Participant: Life

I’m going to dust off my soap-box… did people really stand on soap-boxes to make speeches?

Not my normal soap-box involving the severe lack of research and support for childhood cancer, but something totally off the wall for me.

Can we please…… please, please, please stop blaming giving out trophies to all kids who participate in a sport or extra-curricular activity for … well just about everything?

I know it’s not really a soap-box worthy topic, but gimmie a minute and it might be.  I tend to be a social media voyeur, I know that sounds weird but I don’t know what else you would call it.  I have, as you know if you’re reading this, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.  But I don’t post a whole lot of things.  Maybe a “share” here or there, way too many pictures of my dogs and food and a lot of pictures by the beach when I’m on vacation.  But I’m on social media almost all day long, scrolling and watching.  Partially because I tend to find out quickly about emergencies or weather events I may or may not need to be aware of for my job, but partially just because I find it really interesting to watch.  I watch band-wagons and trends.  I resist the sometimes uncontrollable urge to reply to certain posts – thus giving away my political or religious opinions which I believe everyone SHOULD KEEP TO THEMSELVES!

But there has been a growing trend, more so recently in the last few months, of people blaming younger people’s (ok Millennials) attitudes, opinions, actions etc. on the fact that they all got trophies for just “showing up.”  My first problem with this is that Millennials are only grouped together by a common time frame when they were born.  Just like Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers.  All it’s supposed to mean is that we are a generation of people exposed to the same time frame while growing up.  It doesn’t mean that this general category of people all possess the same attitudes, opinions, actions – those things are formed by the person’s life experiences.

My second problem with this is that nobody even thought to question the practice of giving out trophies to everyone until after the “Meet the Focker’s” movie.

“Yep they give out ribbons all the way through 10th place!”

There is not one article – psychology paper, general social media rant – nothing before 2010 that brings up the concept that giving everyone a trophy is causing the basic moral decay of humanity.  Yes I researched it.  Before I was a mere blogger I had aspirations of a journalism career, where I learned to research stuff before I put it print.  Because if I don’t – you will.  That is one concept that apparently has been skipped in Journalism 101 for several years now (another soapbox, another day).

So I’m not sure where this trend started but please make it stop!  If you’re still standing around my soap-box I’ll now explain why giving out trophies to all kids isn’t a “thing.”  At least not a “thing” to use as some general explanation of why someone did something you don’t understand or agree with.  When my son was three years old he started playing soccer.  By “playing” soccer, I mean he showed up every Saturday for 6 weeks or so and kicked a ball around with about 15 other kids for an hour and got a juice box and cookie at the end.  At the end of the 6 weeks everyone got a little medal with a soccer ball on it.  That seems fair don’t you think?  Not every kid in our neighborhood got up at 8 AM on Saturday and went to play on a team and learn some social and athletic skills.  It wasn’t competitive.  It wasn’t supposed to be!  My son, at 3 didn’t understand that it wasn’t competitive and I had to repeatedly apologize to parents for his actions which looking back should have been a good indication of why sometimes I have to sit very far away from the opposing teams parents now….., but that’s another story for another day.

By the time we got to PeeWee baseball trust me competitive kicked in – more so in the parents than the kids – but it was a “sport” now.  There were trophies for first, second and third place – and a World Series tournament at the end, winner-take all.  In the Minor League (age 7-9) and Major League (10-12) in addition to the World Series there was a Homerun Derby and a Pitching contest.  Trust me everyone didn’t get a ribbon for that.  Yes everyone who participated in the league got something, sometimes a small plaque or a baseball but it was very clear who the winners were.

Same thing with soccer, I remember when my son was 12, the Optimist Soccer program participated in a county-wide league for more competitive play which culminated in a huge tournament at the end of the season.  His last year to play in this league his team fought tooth and nail to “win” third place – and I’m not exaggerating.  I’ve seen World Cup games that don’t compare to the intensity that I saw that day.  And he got a third place trophy – AND HE DESERVED IT!  In years past his team was in that “also-ran” category: 6th place and 4th place, and they got medals (I think – it’s been awhile – it might have been a ribbon) just like the teams that got 9th and 10th.  And that just fueled their passion to get that trophy and they wanted 1st place, but they celebrated 3rd place like it was the final round of the World Cup.

So please…. Stop telling kids they don’t deserve that Participation ribbon.  They most certainly do – because they did do something.  Maybe they weren’t the best but trust me they know who won or who was better than they were.  And they will use that information for one of two things, to find something they are the best at or to work harder to be the best; even at the tender age of 6 or 7, if not then definitely by age 10 or 11.

And stop blaming everyone getting a trophy for “what’s wrong” with the Millennial generation.  The only thing that’s “wrong” with their generation is that they are young, and still learning their way in the World.  Just like the Gen X’er’s before them and the Boomers before them.  Show of hands, who made perfect choices in their 20’s?

In case I haven’t convinced you I will leave you with one last thought.  If the Millennial generation has really suffered so much from this horrible practice of giving out participation awards how do you explain the 2016 Rio Olympics?  The average age of the US Olympic Athlete is 27 years old and the youngest athlete is 16 (PS – that makes her an i-Gen not a Millennial). In case you missed it this summer the United States topped the total medal count with 121 – including 4 Gold and 1 Silver won by 19 year old Stanford student Katie Ledecky. So when you rant on social media that all college students are “snowflakes” and “entitled” do you realize who you are including?  If those statistics don’t convince you I don’t know what else will.

Soapbox tucked away…. for now.

And yes at the turn of the 20th century people really did make public speeches while standing on turned over wooden crates that were used to ship soap.