Participation Trophies – Undermining the Development of Fortitude

Fortitude – “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously”

I recently went to see my step-daughter perform in a gymnastics competition organised by her local club. They have excellent facilities, and she’s come a long way since beginning her training with them. Her performance at the competition was, in my opinion, excellent. It was obvious that there were some very talented young athletes competing that day, as the general standard was very high. Faye’s performance was up there with some of the best of the day, and we were very proud of her for her performance.

Despite the quality of her routine, she just missed out on placing for a winners medal. But, whether placed or not, every single person who competed received a ‘participation medal’ to recognise their attendance at the event.

For me, there is something deeply disturbing about participants being rewarded regardless of their standing or result, win or lose. Speaking from personal experience, it was the times when I didn’t win anything, got my arse kicked, or just completely screwed up my performance that put the most fire in my belly to improve. It was those times when I came up short, that I felt a renewed passion to train harder, be more creative and make every effort to be the best I could be every single day. It was those times that gave me the drive and determination to be successful in any endeavour upon which I embarked, because failure was painful and I wasn’t going to let that happen next time, come hell or high water. It calcified my resolve, and held the dominance of my unwavering tenacity to win, and to succeed. My failures have always been stepping stones to success, and the more my failures were amplified the more it drove me to work harder at achieving my goals.

This is true whether in sports, business or life. It is the adversity we face that gives us strength, and introduces us to a new level of potential. It is outside our comfort zones that inner growth becomes a life enhancing cancer ripping perpetually through our minds and delivers to us new levels of understanding, knowledge potential and action in excellence.

We are doing a poor job of teaching our children basic life literacy, and participation trophies epitomise the very crux of the problem – the World is hard, and yet we teach them wrapped in cotton wool. How are they to learn to respond to life’s challenges when they’re not exposed to them or taught how to deal with them before they’re thrust out into the World in their early 20’s?

In a lot of ways, we need to suffer. We need pain, and we need discomfort – it’s how we grow. There are lessons in painful and uncomfortable situations that cannot be learned from pleasant and comfortable situations; likewise, painful and uncomfortable situations cannot teach you the lessons that can be learned from positive experiences. Both are important in our mental development as we grow into adults, and indeed to ensure we continue to grow throughout our lives. That’s not to say that we as parents cannot or should not be there to pick up the pieces and provide ground support in the form of damage limitation behind the scenes or stepping in at the right time to avert the impending train crash, but there are some things in life you just have to learn the hard way – sometimes, suffering is the only thing that can teach you what you need to learn in order to move into the next phase of your life.

How we mould our children, these millennial generations, is one of the most important subjects to be considered in the World today, and it’s about time we started respecting and rewarding those people who teach them appropriate to the level of responsibility they hold! These people are literally raising the next generation of leaders and teaching them how to think and how to operate when they become self-sufficient adults. That is such an important job, yet they are rewarded with ever expanding red tape, budget restrictions and a lack of resources to excel in their profession. The potential long term effect this is likely have on the World will be one of a global population with a reduced capacity for critical thinking resulting in poorer leaders, and this will be the generation that one day runs the World; for me, that’s a scary thought.

We must take better care with, and be more considerate towards, our children’s education and development (and indeed our own) – the future of our race quite literally depends on it.

Let them lose when they don’t hit the mark; let them fuck things up and then make them put in the work to get their shit back together and take a bold step into the next phase of their lives. Give them the gift of a raging inferno in their hearts, and watch it burn bright with each and every motivating experience they are gifted. Show them that there is a lesson in everything, and that they must try extra hard to see those lessons in the most difficult and darkest times of their lives – they happen to us because we need them, and they will keep happening until we have learned the lesson life is trying to teach us; remember, you have no control over what life throws at you, but you have total control over how you react to it.

With passion,

Jamie

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