted I agree that we should be teaching competition healthy competition in our young ones. It is good to learn to win, it is also very important to learn to loose. Not every one is a winner and to be a winner you better work hard really hard you need to be the best to be the winner. 8th and 25th are not a winners, they are good kids who tried and if they want to be winners they better try harder next time.

  18. kherbert September 7, 2010 at 9:23 am #


    I love this “Participation gets a tee-shirt. Winners get a trophy.”

    Also participation shirts have a lot of meaning for some kids. My students who were in the Science Olympian worked hard. Our school lacked supplies and equipment others had**. Still we placed in many of the contest. Even the kids who did not place were proud of their shirts. They wore them frequently.

    Last year the 4th graders hatched a plan – and on the day of the State 5th grade Science Test. The 4th graders wore their science Olympian shirts in support of the 5th graders on their 3rd straight day of testing.

    **We had to march students from the most affluent school to their “Chaperons” and demand a judge come over also to disqualify them from the contest the 3rd time we caught the brats stealing food from our kids lunch boxes. No place to lock them up. They were out on the table. The other school had lunch delivered for their kids from a relatively pricey place. (You were to buy pizza from the HS group sponsoring the contest. We did that also – but the kids brought snacks for the all day contest)

    Our principal got a call from the head of custodial services. After lunch and at the end of the contest our students asked for brooms and dust pans to clean up some trash that had fallen to the floor from our tables. Head of custodial services happened to mention that the same school with the little thieves had dumped their trash on the floor.

    We hold students responsible for their messes and after projects they are required to clean up. This includes sweeping up the floor.

  19. paul September 7, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    Last place in the Tour de France’s (21-day stage road race of 2000+ miles) is known as the *lanterne rouge*…”An honorific that goes to the last-place rider; it’s an odd but very real honor to be the final racer in the overall standings – it means you were too tough to quit.” – (Lance Armstrong’s coach-director Johan Bruyneel in his book, “You Might As Well Win”)

    Ok, this cycling honor is unofficial, but really only the 1st 3 placers get the attention, no? For a child sticking with a sport or project or hobby…and the activity itself isn’t its own reward…the child knows it’s a Special Olympics deal, this gewgaw. Why else the scruples on his identity? (Nice trophy, by the way!)

  20. erica September 7, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    Oh, @Timkenwest… where have you been? The child won’t need to fit anything in his or her car. The first prize IS a car.

    This will be my son’s first year playing soccer – he’s 5. He wants to know when he’s getting a medal. His cousin was in the Special Olympics at his school (mind you, it’s not the “real” Special Olympics, it’s just a taste of what it might be like in order to get parents/kids interested) and got a medal for each event he was in. Every student got a medal for each event, just for participating.

    Also, small pet-peeve (and I’m sure I’m going to get trash for mentioning it) of mine is when parents use the word ‘proud’. No one except the person doing the act can be proud. Simple definition. However, I hear parents using it all the time, as if they had anything to do with their child getting on the bus all by themselves, or sharing, or finishing their lunch or winning a trophy.

  21. crystalblue September 7, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    How fun! My daughter got FIRST PLACE in last Spring’s Girl Scout/Cub Scout boxcar derby. Of course the Cub Scout leaders wouldn’t let the girls compete against the boys — too scared of competition perhaps? Speed and style vs simply speed? My daughter got help from her dad but it was mainly her design.
    On the other hand last fall when she played soccer her whole team got little trophies. She was nigh atrocious at soccer, almost never hit the ball, and would barely run around the field. But she was enthusiastic, had fun, and got fresh air and exercise. Still I thought the trophy was silly.

  22. SKL September 7, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    I have a serious question for you all. What is the right age to start “competing”? My kids are 3.5 and are only recently starting to feel their ego hurt when they realize someone else is better than they at something. When they notice it, they will either try that much harder to prove their competence, or they’ll get frustrated and walk off or even act out. It also depends on whether they “lost” because they were lazy or because they really have inferior abilities.

