As my kids have grown and we have entered numerous team sports, I have been pleasantly surprised by the comradery, parental support, and team building. However, there is always one thing that has always bothered me, and that is participation ribbons, or “yay you showed up” trophies, or “your team is so cute” medals.

When I was growing up, you played the sport if you won you got the trophy or the medal, and if you lost you smiled praised the other players or team, learned from your mistakes and walked away with your head held high because what we were being taught was sportsmanship and how to react properly. Not that everyone gets a trophy or a ribbon for showing up and participating.

In my mind it sort of diminishes the purpose of competition, playing to your best ability, and giving it your all if you know in the end you are going to end up with a trophy or an award of some sort anyway.

This spring and summer my two youngest boys were on an awesome baseball team together. The parents were great, the coaches were spectacular, and the team just clicked. We had so much fun. In fact, we were undefeated and made it to the District Playoffs. We were doing great, then we got beat, but it was a double elimination bracket, so we had another opportunity to come back.

Our boys played their hearts out. They did wonderfully. But sadly, in the end they were eliminated. But they took it like champs. There were a few tears, and hugs, and long faces. But there were no trophies, no ribbons, no medals. And that to me was the best learning experience for them.

What those boys got out of the season was sportsmanship, team building, and respect for their coaches. Not the anticipation of getting a treat at the end for losing.

I know I may sound like a harsh mom or person, but to me, in the end, it is the best thing for them when they are in the real world. Take, for example, myself. I am currently in school working on my master’s degree. Say I fail a paper, do I still deserve an A in the class or my diploma if I didn’t meet all the requirements? Absolutely not. And quite honestly, I don’t want it because I didn’t earn it.

Or another example is set in place by a corporation for their sales team to meet a certain number or percentage for the year. They don’t quite achieve that goal so do they deserve their year-end bonuses? No, because they didn’t meet their mark or the expectations of their executives.

So, you see, to me not getting that 5th place trophy or ribbon is wonderful preparation for reality. I know as a parent it is hard to watch them hurt, but kids are resilient and bounce back way easier than adults do. So, if they lose take them out for ice cream or their favorite dinner. Reward them for all their hard work and efforts with comfort and hugs, not an object to tell them thanks for showing up.

Because I can guarantee you, all my professors aren’t going to gather around and chat about me at the end and say, “Well she sure is swell, even though she didn’t pass half of her classes, let’s give her that diploma anyway.” Nope, they sure won’t. So that is why I am working harder than I have ever worked to keep my GPA up. To prove to myself and my family that I can do this and do this with pride.

And I feel that is what we are missing in life is a little sense of pride. We need to fight for our goals and dreams instead of becoming complacent and having everything handed to us. I feel that is a lot of the problem with society today. Why marriages are failing. “Oh, you’re tired of that spouse, okay here is your divorce decree.” Or, “you’re bored with your job, oh ok, here is your severance package, have a nice life.”

Where is the sense of pride and the urge to fight for what you love and deserve? Have the ability to hold your head high and push forward. Don’t quit and give up and wait on that consolation prize, because in the end, you will always lose.

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