Among all of the great staples of Spring is Field Day! In the last two weeks, I have seen many Field Day pictures posted from area schools. My own son counted down the days until last Friday when the students at his school left the books in the classroom and hit the fields. His class had some of the traditional Field Day activities like hurdles and tug-of-war along with new things that involved water, lots and lots of water to be more specific. There was a wet sponge volleyball game, over and under with a wet sponge, leaky pipe, and a host of other great games and activities.
I attended Field Day with my son. I have been going now for many years. Things are a little different than when I was growing up. When I was a boy, no parents came out to watch their son and/or daughter play. There were no water sports, and ribbons were presented to the winners throughout the day.
I remember wanting to win a ribbon very badly. The truth is that I smell about the same now as I did back then when it comes to sports—I stink! Once after the Field Day activities, I found a blue ribbon on the ground. I picked it up, and I thought about how cool it would be for me to tell everyone that I won the ribbon. There was no name or activity on the back. My conscious took over as I was concocting my story. I knew that somebody at my school worked hard to earn that ribbon and for me to keep it was not only selfish but it was just plain wrong. I gave the ribbon to my teacher.
There is a trend today to award trophies to all of the children that participate on a team. This must have been born out of a fear that we cannot crush the fragile egos of our children. In trying to protect them, we are sending a bad message to the future of our country. We are telling them that everyone is entitled to an award and that hard work and dedication are about the same as just showing up. One of my favorite movie lines is from the Incredibles. The villain from the movie was going to give out super powers to everybody. Then he said, “When everybody is special, then nobody is.”
Whether we think we are protecting the egos of our children or just shielding ourselves from having to explain why everyone did not get a trophy, we are devaluing achievement. When everybody gets a trophy, then a trophy does not mean anything. In some sporting events, I hear that they do not even keep score now. I tried to do that with a small soccer game that we did with the Cub Scouts over the weekend. The goal was to play for thirty minutes. The score did not matter, yet one of the first grade Scouts knew how many goals each team scored at the end of the game. What is the point of playing if you don’t keep score?
This year’s Field Day was more about fun (and apparently getting wet) than the ribbons. However, there are teachable moments that are lost when we do not reward hard work and achievement. If we do not pass those lessons along to our children, then the ones that may suffer in the future could be ourselves.
Written by Bill Waller. Mr. Waller is a author and contributor local blog, Southwest Georgia Politics. He enjoys writing, traveling, and researching history. He currently resides in Albany, Georgia.