Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oops! Did I Just Contribute to the Wussification of America?

Maybe I contributed to the further wussification of America yesterday -- more than my usual shrieking like a schoolgirl every time I get poop on my finger -- when I failed to intervene when my kids received their soccer trophies.

Everyone gets a trophy.

Pretty benign sentence, but it's used derisively as the rallying cry for competitive people who love to take non-competitive things like kiddie soccer and turn them into the dividing line between good and evil, deserving and undeserving, winning and losing, between my superior kids and your loser kids. Winners get trophies, it rubs the wrong way when losers do, too.

"These kids obviously suck, but everyone gets a trophy. I'm so sick of everyone getting a trophy," the rant usually goes somewhere in the literary cesspool of comments below an internet story about a youth baseball team that lost 77-0. "We reward failure by giving every kid a trophy, even the kids on teams that didn't win a game. They don't deserve trophies, in fact they deserve our unrelenting scorn. If we continue to pamper our children like this, they will grow up thinking they are special when they're not, and they'll demand attention when it's not warranted.  We're too worried about everyone's feelings when we should be more worried about crushing people and teaching the kids the benefits of a good, ole-fashoned, 'Merican ass-whooping.  That is what builds character. Giving everyone a trophy leads to kids shooting up schools. This wussification of America will not stop until we only give trophies to the winners, and maybe not even then, unless the champs embarrass their opponents and win by at least 20. My seven-year-old girl got one of those stupid trophies last year, and even she realized how pointless it was..."

This was one of those "pureed" responses from several taken from the internet. The part about linking excessive trophy-giving to school violence was priceless. Because that's what's wrong with us.

I don't have a seven-year-old girl at home, but I have a six-year-old girl at home, and she earned every ounce of her trophy this year. She may also realize how relatively immaterial it is compared to her other accomplishments, but the fact that she tried something she had never tried before was worth all of it. She was, frankly, not a very good player on probably the worst team in the league. (Hoping she doesn't read this until she's married...) But she improved during the year as she learned, and although she got mostly overpowered out there by boys who have been playing since they could walk, she still had fun.

And that's the beauty of this league. They never kept score, there were no refs, the coaches loosely enforced the rules, nobody kept track of which kids got more playing time. Most importantly, we as parents were warned before the season of the Parent Code of Conduct. Zero tolerance for abusive behavior toward players (including your own team's players) or coaches. Penalty was immediate expulsion from the league with a pro-rated refund.

Some folks' heads would have spinned in this league. I've heard of dads in similar leagues who kept track of their own scores and kids's stats, then e-mailed Standings and League Leaders out to other members of the league. Sounds like a worthwhile pursuit to me, instead of, you know, teaching respect for your opponent or humility in victory. Because you know the dads of the last-place team weren't doing this.

So this weekend when both the six-year-old and the three-year-old (unofficial league leader in kicking the ball into the wrong net) received their trophies, I totally missed both photo ops because I thought they were getting their snacks and not their trophies. "Snacks! You give the kids trophies AND snacks? Should we just raise marshmallows instead of kids?" But their wide smiles said it all; this is their thing. I'm not going to stand in the way of them claiming a little trophy, even if my silence is tacit approval of the further Wussification of America.

Later that night, the girl hinted that one of the reasons she started playing soccer in the first place was, "to get a trophy." So maybe she has already started learning the system. Want a trophy? Go play a sport before it's too late. And maybe the whole "everyone gets a trophy" deal isn't so bad. It seems to have lured one player onto the field who never would have tried otherwise. 

Soon enough, there will be a time when the competition will be tougher, when she feels the frustration that she can't play as well as the other girls, and that a little trophy won't be worth the hassle. Soon enough, there will be no leagues that are just for fun. Plenty of time for that later. For now, she continues to be the happiest little doll in the world, and it's how I'll choose to remember this season.


Amy FunnyIsFamily said...

My six year old play soccer and t-ball, and almost all of the parents crack up when a kid runs down the third base line after hitting the ball or dribble towards the wrong goal in soccer. I am not looking forward to when he gets older and the tone becomes more serious.

We don't have snacks, though. I don't want to bring snacks, but I'll bet my kids would like to eat them!

JC said...

Thanks for swinging by Amy :) Pardon the mess, we're still under construction...yeah, the snacks thing was a shock to me, especially when there's a concession stand RIGHT THERE, but whatever. I didn't realize it was our week to bring the post-game snacks until I saw my wife unloading a bunch of juice boxes and stuff, but she's a ki ndergarten teacher, so feeding little kids and triple-knotting shoes is in her DNA.

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