The parents in our town are notoriously, how shall I put this kindly, opinionated. (Overbearing? Stressed out? Driven?) I usually try to stay out of the fray, but there have been times when I’ve found myself right in the middle of it. Case in point: the 2007 debate over whether my son’s 6-and-under AYSO team should get trophies or should make tie-dyed t-shirts at the end-of-year party to commemorate the soccer season. It was Civil War between the moms. I don’t exaggerate.
The arguments for and against trophies were all over the place, and lasted for weeks. “They didn’t win anything so why would we give them trophies?” “My kid expects a trophy.” “I don’t want to have to dust another trophy.” “It’s not about trophies and winning, it’s the experience of being part of a team.” “They worked hard and deserve trophies.” (In the interest of full disclosure, I was in the pro-trophy camp). At the lowest point of the debate, one parent suggested that the families who want their kids to have trophies should buy them and then in the middle of the tie-dye party sneak their 6 year old soccer players across the street to the grocery store parking lot for a separate award ceremony. (Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.)
But, it does raise an interesting question. What do you need to do to merit an award? And, turning the mirror on myself for a moment, what about all of those finishers’ medals awarded at the end of a race? Because I really, really like them.
I don’t care how many races I enter, every time I look forward to the race shirts, the swag bags, and most especially the big medals hanging from thick, smooth ribbons waiting for me at the end. These are the carrots that sometimes coax me to the finish. These are the reminders in the weeks that follow of what I’ve accomplished and what I’m training to do next. And, I’ll go there, I’m proud of all of them - every 5k t-shirt, every Half Marathon finisher’s medal. And I know I’m not alone. Go to the finish area after any race and you’ll find a bunch of sweaty, disheveled runners strutting around like peacocks with medals hanging around their necks. Does it mean any less that everyone who simply had the courage to sign up for the race got a t-shirt and everyone who managed to drag herself across the finish line got a medal?
A couple of years ago, my son and I were organizing his bookshelf and re-arranging the trophies that sat on top. I asked him which ones meant the most to him. Without hesitation, he picked out the Little League City Championship trophy and a medal he was given after achieving an A time (I think his only A time standard) in swimming. I asked him why, and this is what he said: “because it wasn’t like the parents just went out and bought them. I had to earn them.”