Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Participation Medals" just got shinier!

Participation Trophies.  You know what these are, right?  These days, you get a medal or trophy just for showing up and being on the team, in the race, etc.  When I was a kid, only a select few (the best!) received trophies at the end of the season.  They were very cool and coveted by everyone on the team. 

I received exactly one:  Most Improved Player for my junior varsity tennis team in 1983.  I kept it until about two years ago.  It was my only trophy and I was proud of it, though I never achieved greatness at tennis.  In fact, I realized that I would never be one of our top players, so I didn't even turn out for the varsity team the next year.   What a mistake, but that was what I did.

Now that I have kids of my own, I have disliked this "feel-good" practice of handing out "participation trophies".  The seem less shiny and valuable, given that every kid gets one, just for being on the team.  I don't share those thoughts with my kids, but I still wonder about the message that is sent when everyone gets celebrated, regardless of their performance!  Seems like a step backwards to me...

And yet, I now am re-thinking all of that.  Because when I crossed the finish line in my first bicycle race this past weekend, someone gave me a medal...just for completing the race, regardless of my performance.  Of course, I wore it home (just for convenience, really).  Then, put it back on after I showered and changed my clothes for the rest of the night (and in the car to the restaurant...and back on after we left the restaurant).  Wore it around the house on Sunday morning...then, put it back on after church.  You get the idea.

I didn't wear it today (decided to give it a home on my bathroom mirror), but now it serves as a reminder that I actually did something significant, despite finishing middle of the pack.  And that means, I can do it again someday soon...only this time, I bet I can do even better.   Now, I am even more motivated.

Maybe, the medals and trophies (and race numbers, etc.) that are handed out so frequently today are meant to motivate aspiring athletes for future seasons and better performances ahead.  Maybe the whole idea of that shiny metal object is not to signify that the recipient is somehow better than the rest...maybe it is just to inspire each of us to keep going and do better next time.  Seems to be working that way for me.

By the way, a few posts back, I mentioned that my doctor and co-worker are now interested in cycling because they have seen me make some progress.  Now, my friend Crazy Jim is buying a bike.  Good times.


Susietri said...

I know exactly what you mean about the medals. In triathlon the first medal I got was for a half iron distance race. That really meant something to me, probably because I had to get to that distance to get it. I was amazed at 10 k medals that were bigger than my first, very small half one.

I'm going to muse on this and write something up myself. I think it will fit with the approach I want to take on my blog going forward.

Having said that, however, wear that thing everywhere you want. We are the ones who give meaning to the medals and that one certainly represents a very big (no pun) accomplishment for you.

Duane said...

Nice bling!