Everyone’s a Winner!
Freddie’s mum came to pick him up after the tournament. “How did he go,” she asked. Freddie had won 1 and lost 2, one of these very narrowly and really enjoyed the event and playing with his mates and becoming a better competitor. “Does he get a trophy or something?” Urgh!
This is a growing trend, everyone’s a winner and gets a trophy – a real plastic gold trophy [which most likely will end up as land fill.] I am prepared to be wrong; or for someone to argue a good case for everyone getting a trophy at 10& under but…I feel we have to create a different environment to recognize the efforts of our tennis kids.
When it comes to the effects of praise and prizes on kids, the research is clear. Awards are great, but relentless recognition does not inspire children to succeed. It can in fact cause them to underachieve. What researchers such as Carol Dweck have found is that once kids get good at something, the excitement and challenge of competition may be what is most attractive about the activity.
So the challenge is to to come up with some meaningful awards, rather than the something for everyone model. Let the kids know what the awards are before the event and tell them the skills you are looking for. For example have the Federer Sportsmanship Award which recognizes congratulating your opponent for good shots, fair line calls, positive body language whether winning or losing and shaking hands at the end of the match. Other awards could include the Nadal Determination, Serena Serve or Rookie [for best 1st year player].
These are real awards that kids can strive towards and work at improving their skills and attitudes to achieve them. It is not our job to dress up losses and failures into something they are not. We are better off helping the kids learn how to congratulate the kid who won with real grace and bounce back from any setbacks with determination and purpose.