The Trophy Generation

By April 25, 2014 4 Comments

In athletics one of the main goals is to win championships, to bring home a trophy. Michigan State head men’s basketball coach, Tom Izzo, is one of the great current collegiate coaches. He’s won championships and is widely respected throughout the industry for how he runs his program. This week we’re going to break down and discuss a quote from Coach Izzo.

After his team defeated Northwestern this past season Izzo delivered great sound bites during his post-game press conference. The topic of coaching and motivating today’s athletes came up and Izzo said, “We’re in the trophy generation, give ‘em a trophy for 23rd place, make ‘em feel good. Make mom and dad feel good, you know.” This quote is great and provides an accurate reflection of the sports world today. While pondering this quote, I’ve come up with three ideas to discuss.

First, we’re a soft society. Our society has become soft because we as parents, educators, and coaches have increasingly become soft in handling our youth. Kids today are too pampered. We avoid telling the truth in order to preserve a false sense of worth because we’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. Although painful at times the truth is necessary. There are not enough people holding kids accountable. Kids are not taught how to handle rejection; they’re taught how to get their way. In sports, winning and losing doesn’t mean very much because our kids are playing too many games in too many tournaments. It doesn’t matter if you lose this game because you’ve still got three more games today and another tournament next weekend. Athletes need a big game or tournament to look forward to, not six games every weekend. Winning loses value when kids are playing in more games than the practices that are held. Kids expect to get trophies and we as parents expect our kids to receive them. This sense of entitlement is harming youth, high school, and collegiate athletics.

As coaches, we need to inspire and eliminate our insecurities. Motivation is like deodorant, it only lasts so long. Inspiration lasts a lifetime. It provides a clear vision and challenges our athletes to be at their best all the time. We need to eliminate the insecurity that we carry. Too many of us feel that we have no value if we don’t take home a trophy or if our kids don’t win them. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Having a trophy doesn’t make you a champion. Being a champion is all about how you conduct yourself, the preparation you put in, and the resilience you show. Those traits should be praised and emphasized, not taking home a trophy for participation in a league or tournament. I firmly believe that if we inspire our athletes to reach their full potential they’ll earn and win trophies.

As I have stated in previous blogs, we need to let kids fail. We should embrace failure. It’s the only way to get better. Thomas Edison was asked about failing over 25,000 in creating a storage battery and responded by saying, “No, I didn’t fail. I discovered 24,999 ways that the storage battery doesn’t work.” Parents, we all want our kids to do well and win trophies but this can do more harm than good. It’s okay to let them fail because when they do win a trophy it will be that much sweeter. People are getting trophies and awards for doing the things that they should do such as: showing up, trying hard, and having a good attitude. Not everyone deserves a trophy or a medal. That sentiment leads to entitlement.

If we as parents and coaches can let go of our insecurities we can reverse the negative that is coming out of the trophy generation. Not everyone has to receive a trophy to have value. Effort, commitment, teamwork, and perseverance can all be acknowledged and celebrated without a trophy. Trophies should be earned, not given.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree?

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week and be an RGP today!


Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Warren Nye says:

    Kyle, great post! Couldn’t agree with you more on all your 3 points.
    Thanks for sharing your points with us.
    Coach Nye

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks Coach, I appreciate it! Hope you have a great weekend!

  • Terry Crawford says:

    Amen! It drives me nuts that parents don’t allow their child to fail so they can learn valuable life lessons. “Prepare the Child for the Path, not the Path for the child”

  • kelmendorf says:

    I love that line, Terry. “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” Thanks for reading and sharing, I appreciate it!