Jill’s House: What do participation medals teach our children?

Camryn, Jill Officer's four year old daughter poses for a photo with her soccer team. Sumnbitted

Thanksgiving weekend, our team was grateful to be back together again as a foursome when Jennifer made her return to the ice with us after having her second baby in August.

We made it to the final of the event only to lose a tight battle in an extra end.

After rushing to the airport, catching our flight home and landing after 11 p.m., I received this text from my husband.

I thought it was so sweet, but I felt bad that my daughter had these emotions because mommy lost. I am guessing she recalled mommy being sad after losing last year’s semi-final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and therefore became sad for me this time.

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I mean I was sad too of course, but it’s not like we lost the Scotties again or Olympic Trials final! But of course she doesn’t get that.

When she does get sad or asks why I am going to practice again, I am sure to tell her that mommy still had fun because I love curling. I explain that mommy likes to go to practice to get better so that next time maybe we’ll win. And honestly, I am glad that she sees me lose, so that I can teach her that winning isn’t everything. I am also glad she sees us win so that she knows our hard work and practice pays off.

Reality is, every time we step on the ice our goal is to win, but we know that’s not going to happen so that is why we focus on our technique, our feel and one shot at a time. We focus on practicing these things and being mentally ready so that our chances of winning increase. We enjoy competing in a sport we love. And sure I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, but would I do it if there were no end goal, such as winning something or accomplishing something? Would I do it if I simply got a participation medal every time? Probably not.

And this is where my gripe with participation medals in kid’s sports comes in. Why do we reward just showing up?

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Did we deserve a medal for just showing up at the Olympics or the Scotties? Maybe. And if we do, is there still value in the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals? I am not saying that we shouldn’t be proud of our participation in these events, but do we deserve a medal? What does it teach our kids if everyone gets a medal?

In soccer, my kid spent most of her time watching other kids and dogs that were playing in the field next to hers or fixing the half dozen berets that were in her hair or telling her coach all about her day while the coach was trying to “coach” the rest of the kids.

So why does she deserve a medal? Because mommy and Daddy took her there?

Yes, yes, I know she is only four and a half and I can’t expect her attention span to necessarily last an entire soccer game, although many of the other kids seemed to do ok. But by giving her a medal, I feel like it is saying it’s ok if you’re not focused, don’t participate and don’t work hard for the team.

She always said she had fun. We always told her how much we enjoy watching her play, have fun and work hard. We also helped her focus on one thing that might help her improve, something that focuses on the processes of the game.

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And really, this is exactly what we do, or try to do, as it is what is most likely to lead to any kind of success, not just in sport. So if I can teach my kid to focus on the process, but eventually understand what winning and losing is all about, then I am hoping she will be successful in whatever passion she chooses in life, sport or otherwise.


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