Simplifying Science

The Real Win

Last year, my then 7-year old son had one of the greatest sports moments of his life. It was the end of the 10-week season at the local park rec center. My son's coach gathered all of the kids around him. In the center stood a box of trophies waiting to be passed out. But the boys had just lost their last game and were subsequently knocked out of the playoffs. This coach (who was also a father of one of the boys on the team) is a complex guy, but it is precisely his complexity that makes me adore him. He spoke to the boys about their season, brimming with pride because they had come so far and worked so hard. They really had gelled as a team - we, parents, had all witnessed it - but in the end it wasn't enough to come out on top. "See these trophies?" he asked no one in particular. "Well, you aren't getting them because you didn't win. Trophies should be given to the winners. But that doesn't mean that I am not proud of you. You did a great job, and maybe next year you will come out on top." At that point he lifted the box of trophies and set them on a nearby trashcan. I was stunned. not by his words - I totally agreed with him and I was thrilled to see someone finally stand up to pointless trophy distribution. No, what stunned me was that the boys didn't care. In fact, they appreciated it. They understood what their coach was saying and they nodded their heads in agreement. When we returned home, my son wandered into his room and stared at the bookshelf filled with trophies from seasons past. "Can I use these shelves for legos that I have built instead of trophies?" he asked. "You bet," I said.

Losing Is Good for You

LOS ANGELES — AS children return to school this fall and sign up for a new year’s worth of extracurricular activities, parents should keep one question in mind. Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this: “Which kids get awards?” If the answer is, “Everybody gets a trophy,” find another program.

Trophies were once rare things — sterling silver loving cups bought from jewelry stores for truly special occasions. But in the 1960s, they began to be mass-produced, marketed in catalogs to teachers and coaches, and sold in sporting-goods stores. Read More