An Open Letter About Participation Trophies From A Millennial

An Open Letter About Participation Trophies From A Millennial

We like them less than you think
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Dear Baby Boomers and Generation X,

It's no secret that you like to complain about how participation trophies give millennials an unnecessary sense of entitlement. But, as a millennial, I'm here to tell you a secret that my generation has:

We hate those stupid trophies too.

Maybe not all of us, but a majority of us fail to see the point in them. If you didn't win, then you don't deserve a trophy. Not once as a child do I remember crying about not getting a trophy or a medal after losing. It's almost as if those little-leaguers you like to laugh at actually understand the concept of only being rewarded for success rather than failure. Nevertheless, coaches continue to give out participation trophies, and the rest of you continue to mock those receiving them.

But never mind the fact you, the Baby Boomers and Generation X, created participation trophies, you're literally laughing at the young children receiving them. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I would think you guys would be old and mature enough to realize how shameful you must look for laughing at children. Think about that - you think it's okay to give a seven year old something you created and brought into this world and then laugh at them for it.

And you can't even try to tell me I'm wrong and that participation trophies have always plagued this nation. When I was in the fifth grade, I entered my very first science fair. Do you know how many winners there were? Three. Do you know what I placed? First. Do you know what I received because of that? A trophy. Do you know what all the other people who didn't win received? Nothing. That's right, folks, at my science fair, if you didn't win then you didn't get a prize. And nobody cried about walking away empty-handed.

Now that I (hopefully) have you realizing that whichever one of you created participation trophies made a horrendous mistake and that we like them even less than you do, let me try to relate to you on a personal level. I think participation trophies are one of the most ridiculous things to ever grace the Earth (second only to reality TV). I wholeheartedly believe that the team that loses a soccer tournament deserves nothing more than a meeting with the coach about how to improve for next year. No one needs to be rewarded for losing. The only reason children have begun to expect those gold-painted plastic pillars of lies is because you've conditioned them that way. This is a monster you've created it, therefore, you have to destroy it.

This isn't like the ruined economy and housing market that you passed on to us, your successors. No, this is a problem you have to fix yourselves; don't expect millennials to swoop in like Superman and clean up your mess. We're not here to play janitor and mop up your mistake. We never asked for this, so it's not on us to deal with the repercussions. Next time, think before you create something else stupid.

But hey, if you guys clean this up fast enough, maybe we'll give you a trophy for putting in the effort.

Sincerely,

A millennial who earned all her trophies and medals

Cover Image Credit: A.F. Branco

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn't sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It's obvious your calling wasn't coaching and you weren't meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn't have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn't your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that's how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “It's not what you say, its how you say it."

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won't even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don't hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That's the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she's the reason I continued to play."

I don't blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn't working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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Thank You, Swimming, For Not Giving Up On Me When I Gave Up On You

It's something I cherish, even if it isn't going to be a part of my life forever.

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We choose not to think about it. It's hard to comprehend the countless hours we've dedicated, the accomplished goals, the unaccomplished goals, the heartbreak, and the victory. We try not to let the highs get to0 high or the lows get too low. Our parents have spent likely too much money on equipment, training and pasta dinners for carb overloads.

While our dreams transpired from being an Olympic gold medalist to somehow making it to the college level our passion was unwavering.

Passion is the thing that never went away.

When I was six years old I never considered exactly why I dedicated my afternoons and weekends to swimming back and forth over and over again. Every day, I jumped on the block high off of ring pops and pixie stick sugar and raced my heart out for a blue ribbon.

As I got older, the blue ribbon wasn't enough so I stopped eating candy before my events and even started drinking some water before I got on the block (I think I even warmed up a time or two). When I started high school life was no longer as cookie cutter as it was for me at six years old and I began to question the three hours I spent at the pool every afternoon. I even began to realize that football games, date nights out with the 16-year-old who had a car and girls nights with my friends consistently trumped the concept of swim practice.

My progress reflected my new found interests and I quickly began to loathe the sport that was once my very reason for waking up in the morning. So why didn't I quit? I honestly have no idea and I couldn't justify it if I tried. I hated everything about the sport but I couldn't bring myself to throw in the towel completely. I could blame it on my coaches, I could blame it on my parents and I could blame it on the 16-year-old boy with a car.

Really, the only person I can blame is myself.

In the midst of my highly hormonal teenage years, I was more than capable of identifying anything and everything that could possibly take the blame for my increasing times, destroyed mindset and negative attitude. I hated my mother for forcing me to go to practice every day. I hated my coaches for not believing in me. I hated my teammates for not hating swimming as much as I did.

Looking back, my mother still saw me as the 6-year-old girl with a ring pop in one hand and a blue ribbon in the other and she blamed herself for my depleting passion and was desperate for it to return. If I was my coaches, I probably wouldn't have believed in me either because I surely didn't believe in myself. As for my teammates, many of them started swimming much later than I did, and I now understand why they may not have had the same resentment and struggles that I was feeling at the time. I realize now that all of these issues stemmed from one major internal issue: I didn't believe in myself.

I tried to fool myself into it a few times. I'd take a deep breath, climb on the block, tell myself I could make it through the race and touch the wall without looking up at the clock because I already knew the result was not one I wanted to see. I let my times reflect my self-worth which was ignorant because it is virtually impossible to compete well when you do not believe in yourself.

I pretended to let the comments about my times being slower roll off my shoulders, but they etched themselves in my mind and echoed through every race I swam. I pretended not to care that my coach forgot to get my splits on my race, but for some reason the next time I raced I didn't feel particularly inclined to put my best foot forward. I was desperate to love the sport that had once been the source of my happiness, and the heartbreak that came with my new found hatred for it was overbearing.

I was trying so hard to love it, but I was struggling to make it through.

There are days where I do not touch the times I did as a 12-year-old girl and there are days where I choose a date night over swim practice. Sometimes, I even turn off my alarm in the morning and pretend that I forgot to set it just because I don't feel like getting out of bed for practice.

There are meets where I add 10 seconds and there are meets where tears fill my goggles in the warm down pool. There are coaches who still don't believe in me and there are "friends" who still laugh at my times. But, there are coaches who do believe in me and there are friends who do celebrate my success and unfortunately, both of these realities go hand in hand.

So no, I am no Olympic gold medalist and in three short years, swimming will likely just be a memory of mine. But, it will be a memory I cherish and a memory I love and I couldn't ask for much more than that.

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