Each year when the season ends for the 8th grade football team we have a small party with lots of ice cream and cookies. The event is primarily geared toward collecting the gear that we give out to all of the kids so that we as coaches are not required to chase them for a whole school year to bring back the equipment. In my first year at the school I decided to give out awards. This was met with some concern from my athletic director as many parents get caught up about distinguishing one kid from another. We had several discussions about the topic in the weeks leading up to the end of the season. My athletic director has a vision of what he would like to get the program and believes if he lets his coaches work through things they will keep the benefit of the kids in mind. I went and built the awards with materials I bought with my own money. I had a excitement running through my veins as I spray painted a rawhide bone blue for the Ready, Able, Willing award which to me was the most important one of all.
The day came to have our meeting my assistants and I had decided that all but the MVP awards would be selected by coaches. We wanted the boys to have ownership in who they chose to be their MVP. However, we shortened the list of candidates to deter the pranksters from choosing anybody and derailing my goals of having the team elevate a deserving team member that served them well through the season. I had asked the seventh grade head coach if he wanted to join us in the awards ceremonies. He smiled and said,” you are not a teacher so your job is not really on the line of some parent complains”. I smiled and said “very true my friend I will move forward on this”
The time came to unveil our work. one of the parents that helped me coach was a pretty handy guy so he built 4 of the awards and I built 4 of them. Remember it is football there are a lot of kids and reasons to award someone for their service to the team. We showed the boys the awards and their eyes lit up. They all came over to look at them and read the descriptions on each of them. Some boys walked away hoping it was theirs. Others smiled and yelled out things like winner to play off their fears of maybe actually winning and then what? Would I now be looked at as some sort of leader?
Before we gave out the first award I told the boys that for years they were all given the same medal or trophy for showing up. However, today only a few people would get to hold the awards at the front of the room as their own and only a few would get to be in the picture. I asked them to clap for their team mates that were selected. I asked them to consider their season individually and what it may have taken in order for their name to be called. I asked them to accept the challenge of being the one called in years to come because they would be entering high school. My goal was simple, applaud greatness and aspire to it. Aspire to be more than you are today and cheer on your team mates that have the ability to serve the team in a manner that would distinguish them. I told them to push to be distinguishable from all the rest so that if given an award it would not be one that was given to everyone but one that celebrates their uniqueness. The last thing I told them is that the next few years would provide them an opportunity to choose greatness as their goal in whatever they decided to pursue.
Then we called the names and the boys clapped for their team mates and we took pictures. Then we took pictures of all of them together with the recipients holding their trophies. This year was my 4th year of handing out the trophies and now boys start the season wondering what they need to do in order to be one of the guys holding one of them. Word has spread all the way down to the youth program about awards that only a few get.
I don’t believe in medals and trophies for participating. Ribbons serve the purpose very well. I don’t believe that focusing your energies to win at all costs is important either. My parents have a basement full of my awards who will care about them when I am gone? I found medals from people long gone and wondered what they needed to do in order to be selected for such an award and I realized that it as not the award that was important but the service to the society as a whole that came from a person trying to achieve greatness that helps us all.