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Some -- not all -- feel-good trophies have merit

A custom trophy order is fulfilled at the

A custom trophy order is fulfilled at the Trophy Depot, an assembler and distributor of awards and trophies for schools, sporting leagues and corporate organizers, seen here at the headquarters in Edgewood on Nov. 20, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Does your child play sports? Then you know the curse of the participation trophy. Every kid on every organized team gets one. They multiply like rabbits in bedrooms and basements. And in the end, they are ingloriously discarded.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison's solution is to not let them in the house. He ignited a controversy over the weekend with an online post saying he is going to return participation trophies given to his two sons. While he said he's proud of his boys and always will encourage them, he feels the trophies were given for "nothing." Only a "real" trophy they had earned had value.

We sympathize with Harrison -- to a degree. But this public display seems unnecessarily embarrassing to his boys. Explaining to them his thinking -- #harrisonfamilyvalues, as he puts it -- would have been more productive. Their age, too, is an issue. His sons are 6 and 8.

Harrison said they are not entitled to trophies just because they tried their best. We disagree. That is a good message to impart to our youngest athletes. But it doesn't need to be sent to, say, a 12-year-old. Kids that age might still be young, but they're not stupid. They get it. The excitement of being handed that first piece of hardware fades quickly and the importance of always giving maximum effort becomes ingrained as the sports seasons pass.

At the earliest ages in sports, learning to play is most important. Winning becomes paramount along the way -- too much so sometimes. Presumably, Harrison wants his sons to earn trophies for victory. That's fine. But let's not lose sight of how challenging it is for the younger ones to put on a uniform and start playing for the first time.

As for the older ones, Harrison may have a point. Let's stop giving participation trophies and use the savings to reduce the fees for playing. That would be a win-win for everyone.


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