    What, if anything, do you do differently when one child in a group has a disability that keeps her from being able to ever “win”? In my kids’ case, one has a vision-related disability and is literally years behind her younger sister in academics. She’s also petite, so though her motor skills are super, she still can’t always keep up. I’m sure that someday, she’ll be able to put it all in perspective and just appreciate the strengths she has. But right now, she’s not ready for competition. What are your thoughts on this?

  23. Eric September 7, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    That picture belongs on failblog.org!

  24. spacefall September 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    This kind of reminds me of the way school honor rolls were being handled when I was in junior high (within the last decade, folks.) You got first class honers if you averaged above 89%, honors if you averaged above 79%, and honerable mention if you averaged above 75%. Last I heard they had extended the parameters, so 1st class honors is 85%+, honors is 75%+, and honorable mention is 65%+. Now in order to get into standard (ie. non-remedial) classes in highschool you have to get about 65% in a given class, so anything lower than 65% could reasonably (if not technically) be seen as failing. So there is virtually no line between being an “honorable mention” student and flunking out.

    They also used to have a thing where 1st class honor students could skip out on class and go to the library, as long as they kept their grades up. Good system, kept the naturally gifted from getting bored with class, and definitely provided motivation for those like me that lingered just short of that distinction. That had to be taken away because it “wasn’t fair” to the crappy students. Honors kids used to get a special field trip (skiing was a popular choice); same deal, not fair to the less studious. Junior High was so easy for me that I couldn’t possibly have averaged less than 70% without really trying, but their stupid idea of fairness really took away the motivation to do well. Talk about a plan backfiring!

  25. spacefall September 7, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    *please forgive all of my horrible “honers” and the like. I have no idea what came over me.

  26. Uly September 7, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Also, small pet-peeve (and I’m sure I’m going to get trash for mentioning it) of mine is when parents use the word ‘proud’. No one except the person doing the act can be proud. Simple definition.

    Well, yeah – because you’re making up definitions. Or, rather, you’re arbitrarily taking away definitions. Same difference.

    Check it out, definition 1b: much pleased. You know, when my older niece stands up for her little sister, we’re all “much pleased”. We’re proud of her.

    Look at pride, definition 1c: delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship. When your kid aces the spelling test, and you know how hard he worked, it’s okay to say you feel pride. You’re doing a good job raising that kid, and you have some relation to him.

    You might think it’s weird and squicky, but not only is there no rule that you can’t use the words “pride” and “proud” to talk about your kids but those usages are defended by the lexicographers!

  27. Clark Cox September 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    This reminds me of the line from Pixar’s “The Incredibles”:

    “Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super, [laughs maniacally] no one will be.”

  28. Uly September 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    SKL, my thoughts are a. it depends on the kid and b. this culture really tends to revere competition to huge degree.

    I mean, we all laugh at “A trophy for coming in 8th out of 9 teams!”, but those trophies just reinforce the idea that competition is good – it’s not like they all go bowling and nobody keeps score at all. They keep score and rank the kids so as to give the right trophy. (Even if it is, frankly, a stupid trophy.)

    And I’m not saying competition is bad or wrong. I just don’t think it’s quite as necessary as a lot of people seem to think. I mean, look at the comments – competition is good because it “motivates” kids. Rewards are good because they “encourage” children. No doubt. But a lack of competition doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re all unmotivated, disencouraged slackers.

    There’s also a difference between competing against others, and competing against yourself. Your daughter isn’t going to be able to win against others in a lot of things just yet, and it’d be a bit heartless to ask her to when you already know she has no chance. But she can still get that feeling of success by improving against past performance.

  29. Dot Khan September 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    Good for your son. No matter the age, the value people put on a trophy depends on several factors. Is it for fun, exercise or whether the competition is against others or by how much self-improvement they can gain?
    My 90 year old dad couldn’t care about his bowling award and the banquet ceremony he won while legally blind.

  30. Scott September 7, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    Gosh, if the poor kid who came in 9th didn’t get a trophy too, I sure hope there was at least some sort of consolation prize for him.

  31. tommynomad September 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    What Uly said. Research pretty consistently demonstrates that competition–and the extrinsic motivations at its core–do not produce results.

    It seems to me that intrinsic motivation, that is: doing something for the joy of it, is much more in keeping with the needs of FRK. And it producers real, lifelong winners, unlike contrived competitions.

