When I played soccer in second grade, I got a small participation trophy. Granted I never blocked or scored any goal myself. Actually, my clearest memory is feeling out of breath to the point where my coach waved at me from the sideline. He wanted me to lay down on the field so that a timeout could be called. Nevertheless, this was my first trophy so it meant a lot to me. Here are some of Carol Dweck’s thoughts on participation trophies from National Public Radio.
Years later, my bowling team came in first place. That trophy was a lot bigger and represented a more easily understood accomplishment, especially because I knocked down 28 pins in the tenth frame of our third game to secure a win that the rest of my team had propagated the entire match.
In high school I was fortunate enough to grow as a singer, dancer, and actor in an extraordinary show choir program. Here I got the best of both worlds as the medals we received at competitions validated the hard work we put in as a team and my role within it.
Eventually, I kept the later awards and gave away the soccer trophy in a garage sale. I didn’t realize that the reason the soccer trophy meant so much to me initially was that every single practice and game was so far outside of my comfort zone. Alas, I was scared of the ball.