Years ago I was working for Ottawa’s Winterlude. A huge winter-based carnival that annually attracts millions ($$$) in tourism. In terms of Winter events – it’s a marathon. By the end of it, the crew is wore out.
As my friend and I were setting up the banquet hall for the awards ceremony for the International Ice Carving competition, I pulled out the trophies “Uh oh Pat, we can’t use these tonight!” “Why?” “Unless there have been some dramatic changes in the English language I’m not aware of, I don’t think our competitors want to bring home a trophy that says 1rd or 2rd.” “No way!” “Yup” “Are you sure?” “I know I’m tired, but…” He walked towards me, looked at the trophies.
We looked at each other and I don’t remember how long it took before we cracked up. We laughed so hard I had to stop and check my pants. We laughed until we hiccuped with full body spasms. May I remind you this was at the end of the marathon. Three weeks with a minimum of 4 hours sleep per night.
Trophies. Who needs them anyways? Obviously everybody does nowadays. When Leo raced, one of his main sponsors owned a trophy shop. He frequently talked about changes in times. When he started his operation, all he made was 1st -2nd – 3rd place trophies. Mementos were reserved for champs and most valuable players. And then his business really boomed when every kid walked home with a participating award.
You don’t fail if you try.
Remember that Nestlé Quik commercial? The child comes home, depressed because his team lost the hockey game. His parent makes him a chocolate drink (mmmm – cho-co-llllate) and tells him “Did you have fun? Did you try?”
Where is that parent when the child comes home from the 37th job interview rejection? Is there a trophy for rejection? Are we really truly preparing people for loss when we award failure? I’m not a parent – I failed at that and now have shelves of “Congratulations on your miscarriage” trophies. But. I still like to believe I can have an opinion.
In 1976 – year Montreal hosted the Olympics – our school held its own mini olympics. After a full week of grueling and intensive competitions, we received our medals, ribbons and pins. I sat in the gym surrounded by kids with handfuls of ribbons. I think I was the only one empty handed. The teacher even openly debated over giving me the participant certificate (a piece of paper) mulling loudly how I hadn’t even earned enough points for that.
I was mortified. But still. I walked away knowing I could kick anybody’s butt in anything creative, I could out-math most of my classmates and I was about the funniest of my class. I couldn’t understand why I was such a spaz when it came to running, catching, throwing or jumping. Or kicking. Or diving. But I knew my strengths.
And now? We award everybody for everything. We don’t learn to deal with true failure. We don’t learn to pinpoint – really pinpoint – our core areas of weaknesses. As long as we try… Sorry your house burned down, but I really tried getting the big red truck around the corner in times. Sorry your husband died, but I really tried figuring out which wire goes where.
Maybe it’s like a pendulum that will eventually find it’s juste milieu. Somewhere between me the loser with zero ribbons, not even a piece of paper claiming I participated and every kid walking home with a trophy. Ah what the heck, keep dishing them out and help support young athletes through sponsorship.