    ‘Gratz to your kid, Lenore.

  32. Lori September 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Giving prizes for participation is nothing new — they were doing it 25 years ago when I was on the swimteam. This picture made me laugh b/c it actually said he came in 8th place — they could’ve been nice and left that off. I think prizes or recognition for participation are great. Finishing something is an accomplishment and we should be proud of our kids no matter what place they come in. That being said, kids aren’t stupid and a prize for participating isn’t going to make them lazy or lose their competitive edge. Everyone on my swimteam knew those pink ribbons were for the slow swimmers and we all did our best to get a blue one. Save this trophy, Lenore, and pull it out at a family get-together 20 years from now. Everyone will have a great laugh.

  33. This girl loves to talk September 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    We just dont really do organised sport with our kids. Last 2 years we have done ‘little athletics’ (typical running and field things – discus, shotput, longjump etc) My 7 year old daughter was beyond excited when she got her ‘first ever trophy’ even though my girls are some of the worst in their age groups.

    However they knew they were not ‘the most improved’ or the age champion…. these people got a medal. The girls really want that now :)

    I think participation ‘something’ is good for kids to realise yes they did try and work hard at something all year. However not if everyone gets the same prize, or like some schools who I have heard ” dont allow a winner in races in the younger grades. YOu came first but you get nothing…. that really isnt fair.

    I constantly tell my kids about percentages. The chances of you coming first out of 20 kids??? I tell them to do their best but not to be upset if they dont win (which they do esp if they think they are good!!)

    my 9 year old daugher is always upset when she doesnt win the best dressed up prize at the school disco!! (3 times a year -I will biasedly say she often is one of the best dressed, but she is a little shy to flaunt it :)

    as a parent I can totally see why people hate competitiveness, esp when like at our school a tall boy with long legs wins everything no matter how hard the other kids try 😉

  34. Rich Wilson September 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    Adults may say the score is always “fun to fun” but kids aren’t dumb. Lenore’s son isn’t fooled by this trophy. If anything, it sounds just a little bit embarrassing. On the other hand, kids who are good at popular sports like football, baseball and basketball get treated like they really are more important. It seems like we should be able to settle on a happy medium. Encourage everyone, recognize achievement, keep our feet on the ground and our heads level.

  35. angelsandurchinsblog September 7, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    Everyone’s a winner… Sounds just like sports day at our school in Britain. Races, in theory, are competitive but children don’t receive individual points, just points for their house. And at the end, everyone receives a certificate for ‘Being a Great Sport’. Very confusing for the boy in our class who won every race, and just as confusing for the girl who refused to enter anything. Maybe I’ll tell her mother to send her to the States to learn how to bowl!

  36. Elfir September 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    I would hate to be given a trophy for 8th place… unless it was Tour de France or something like that with hundreds participating. It’s a physical reminder of doing poorly and I’d just want to throw it out. I’d far rather just get a stupid t-shirt.

    Little kid competitions can give out ribbons of various colors with no numbers marked on them. Wastes a lot less money than gold plastic too.

  37. Mrs Embers September 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Rich said: “Encourage everyone, recognize achievement, keep our feet on the ground and our heads level.”

    That’s what I was trying to say, but said much better! I don’t think encouraging huge competitiveness in kids is a good thing at all- I think focusing on winning to the exclusion of having fun is harmful to everyone who participates in a sport. But I think the solution is to give achievement the acknowledgment it deserves (like a trophy, NOT treating athletic kids like gods!) and to teach everyone to value his or her own progress and achievement, even without everyone getting a trophy.

    Some people’s stories here have reminded me of when I was in high school. There was a time when students with high marks (90% or above, I think) who had proved they knew course material and whose grades could pretty much only be hurt by exams were exempted from finals. It was a reward for hard work all year, recognition of achievement and protection of grades that could lead to scholarships.

    By the time I was in high school, they had done away with that because it “wasn’t fair to the other students”. There goes that motivation… It was a serious kick in the pants to anyone who had achieved really high grades. It was like, “It might be better for you guys, but if everyone can’t be high achievers, we’ll just pretend that nobody is so the others don’t feel bad.”

