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Debate Over Participation Trophies Heats Up02:52Download

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James Harrison had to work to earn the Vince Lombardi trophy when he helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl. He stripped his two kids of their participation trophies this week because they didn't 'earn' them. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)MoreCloseclosemore
James Harrison had to work to earn the Vince Lombardi trophy when he helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl. He stripped his two kids of their participation trophies this week because they didn't 'earn' them. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison made news this week when he ordered his children, ages 8 and 6, to return trophies they’d received for participating in a program designed to teach them teamwork. His rationale was that they hadn’t won anything, so they shouldn’t get trophies. Bill Littlefield doesn’t agree.


Participation trophies have the populace riled up.
Should every kid who signs on get a little silver cup?

Or maybe some faux-marble stand with player at the top?
And if they give such trophies out, where does the giving stop?

Should trophies be for winners only? Or should there be more?
Should everybody get one, if not two or three or four…
To line up on their shelves in case their self-esteem should slip?
James Harrison believes it’s time for folks to get a grip
And realize rewarding nothing teaches kids to feel
There is no need to try and win. The contest isn’t real
If everyone’s rewarded with a trophy at the end.
I don’t want James to break, but might he just so slightly bend?

I don’t think kids are stupid. Kids know who has lost and won.
They also know — or ought to know — that playing games is fun.
And trophies? They are also fun, though they’re inclined to break
When puppies knock them over, but are trophies a mistake?

My kids collected trophies, ribbons, medals, all that stuff,
Sometimes they were on winning teams, and sometimes times were tough,
But trophies piled up either way, and briefly meant a lot…
I know that it was “briefly” because now it’s me that’s got
The boxes full of trophies in the basement with the lamps
And junk that they brought home from summers spent in summer camps,
And shells and clothes and beat-up bikes and photos, hats, and shoes…
It’s part of what accumulates, although some stuff they lose…
But in among the rubble there are little soccer players,
And little folks with basketballs. I might join the nay-sayers,
Because without the long-forgotten trophies, there would be
Less clutter in the basement, and someday it will be me
Who has to clean the clutter out, but when the kids were small,
Perhaps the trophies helped them feel a little bit more tall.

Related:

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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