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Friday, 11 October 2019 20:48

'MATTer of Opinion' Sports Column: Sports aren't about participation trophies

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Too often we reward children for simply showing up.

In the sports world, just showing up isn't good enough. Just being there doesn't mean you deserve anything. Playing time is worked for. Accolades are earned.

It's one thing when we're talking about little kids who are just getting into youth sports. It's nice for them to get some sort of recognition for showing up — as long as they're showing up consistently and working hard when they're doing it, even if that doesn't necessarily translate to success on the field or the court.

When you're playing for a Little League baseball team or a 6- and 7-year-old football squad, absolutely I believe everyone should get an opportunity to play. That's how you learn, that's how you get experience, and that's how you grow.

But there comes a time when we have to start teaching children they don't deserve to play just because they're there. It's hard to decide when that line should be drawn between everyone deserving a shot and when it's really time to start competing.

Middle school is when coaches and players really need to begin thinking about wins and losses or at the very least being competitive.

In this generation, a lot of young people think things should be handed to them; they don't have to work for them, but they still should get them. And parents are getting worse and worse about thinking their kids deserve the world.

I've had so many people complain to me about their kid not getting his or her name in the paper, and I've heard multiple parents complain to coaches about their children not getting playing time. Especially at the varsity level. That's a part of sports.

A player can work just as hard as someone else, put in just as much time and keep trying to get better, but that doesn't mean he or she deserves to win a starting job if they're simply not as good as the person ahead of them.

But here's the important part: That doesn't mean that player's role is any less valuable.

Ever heard of an NFL practice squad? Sure, those guys don't get to play on Sundays, and they aren't winning Super Bowls, but they are still a valuable part of the team and that's why they get a ring if their team succeeds. 

Competition breeds success, and that means within teams, too.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Sports aren't just about sports. Sports aren't just about wins and losses. Sports are about life lessons, becoming better people and taking that into the next phase of life. 

Sometimes you're gonna get passed over for a job. Sometimes a co-worker is going to get a raise you feel like you deserve. Sometimes bad things are just going to happen, and you're not going to get a trophy just for showing up everyday. 

Does that mean you quit life? Of course not. That means you keep going, you keep working, and you hope one day you get your chance in the spotlight.

And when you're angry because your kid isn't getting playing time, just remember someone like former Alabama and current Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Good things come to those who wait and those who continue to work.



Matt Harrelson

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