Today's post was written by Alison Moore. Alison is a senior Mechanical Engineering major at the University of Notre Dame. She is also a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion founder and director Professor Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan.
I have been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers practically since birth. My dad grew up as a huge Pittsburgh fan and passed it on to our whole family, so I have been dressed in black and gold and waving Terrible Towels for as long as I can remember. My childhood was comprised of family road trips to go to Steelers training camp and attend games as a family, so despite the fact that I am away at school, where there is another important football team that consumes my life, I still do my best to follow the Steelers and my favorite players.
Earlier this fall when a news story came out concerning one of my favorite players I was really intrigued: JamesHarrison, a linebacker for the Steelers, received considerable media attention after making a statement on Instagram about taking away his two young sons participation trophies:
"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"
Harrison received several comments in response to this post, both positive and negative. Some people lashed out, and said that he was an awful parent for taking away the trophies his kids worked for, and that it should not matter whether or not they were first place trophies: Harrison should have been proud of them and accepted what they got. They criticized that it was an example of parents putting too much pressure on their kids on be perfect and that their best is never really enough. While I can understand how some people could interpret it that way, I am one of those who supported and agreed with what he did.
In his comments, he reiterates how proud he is of his kids and that he will always be there to support them, and I think it is awful that anyone would accuse a parent of not supporting their children. I believe that his actions were justified, and that too often nowadays kids are being raised to think that they are entitled to a treat or a prize for everything they do, regardless of the effort they put in and the quality of the work they do. Personally, I was raised to always try to give 110% in everything I did (that was a frequent comment that my dad would make to me) and I know that having that philosophy instilled in me has made me the person I am today.
This situation relates directly to a lot of conversations we had in the Social Foundations of Coaching class this semester. You want to show young kids that they are valued and that they can accomplish anything when they set their minds to it, without making them think that they can just get by without putting in serious effort. Coaches and parents often put a considerable amount of pressure on kids to perform a certain way, and while it may be a fine line to walk, I think that encouraging kids to do the absolute best they can do and rewarding them only when they truly earn something will benefit the child more in the long run. The values which we hope kids will learn from sports about integrity and hard work aren't going to be as meaningful if they think they will get a trophy just for showing up.
It is pretty bold of Harrison to go so far as to take the participation trophies away from his children, and then post about it, but it really makes one wonder if this is what it is going to take to make people realize that you aren't always going to be a winner in everything you do.