Fake Trophies

My two kids have dozens of medals and trophies and they have never won a championship of any kind. They have played soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball and Taekwondo and have rarely ever played a game or competed in a match where the score was kept and a winner and a loser determined at the end.

By the time I was 13, I knew firsthand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I remember missing a jump shot in a 1st grade basketball game that would have won my team the game. That moment of failure did not scar me, instead it made me shoot hundreds of jump shots on a basketball rim that was nailed to a pine tree in my back yard. I wanted to get better, so the next time I was in the position to win or lose, I would hit the shot.

I understand the dark underbelly of competition and the ugliness it can unleash in parents and coaches. But I am afraid we are raising a generation of kids who are convinced by enormous evidence that winning and losing doesn’t matter, when in fact, it does. I believe our kids have very little motivation to get better, to practice, to overcome because everyone gets the same trophy – a fake trophy.

Meanwhile, we are left scratching our heads when the 20-somethings are still living in our basements with no plan to ever leave or achieve. I believe one of the big reasons our young men drift aimlessly through a decade of apathy is because they have not learned how to compete, the value of being challenged, and the lessons learned only through abject failure. The worst thing we can do for our children is to always make life easy for them.

Between 1940 and 1970, we sent people to space, invented computers, created suburbia and revolutionized automobile technology. The people of this age were a generation that had survived a world war, been challenged in combat, and had grandparents that had survived the Great Depression. Competition was a celebrated part of the culture. Heroes were honored and grace was given to the defeated. Losers learned tough lessons and winners had to practice harder to stay on top. It was an age of hard work, innovation, and persistence in the face of great challenges.

We can still recapture some of these values and we can start by not handing out any more fake trophies. We cannot allow our kids to quit a sport, a subject, or even a relationship just because it is too hard and they may fail. A handful of trophies earned is much better than the many given for just showing up.

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  1. I totally agree with this! Competition has driven me in sports and so many other activities to work harder and do all that I can to become better at them, which in turn built character, persistence, self discipline, etc. Also, working through defeat was a necessary character building experience, more so than winning was. I thrived off of competition, I still do! I totally understand the negative aspects of competition, but in my view the positives far outway the negatives.

    When young adults enter the working world, they are going to find out very quickly that it is no longer an environment in which competition is eliminated and everyone wins.

  2. Linda Neal Pate

    October 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Don and I had that very conversation on Saturday! Thank you for sharing so eloquently!

  3. Brady,

    I’ve been saying for years that because our generation (actually 2 generations now) have grown up in a culture of peace and prosperity, there are very little hardships they endure and thus very little character development. In a sense, we as parents have a bigger challenge raising kids because we have to consciously create hardship and obstacles for our kids to endure to cause them to grow in depth and character. I believe, if you look at the Old Testament pattern in the book of Kings and other books that a king facing massive obstacles often became great because of the burden of leading during that time and, unfortunately, his children grew up with everything handed to them on a silver platter. Given that environment, they were soft, demanding and grew up to be spoiled, indulged adults who ultimately became kings and ruled terribly. Their lives ended poorly and the pattern repeated itself until God himself raised up a king like David who was not fed with a silver spoon and led well. Thanks for the insight. Everyone is NOT a winner in life.

  4. Pastor Brady,

    I almost stood up on my chair and cheered sunday morning!! AMEN! AND AMEN! I coach a Pop Warner football team in Monument and do my best to instill the spirit of competition in thes young men. Learn from Losses and Win with Dignity! This has been extremly important to the development of my 11 year old son! Last year we did not win a game and he wanted to quit, but I told him to keep working hard! And this year we are undefeated and heading to the playoffs in Tx. It has taught my son good work ethic and how to be a part of a team! I also employ over 300 people I see this impact on a daily basis! Thank you for having the guts to say this from the pulpit!
    A New Lifer for 18 yrs, and working to look at God through a childs eyes and heart!

  5. Amen! I am in my late 20’s and I am ashamed of my generation. I shudder to think what would befall this nation of ours if something truly adverse came upon us.

    God give us men…ribbed with the steel of Your Holy Spirit…men who will not flinch when the battle’s fiercest…men who won’t acquiesce, or compromise, or fade when the enemy rages. God give us men who can’t be bought, bartered, or badgered by the enemy, men who will pay the price, make the sacrifice, stand the ground, and hold the torch high. God give us men obsessed with the principles true to your word, men stripped of self-seeking and a yen for security…men who will pay any price for freedom and go any lengths for truth. God give us men delivered from mediocrity, men with vision high, pride low, faith wide, love deep, and patience long…men who will dare to march to the drumbeat of a distant drummer, men who will not surrender principles of truth in order to accommodate their peers. God give us men more interested in scars than medals. More committed to conviction than convenience, men who will give their life for the eternal, instead of indulging their lives for a moment in time. Give us men who are fearless in the face of danger, calm in the midst of pressure, bold in the midst of opposition. God give us men who will pray earnestly, work long, preach clearly, and wait patiently. Give us men whose walk is by faith, behaviour is by principle, whose dreams are in heaven, and whose book is the Bible. God give us men who are equal to the task. Those are the men the church needs today.

    Bob Moorehead

  6. Hi Pastor Brady, I have been reminded of our children’s early elementary education in a school district that used”inventive spelling.” Basically our kids were learning to spell as they heard phonetically, which has it’s merits…But I was getting concerned when in 4th grade my kids were still spelling “was” as they heard it “wuz” I knew that part of the school’s philosophy was that they did not want to hurt my children’s self esteem, which is another issue in itself. In correcting the children they seemed to believe they were squelching creativity. But I began to think, How is all this inventive spelling stuff going to affect my kids when they fill out a job application and they get rejected because they can’t spell….In our household, Wisdom trumped over the philosophies of the world….Needless to say, being the elementary teacher with a specialty in English, I put a halt to inventive spelling in the Walton Household. All of our kids were awarded full or partial scholarships to awesome Universities or USAFA. Thankyou Lord.

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