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When I was a kid, I was pretty good at soccer, like half of the population between the ages of 6 and 9 years old. I wasn’t great, and I didn’t pursue it or let it develop me into an NFL kicker or anything, but I was pretty good. I had the trophies to show for it. Each time I was awarded one of those golden plastic risers on a marble-like base, I lined it up on my dresser. And believe me, I had quite a few. I may not have had any MVP trophies, but there were plenty of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies in that line. It was like a mini New York skyline, going by year.

Sure, I received my fair share of “Also Ran” participation trophies, but they didn’t make me feel special. Those little, riser-less trophies acted more like placeholders for something bigger and better. When my dresser was full, those trophies were the first to move into the bottom of my closet. I appreciated them enough to not throw them out, but not to showcase them.

When it comes to the debate about whether or not participation trophies keep kids from striving to compete to be the best, I’m a fence-sitter because of that dresser. While I always enjoyed getting a trophy, I always enjoyed getting the bigger trophies more, and strove for those trophies. The problem comes when parents don’t help their kids understand that, while a participation trophy is nice, there is much more pride and fanfare attached to getting those bigger trophies.

This past weekend, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took to Instagram to show his stance on children receiving participation trophies. To summarize, he doesn’t believe in them.


I agree with values behind his action of taking away his sons trophies because he believes that they didn’t earn them. Hard work and determination are strong values that should be taught to our youth, not complacency because you think that you’ll just have everything handed to you no matter what you do or don’t do. I just don’t believe in the action of taking those trophies away after they have already been awarded. Someone at the Best of the Batch Foundation believed that those kids earned those trophies for being willing to try. In professional sports, you see teams win a championship time and again under odd circumstances that have rival fans screaming that the win shouldn’t count, but the trophy still goes to the rightful team: the team that was awarded the win and the trophy that goes with it.

Instead of taking away those trophies, maybe James Harrison should have sat his boys down and talked to them how actively trying your best is great, but you have to try harder, practice harder, play harder, to win those really big trophies and medals to put on their dressers. Then show those kids what can be accomplished by showing them those two ginormous Super Bowl rings. It would have been a much better lesson than showcasing how you reprimanded your kids to prove a point to the world.

About Author

Pat Emmel is better at talking about sports than actually playing them.