  38. Arianne September 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    @ Clark Cox, I was just thinking that myself. Actually, I can think of a few Pixar movies that have free-rangish themes: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, maybe even Wall.E to some extent (when I see the people on their little hover thingys, plugged into the personal screens instead of actual people, I think, “Yeah, it could certainly end up being that way–yikes!”)

  39. SKL September 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    I’m not big on competition, but the thing is, if you want to play a sport (team or individual) or even a musical instrument past the most basic levels, you don’t have many options to do this outside of competition. And if you do just pursue it on your own for fun, then it’s no longer a social activity. So what do you do with your kid who has no chance, but wants to play? You could say “just play to have fun,” but at some point, the child’s teammates and even their parents and coaches are going to give him a hard time if he’s dragging the team down. What are the realistic alternatives for a child who really wants to be involved and active? I know the obvious ones, but does anyone have any creative ways they’ve addressed this? (Anyone know of a midget athletic league??)

  40. L. Vellenga September 8, 2010 at 12:43 am #


  41. Once Fallen dot com September 8, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    Hey, I’ve been the perpetual underachiever all my life. It was so bad the secretary at the principal’s office went out and bought a trophy and awarded me a “best friend award.” That was my prize for being in the Principal’s office the most, maybe? Wish I still had the trophy.

  42. Laura September 8, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    @ Paul: I’m not sure about the origin of the Lanterne Rouge from the Tour de France, but I CAN tell you a little about another trophy for last place that is truly earned here in the United States.

    The “Red Lantern” is earned by the last musher and dog team to cross the finish line in the Iditarod Dogsled Race. On the First Saturday in March, the “Widow’s Lamp” is lit in Nome, AK, as the first musher/team leave the starting line, approximately 1000 miles south, in Willow. The lantern is hung on the Burled Arch (the official Finish Line), and remains lit until the last musher/team crosses the finish line. It symbolizes the lanterns that are hung outside shelters and buildings to help guide the teams on their quest. It also reminds folks that, even though the winner may have crossed the line, there are plenty of other brave competitors out there.

    The “Red Lantern” award came from this, and is awarded each year to the musher/team who crosses the line last. It started as a joke, but has become a symbol of ‘stick-to-itiveness’ in the Mushing world.

    That’s a Last Place Award worth fighting for!

  43. Laura September 8, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    @SKL… maybe your little one is better suited to individual sports. Growing up, I was NEVER that good at team sports – I only hit about half the balls that were pitched to me (and only then if it was a slow pitch!), and actively shied away from catching flies, whether it was a softball or a football. I discovered, however, that I was a really good swimmer – not so much in the team relays, but I did very well in long-distance. I was in ballet for years and years. And in middle school, I discovered that I could sit a horse better than almost anyone I knew. I *still* love to ride. And each of those sports/activities depended upon me improving my performance against myself. Sure, I competed as a long-distance swimmer for my team, but I was placed in the individual event that I did best in…and that benefited the team as a whole.

    The equestrian sports, I competed exclusively as an individual. And I was always judged on my ability, and mine alone. My only teammate was my horse, and even then, the judgment/competition was based on how well I guided the horse, rather than his performance alone.

    You’re right about music, though. I was in the band for most (ok, all, starting in 4th grade) of my school career. And there was always a competition for chairs, for solos, and for the better parts. The way around this, perhaps, is for her to choose a unique instrument, like oboe, bassoon, or Tuba (bands ALWAYS need Tuba players). There will be very little competition in those “sections”, and she will be more able to compete against her own abilities, rather than against others in the group. Even if there are others, it will only be one or two, as opposed to an entire section composed of firsts, seconds, and even thirds.

  44. Rich Wilson September 8, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    The thing to know about the Tour de France is that before the days of big contracts, many support riders earned their bread and butter from appearance fees at local smaller races. Anything that would get your name on peoples’ lips could be parlayed into a larger appearance fee. The person who could be announced at the start as “Last place in the Tour de France” could command more money just based on the novelty factor.

    I think there’s a similar problem with both the ‘everyone wins’ and ‘football stars are gods’ extremes. We miss identifying what kids are really good at, and interested in. It shouldn’t take a truck full of hicks to make Forest Gump find the joy of running.

