Since I’ve started contributing to GMG there’s been a particular hot topic that seems to come up every so often…so today, I took that topic to the streets.
Actually, not so much to the streets, as to the classroom.
Joey has referred to it as “The Pussification of Sports”….I chose to not use that term in the classroom today. But, I was very interested in what my students would have to say.
The hot topic in question has centered around the belief that some parents have that all kids should be praised, rewarded, celebrated, and applauded equally no matter how they play or contribute (or don’t contribute) to the team’s success. Don’t go all nutty here about the word “success” and how it should be measured. I realize that a team’s success could just as easily be measured by the number of laughs the kids had or the great team morale…or even because of an injury free season. But, for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, let’s say that just for a second, we’re measuring the success of a season by the “Win vs. Loss” column. Is it OK to single out players who excelled? Is it OK to acknowledge those who gave 110% all season long? Is it OK to determine that one kid’s talents and abilities are clearly above the rest? Is it OK to give awards for things like MVP? Or Most Improved? Or by naming one kid the Captain?
Some parents will say that hurts feelings. Some parents will say, “There’s no I in Team” and each player is equally important. Singling out the “better” players is wrong…and not fair. Other parents will say that in the college or professional sports we have things like captains, MVPs, Golden Glove Award winners, Heisman Trophy awards, Cy Young Awards, the coveted Master’s Green Jacket, or the Tour de France yellow jersey. And what about Gold Medals? Parents from the other side would clearly retort, “But our kids aren’t playing professional sports….these are just little kids.” Fair enough.
FYI…the same conversation has been happening in academics. Who remembers this story from last year? It isn’t fair to give Awards of Academic Excellence to just some students! It will hurt other kids’ feelings. Oooh, Oooh, Oooh……OooooR, I have an idea….it just might motivate them to work harder. Or to put energy into something that they excel at or have a passion for. Maybe they’ll never be top of their class, but maybe they become motivated to paint more, or write more poetry, or practice more piano, or donate time to a worthy cause, or think outside the box. Because, really, being top of the class isn’t everything, but those kids do deserve their academic merit awards…and hopefully other children will find their own way to shine…or at least feel good about themselves! Just Saying. (Darn..I wasn’t going to offer my own opinion…but it got away from me for a minute).
The sports question came up mid October in the Boston Globe when Globe Columnist Thomas Farragher wrote, “Put Our Kids In, Coach”. And then Sports Columnist, Bill Speros (Obnoxious Boston Fan), countered with “There’s a Reason Why Your Kids Aren’t Playing – They’re Not Good Enough” on Boston.com.
So, when, if your child has decided to become part of a sports team, should you expect that the Direct Goal is a winning season and the Indirect Goals (added bonus) would be that all the kids have fun, learn about team work, get some exercise, learn a bit of stick-to-it-ness, and maybe gain some discipline. I ask that seriously. What is the “correct” age for the transition. I mean clearly Professional Sports are concerned about THE WIN. Safe to say College Sports are too. I’d even dare say, High School sports would rather win than lose…even if that means some players didn’t get a chance to touch the ball. So, when should a child be prepared for less playing time or smaller (or no!) trophies unless they’re the high scorer, most valuable, etc.?
Well, those questions may have been too abstract for my 3rd grade students today. So, with the help of Time For Kids Magazine, we explored this question instead.
“Should everyone get a prize or is it OK to acknowledge just the “best” players?”
My students had some pretty interesting and wise things to say. At first the majority quickly thought, “Yes, everyone should get a trophy for being part of the team” but then we started discussing it a bit. Some interesting “what ifs” came up. I won’t try to wax poetically about our whole debate, but some of the key points became:
What if one player plays well, but has really poor sportsmanship?
What if one player plays well, but never shows up to practice, doesn’t try much until its a game situation, and doesn’t act like a part of the team?
What if a player isn’t so great, but supports all of his/her teammates, tries really hard, takes advice, works on skills, never gives up?
After some back and forth, my students decided that all members of a team (up until High School) should receive acknowledgement and, ideally, a really cute little trophy…or at least a ribbon and a certificate BUT…then, in addition, the “best” or “hardest working” or “most helpful teammate” players could all get bigger and more special awards. Their words, not mine. Aren’t they cute!?
So, I’ll ask you too.