The recent revelation that the NFL’s James Harrison is returning all of his sons’ trophies received for participation in various sporting events is a magnificent example of one that understands the value of participation and the results of competition. Ever since the most ancient Olympic games in Greece, the winners were awarded symbols of accolades for yes participation, but WINNING in their respective sporting activities. The relatively recent notion of rewarding everyone with a trophy promotes complacency and not the competitive drive to be the best in whatever sport, academic activity or even occupation individuals might engage. Like it or not, one competes in a sport in order to win. Competitive events related to sports are not intended to reward everyone that happens to show up at an activity…we reward the most competitive and the most successful athletes with trophies, Super Bowl rings and even trips to Disney World. If indeed we continue to award participation trophies in sports perhaps even the tailgaters at athletic events should receive the much coveted participation award as well. After all…they showed up and participated in some capacity and within the parameters of granting the participation trophy…they too qualify. Too often the notion of blanket equality obscures the realities of real life. Not everyone performs in a manner that is superlative in life. That’s why in academia the distinctions of Magna cum laude, Summa cum laude and Cum laude adorn academic degrees to acknowledge achievement in professional studies. Otherwise, what is the real point of fostering notions of excellence in academic performance if everyone received degrees with notions of academic kudos even when they didn’t earn such accolades? Mr. Harrison’s return of trophies that are unearned because of just showing up is a commendable action and it needs to be duplicated all over the United States from kindergartens to corporate boardrooms. The right to wear the symbol of superlative performance is earned and competitively won not granted by reason of one’s physical presence in an activity, a sport or even a job. We need to stop teaching youth that they are entitled simply because they participate in a sporting event. No one is entitled. Such a noble dignity is earned through hard work, proficiency at a particular sport or academic skill and raw determination and endurance. These points represent a winner, not just a participant. American’s need again to embrace the skills of winning and accept the fact that not everyone is accorded the title of a winner. How the notion began of providing everyone with the idea that everyone is a winner is something that mystifies the imagination. Have these individuals that consider all participants as equal ever played Monopoly, school yard basketball, stick ball or event jacks? Someone always wins and de facto someone needs to loose. This is true in love, in war, in applying for acceptance to colleges and even jobs. Why then should it not be true of sporting events? Collectively perhaps we need to teach youth and reacquaint all of American society about the nature and purpose of competition and then reaffirm the consequences that are associated with each and every competitive activity that occurs in our lives. Loosing is not a bad thing, it is the logical and natural consequence of not winning regardless of the activity. If everyone always was considered a winner with a pseudo acknowledgement of competitive superiority (such as a participation trophy) then our entire hierarchy of society and the personal need for self development would entirely collapse! Mr. Harrison is providing all of us with a long overdue cold bucket over our heads of Gatorade! Reward excellence and teach persistence and yes…the notion of humility in loosing well. Sometimes as parents we want to see our children develop such an positive self image and intrinsic sense of personal value we forget to also point out deficient factors at the risk of negating our good intentions. Maybe we need to instill not just praise but also add constructive criticism as a tool to inspire better participation and performance in any events our children participate. Equating excellence with just participation is not a natural response when acclimating anyone for the competitive realities of modern life. Fortunately we are indeed all created equal…after that it is up to each and every one of us to develop our highest potential in whatever activities or lifestyles we choose. Awarding trophies to everyone just for showing up is equal to giving everyone a performance bonus at work despite each employees’ positive or negative performance. It doesn’t work in the workplace, it should not work on the athletic fields of competition. If indeed there is anything to learn from this laudable action from Mr.Harrison it is simply this: Winners get trophies, not everyone! If this notion offends some people then they need to think back to the events in their own lives when they were awarded for superlative performance of any category. Would they have celebrated the achievement if everyone else received the same award just for the heck of it! I don’t think so! Reward those that work hard, sweat with profusion, study with a determined purpose and sacrifice everything to be THE BEST in their respective activities and fields. Everyone else…take note of those that just earned their trophies and appropriate accolades. They worked hard for them!

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