Step Right Up

August 20th, 2009

I played youth baseball for five seasons…and our record always seemed to be 8-8. My team lost the league finals in eighth grade basketball. Through all my years of competitive sports as a kid the only trophies I ever won were in Putt-Putt tournaments, where I had an adept skill of hitting the ball exactly where needed on the orange metal sideboards.

One of my awakenings as a parent was learning this is an ‘Every child gets a trophy’ and “Everybody’s a winner’ world. There is a box in our attic of more than 40 trophies ‘earned’ by our kids. The fact is not one is for winning a championship. Instead, they are for participation – acknowledgment that attending practices and showing up for games is somehow worthy of recognition.

There is a new law on the books here in Texas that a school district “may not require a classroom teacher to assign a minimum grade for an assignment.” Why was it necessary for our leaders to enact this legislation? Seems many districts had policies that set 50 as the lowest grade a student could receive, even if they failed to turn in an assignment or made 30 on an exam. Perhaps those in charge of education are recognizing that the by-product of No Child Left Behind Without A Trophy could be a generation without accountability. One that assumes everything always works out in the end, because they always reward me for just showing up.

I coached my son’s basketball team for six seasons, and the last two we lost the championship game. Some kids cried afterwards, saddened by coming up short for the second straight year. I didn’t know what to say. If I had it to do all over, here’s what I would tell them: “I’m proud of you for growing as a team each week. You listened, practiced hard and are a lot better than you were three months ago. You aren’t always going to win. That’s not how life is. Learn from this, and make changes that make you better.” That lesson would serve them better than some trophy that eventually ends up stored in the attic.

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