  45. Donna September 8, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    @ SKL – As you said, you can play at basic levels without competition. That’s all that a 3.5 year old should be doing. Any sport at that age should be non-competitive. It’s more about learning the rules and techniques of the game. At 3.5, score should not be kept and the focus should be on acquiring skills. Rather than acknowledging winners or losers, each kid should be praised for their own mastery of the skills needed to play (intentionally kicking the ball in the correct goal is a big accomplishment at that age).

    All the general teams that I recall still had a bunch of really crappy, just playing because they want to play players on them well into elementary school. Unless you live in some uber-competitive area, standard rec teams usually run the gambit in quality of players. There may also be competitive leagues that require try-outs and selection but you can still play without taking part in those teams. If you do live in some area where people actually care about winning the t-ball game, I’d stay out of team sports.

  46. SKL September 8, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    I agree that 3.5 is way too young for competition, but when is it healthy to start – 5? 7? Just curious about the concensus.

  47. Laura September 8, 2010 at 3:01 am #

    SKL – I think it depends a lot upon the mental maturity of the kid. Can she understand that, even though she may not be the “star player”, that being a really solid “backup player” is sometimes more important to the overall performance of the team? Then maybe she’s ready. But if, on the other hand, she’s really wrapped up in winning, as opposed to doing her best, you might wait a little.

    This last is a hard concept to convey – my little guy is involved in Tae Kwon Do. He started when he was 4, but didn’t start with the “belt tests” (belt color = level) until about halfway through age 6. And even then, I prepped him with, “you know, you might not pass the test. Frankly, I don’t care if you get the belt or not, but I do care that you do the best that you can. You and I will *both* know if you did or not. And if you do your best, and you still don’t make the belt, then you’re not ready for it, and that’s ok.” Seems like a long diatribe, but he tends to ride himself pretty hard if he doesn’t “win”.

    As it turned out, he did his best, and earned that belt. And I don’t think his feet touched the floor the entire time it was being presented, because he knew that he’d *earned* it.

    Again… it’s an individual sport. He’s competing against himself. We don’t think he’s ready yet, for the big competitions, so we haven’t brought him to those.

  48. Laura September 8, 2010 at 3:02 am #

    I guess, if you’re looking for a number/age… I’d go more with 7, as opposed to 5. They can always catch up, but you can’t take it back if you realized that you pushed too hard. Does that make sense?

  49. Donna September 8, 2010 at 3:24 am #

    “You’re right about music, though. I was in the band for most (ok, all, starting in 4th grade) of my school career. And there was always a competition for chairs, for solos, and for the better parts.”

    It’s gonna depend on the school. I was in band from 3rd to 11th grade and there was minimal competition. Occasionally someone would decide to challenge the 1st chair and the band director would have a play-off but it was very low key.

    I’d actually give the other advice – pick the flute or the clarinet rather than the oboe or something more unique unless she will definitely be the only. Competition was largely centered on 1st and 2nd chair. If there are only 2 or 3 oboe players, those 2 or 3 are going to be constantly competing back and forth for 1st chair. However, people aren’t clamoring to be 6th chair flute. You can bury yourself in the orchestra, have fun playing and not have to be constantly protecting your seat.

  50. skiermom September 8, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    This is not a totally new phenomenon. I know because I am in my 40s and remember getting a 6th or 7th place ribbon at a ski race when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I HATED it. Not only was it a physical reminder that I had lost (as a competitive kid I was very aware that 6th place was not winning, ribbon or none) but it also seemed to bear the message, “You lost, but we don’t think you can take it, so have a ribbon to make you feel better.” This was just adding insult to injury in my opinion. I DID care about winning and getting a ribbon for losing only made me feel worse.

  51. Donna September 8, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    I’m really not sure what you mean by competition.

    If you just mean putting them on a general rec t-ball team that plays against other t-ball teams, then any age is fine. Really the teams themselves don’t become really competitive until mid-elementary school. My coworkers’ kid is almost 6 (kindergarten) and his teams are full of kids picking daisies in the outfield who can’t catch a ball to save their lives. Another coworker coaches a 5-7 soccer team and they score as many goals for the other team as for themselves. It isn’t a big deal at that age and most teams (and parents) are not hardcore at all. It takes a few years before even the cream of the crop have enough skills to really set them apart from the kids picking daisies. When your kids are interested, give it a try.

