Saturday, June 16, 2012

Are you a winner?

Abbi's softball season ended last Tuesday.  She enjoyed it so much, mostly because she got to be with her team.  In fact, she figured she was there playing with ALL the girls, not against the other team.  So, that made it all the better for her.  To Abbi, the more the merrier when it comes to kids.  She loved being the catcher and she loved left-field.  She wasn't afraid of the ball when it came to her or when she was up to bat.  She did very well for her first year.  She even tagged a girl out who was running to third!

That said ... I've wondered this before but now I just needed to think out loud about it (or on the blog)....

There is no score keeping allowed at little league games.  It's so casual, our team was never even sure what the other team name was during the end-of-game cheer.  But the last game rolled around and all the kids got trophies that say:

Machine Pitch Softball

Abbi was SO SO excited to get her first trophy.  Here's my question ... When we reward children with awards and trophies when there was no measurable or identified success, are we setting them up for disappointment in the future.

Let's say Abbi gets a 100% on a test.  Where's the trophy that day?

What about when she plays a sport where trophies or ribbons are given to the actual season winners and she's not on that team?

Is this how we've all been set up to think success is only in winning?  Do I only think I've done a good job when I've been celebrated and showered with an award?

How do I know when I've earned an award (or reward) if they're given out willy nilly?

How do I recognize when it was my responsibility and expectation to do what I did or if I went above and beyond when the rewards are inconsistent?

I believe this is the foundation for the fear of failure, some cases of depression, or apathy.  Our culture (sports, education, peers) teaches that we should look forward to happiness.  And, that happiness comes from achievements, recognition, and awards.

Don't get me wrong.  I think observed positive behavior should be recognized, children (and people in general) should be taught to find value in their success on their own.  I don't try to excel for recognition.  I want to excel to be a valuable person and to improve myself.  There are people who find a lot of motivation in recognition, but I hope that is not where they find their self-worth.

Am I getting anywhere, here?

Brass tacks:
  • I think kids should celebrate at the end of the season whether they were the best team or not.
  • I think trophies have their place and should be given to teams to are actively, and purposely, participating in a competitive sport. 
  • Kids should be taught the value of trying and personal improvement.
  • You should brush twice a day to keep the dentist away.
  • Kids should learn how to be proud of themselves without feeling bad or hurting others.
  • Kids should be taught how to be good winners and losers.
  • I'm really hungry right now.