NFL player's post reignites 'participation trophy' debate

Published: Aug. 19, 2015 at 8:17 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2015 at 10:07 PM CDT
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(KLTV) - An internet parenting debate was ignited Monday when Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison posted a picture of two trophies he said were awarded to his two sons for participation in a sport. In the caption, Harrison said he would be sending the trophies back until his boys "earn real ones."

The days of a first place are dwindling. Duane Lunday remembers a time when things were different, "In my day, you got a trophy for winning and maybe 2nd place."

Now, many youth organizations don't believe in first place. The YMCA awards every participant, regardless of performance. Sports Director Andres Zea explains the mentality, "We don't want them to focus on the score."

He says by recognizing each child's participation they are acknowledging individual efforts.

"Everybody's different. So we don't want to set some limitations of: he's gets a trophy and you don't because he's better than you," Zea says.

Zea says this school of thought shifts the focus from winning, to other important skills.

"It doesn't mean they're winning every game. It means that they're getting along, they like each other and they're communicating. They're helping each other."

On the other hand, Kung Fu is known for its discipline.

Brandon Jones owns Tyler Kung Fu and Fitness. He says, "you want to give kiddos a realistic version of the world." A world, Jones says, is full of winners and losers.

"The best applicant is going to get the job, the best athlete is going to win," Jones says.

Jones says losing is a teaching opportunity, in Kung Fu and in life.

"In competitive fighting," Jones says, "you analyze your opponent all the time. You get beaten by him, well guess what? You're going to start watching film, watching footage to know how they fight to know how you're going to overcome it the next time."

Jones says it is a necessary lesson, in resilience. 

"I can't imagine growing up and winning all the time and then you get your first job loss or layoff or whatever, you'd be devastated," Jones says.

This parenting issue is one not settled by a football players' post, nor a rehashed online debate, but perhaps a bit of perspective for both sides.

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