  52. dg September 8, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    @skl , Although your child is too young at the moment, when s/he reaches 6, you might look into a climbing team at a climbing gym. Good motor skills and inventivness win out over strength and size at that sport. It is also an individual challenge as well as a very supportive and encouraging team sport. The gym I go to, Carabiners.com , has some information on the site about their program. Statisticly, I think that it is safer than any contact sport, however I can’t prove it. Just a random thought from an old, 60+ climber.

  53. Emiky September 8, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    Wow. That is one kick-a trophy.

    Frankly, I like the t-shirt of participation idea. I competed on the Envirothon in high school. We lost epically, but I still got an awesome shirt that made a great conversation piece. I enjoyed talking about the competition. Yes, i see nothing wrong with a “reward” for participation. It means you did something, and it’s a fun souveneir. I just don’t think they should be similar to the prizes for the best of the best. It should be something that says “hey, guess what I did? Guess what I’m interested in?”. There should be
    something that acknowledges a child’s interest in an activity. It shouldn’t be “only the best ones can have any interst in such-n-such and everyone else get out”. But a trophy for everyone doesn’t give that idea. Interest and effort should be recognized, but those that excel should also be recognized.

    As for competetion readiness, I dare say it’s almost a development thing. 3 years old… You’re still learning. You don’t have the time and energy to worry about being the best. Right now I’m learning rock climbing. Emphasis on still learning. I’m not thinking about showing off my sad skills at this time. Competition should come when one is comfortable and confident.

  54. Uly September 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Well, SKL, how about encouraging your kid and the other kids in the neighborhood to play with each other rather than on adult-created, adult-supervised, adult-oriented teams?

  55. Tuppence September 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    I concur with skiermom, the “everyone’s a winner” trophy awarding isn’t anything new. I attended Youth Council one summer in the late 70s. My main contribution to that year’s program was tardiness and absenteeism. (Didn’t much care for all that organized sports stuff.) Imagine my surprise at hearing my name called towards the end of long-winded awards ceremony to come up and receive a trophy. I think they even had to call it twice. I wasn’t offended though, just bewildered.

  56. Uly September 9, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    BTW, that wasn’t intended to be snarky. Sorry.

  57. HSmom September 9, 2010 at 5:22 am #


  58. HSmom September 9, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    So, wait. The loser… er “ninth place winner” gets a horse’s behind trophy? What will that do to his self-esteem?? It might just as well say, “YOU LOSER” on it. (though it I were a teenager, I would really be gunning for that one, too– your kid has taste. )

  59. Rich Wilson September 9, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    Note that we don’t actually know if there were nine teams. We just know that there were at least eight, and less than ten. So, young Mr. Skenazy might just be the, um, horse’s behind. So to speak.

  60. Rich Wilson September 9, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    btw, I stumbled upon a documentary that sums up my feelings about competition, The Long Green Line. http://www.hulu.com/watch/125305/the-long-green-line
    (sorry, probably only available in the US)
    It’s about a high school cross country coach. What is special about him is that he honestly gives the same love and attention to the kid with cerebral palsy as to the star who runs 5km in under 15 minutes. The result is that 200+ kids get life lessons, not just a handful of stars. That he has won as many state championships as all other schools combined is secondary.

  61. BrianJ September 14, 2010 at 7:05 am #

    @spacefall – when exams are properly designed those particular grades aren’t bad. I had a highschool calc teacher who made it a point to design exams where either through difficulty, length or both, the mean and median were ended up being about 50%. So your percent correct on the exam frequently was a good proxy for your percentile ranking in the class. I had a chem class in college where a 35% on the first exam put me in the top 20% of the class.

    On the other hand, my french exams in college frequently had average grades in the low 90’s. The ramification was that in french a missed accent mark could be the difference between an A and a B, whereas in calc, if you understood and could articulate all of the concepts, you would earn a good grade, even if you made a stupid mistake or 2.

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