Wednesday, April 05, 2006

trophies, competition, and team sports

I don't read Imperfect Serenity often enough, but I loved this: "If every kid in softball deserves a trophy, doesn’t every kid on earth deserve a meal?"

Read the whole post, really.

We gave up competitive sports with Nick this year and I have never been happier about kid-activities. He used to "play soccer," as did Mariah, for years before, and it was never any fun, really. That is, the kids enjoyed the snacks, the banquets, the trophies (yes, we have a whole shelf of ones, mostly Mariah's), all that. Occasionally they enjoyed the games and, when they were little, even the practices, because it was a lot of running around. They learned almost no skills, and they hated that their teams always lost--although, given the skill instruction that wasn't going on, it was no surprise to us.

I actually did like hanging out with the other parents on the practice field, and even coming to the games with a mug of hot coffee on a chilly morning. There was certainly some value, too, in the kids just being outside. But Nick in particular is extremely competitive--he just hates to lose. (Second child syndrome, anyone?) And he usually did, so there were often tears after the game.

Now he does tae kwon do, twice a week. He spars with other kids, yes, but the point of the practice is not to compete with others but to do your best. And he does. He has progressed rapidly (or so it seems to his proud parents), learning new patterns and integrating new moves into his sparring. He has broken boards with his bare hand. He can focus. He can balance. And he can even (I love this!) meditate. You haven't lived until you've seen four or five little boys sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, hands in laps, meditating. What do they think about? I don't know...but I love it.

Some kids thrive in team sports, and I'm not opposed to them by any means. I think it's important to be able to cooperate with others, to anticipate and work together and all those other great skills. But, as Eileen says in her post, and Elise in hers, you can get that without the competition. And then you wouldn't have to waste all that money on trophies.


Susan said...

Wow Libby, I had such a reaction to this!! Emma has been in soccer too. Last year her team did not win one single game. And yet they had a good time and didn't seem to even notice. (maybe this is also why they didn't win)

But I am utterly and categorically opposed to awarding trophies or medals to kids JUST for showing up. I feel like it's really bogus and is sending them some bizarre message.

I feel the same way about the mandatory whole-class valentines. Maybe this is good for kindergarten through 2nd graders, but at some point I think kids really should learn to value what friendships they do have, even if it's just one friend. I'd rather have the kids get ONE card from ONE kid who really values them, rather than 24 identical cards that are mass produced like homework.

Lilian said...

This is a very good discussion. I've always loathed competition (never participating in team sports myself because I'm *that* bad in sports), and I hope not to have my sons involved in them as my as I can. I feel that my youngest will be really competitive (oh, yeah, second child, sigh...) if we give him the opportunity, so I'll try to avoid it...

Susan said...

I really think there's good competition and bad competition. My daughter is on a crew (rowing) team and I think it really emphasizes team cooperation (everyone working together, in synch, to maximum effort) and competition against other teams. They are always all trying for their personal best. When they win, the team gets a giant trophy - nobody takes a little individual one home.

This is vastly different from my younger daughter's soccer team, where they each got a trophy just for showing up and breathing.

Libby said...

Oh, I agree, Susan. The post I linked by Elise gets into the difference, I think: there's competition that's about doing your best, and there's competition that's about beating someone else. Nick wanted to win without working at it, without doing his best, as I think a lot of kids do.

And, yes, the trophies for nothing are just awful. I don't, myself, mind the valentines for nothing/everyone so much, I guess because I never got that many!