I sat in front of my computer for a long time today before I started typing. Something this week struck a nerve with me and I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle the subject.
What subject is that, you ask? The concept of “participation awards”.
In case you missed it, James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers made the news this past week after posting an Instagram picture of a pair of participation trophies he had taken away from his sons because he wants his boys to EARN their awards, not be given awards for just showing up. The last I saw, the picture had over 2,700 comments and nearly 15k “likes”. Clearly, he got people talking.
Now, I’m not here to say whether I agree or disagree with Mr. Harrison’s point or his parenting style because it’s really none of my business. What it did was get me thinking about all of the “participation awards” I currently have. I have a rack of race medals hanging on my wall. Did I not “earn” these medals? I completed the required distances but in no way shape or form did I ever come close to winning. I still feel I earned those medals as did everyone else who completed the race. The people who won received something else for their accomplishments – money, other trophies, something. Because I didn’t win, should I not have received anything? I don’t think so.
For me…the “bling” is a motivator. I know I will never win or even come close to placing in my age group at a race, unless only 3 people show up, but I know if I put in the work I will get some cool shiny thing at the end. It makes me proud and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I should feel that way intrinsically but I don’t. I like shiny things. Heck, we organize virtual races here at Shrinking Jeans, complete with participation medals and shirts because we think it’s fun, gives you something to work for, and creates a sense of community as we fundraise for worthy causes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Maybe you aren’t motivated by a finisher’s medal or participation award. Maybe it’s the fun shirt or taking selfies with your BRF. Maybe you are one of those people who really are intrinsically motivated. Whatever works and gets you out the door is fine with me. If a participation award creates enough excitement in a 5-year-old to try soccer for the first time or a 4th grader to go out for Girls on the Run, then by all means, give him or her the award. I still think children and adults need to be taught that the world is full of winners and losers and there are behaviors which go beyond the sense of entitlement to get something for nothing, but when you show up and play for a season of soccer or complete that 5k, you haven’t done “nothing”. Go ahead and hang that bling on your wall. You’ve earned it.
What motivates you? Are you motivated by the “bling”?