“Second place is just the first place loser” is a quote I had heard from Dale Earnhardt. I’m not a NASCAR fan but I have respect for anyone who dominated a sport in the way that Dale did. There was a reason his nickname was The Intimidator. Dale came out for every race expecting to win. The same way my beloved NY Yankees take the field at the start of each season expecting to make it to the World Series. Those are their expectations, it’s the way the organization wants the players to think. Anything less than winning it all is a disappointment. 

Another famous NASCAR driver, Ricky Bobby said: “If you’re not first you’re last” and damn it, Ricky, I agree 100%. No one remembers the horse that finished second in last year’s Kentucky Derby unless you placed a bet and lost. I’m not embarrassed to say that I don’t like second place. I play to win, all the time. Whether it’s sports or business I want to be first. Even if it’s a backyard cornhole game I enjoy winning. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. Jerry Seinfeld described second place best…

 

Everyone gets a trophy

Nowadays, the trophy has gone the way of the party favor, everyone gets one. When this happens they tend to lose their value. This is the wrong message to be putting in our children’s heads. This is setting them up for failure in life and building up expectations that will hit them like a ton of bricks when they become adults. 

Showing up, attending all practices and participating does not translate to being a winner. When that child grows up and enters the workforce they will quickly learn that all of those things are expected of them and not rewarded. You will be expected to show up for work and give 100%. It is true that showing up and working hard may help you excel at your job but it is not what you will be rewarded for.  You will be rewarded for the final product not for second place. 

I don’t get an annual bonus at work just because I come close to hitting my goal. “We know you tried really hard this year Scott so even though you didn’t hit your goal we’re still going to pay you your bonus!”. Wouldn’t that be nice? Well, it’s not going to happen. Instead, the speech may be a bit different: “Scott what the hell happened this year? If you continue to miss your goal you will be asked to leave”.

You get a trophy, you get a trophy

 

Trophies are for winners, not whiners! 

At the end of every sports season, there is a coach somewhere who tells their team: “We’re all winners on this team!”. Did you come in first place or win the title? Sorry. We’re not all winners! Someone loses and someone wins. Someone comes in first place and someone comes in second place.

That is one of the valuable lessons that playing sports teaches children. Some days you win and some you lose. It’s what you do after you lose and how you come back the next day that shows your true character. Losing doesn’t feel good. It can sting for a long time. Losing lets you know that you need to do better if you want to be first. Failure and losing is a part of growing. 

 

The coddling of children must stop

We’ve created a generation of children that expect to be coddled at all times. There is even terminology that’s been developed to describe these actions (helicopter parenting). When we rush in to try to solve all our children’s problems or protect them from failing we are actually doing them a disservice. We’re not allowing them to develop their own skills to problem solve and cope with stress.

 

One high school has decided to stop honoring their highest achievers

This story is from May 11, 2019, by Fox News out of Ohio:

An Ohio high school announced Thursday that they will be eliminating valedictorian and salutatorian honors starting next year in an effort to improve students mental wellness.

Officials with Mason High School, located in a Cincinnati suburb, said they were removing the honors and will instead recognize “students who have achieved outstanding academic success through a multitude of pathways,” Principal Bobby Dodd said in a statement, according to FOX 19 NOW.

Dodd said the move would help curb the competitive culture at the school and permit students to focus on other things. The school would continue to recognize those with a high average. Students who have achieved a 4.0 GPA or higher will earn summa cum laude. Students with a 3.75 to 3.99 GPA will receive magna cum laude honors. Those with a 3.51 to 3.74 will earn designated cum laude. The school originally recognized one valedictorian and salutatorian based on a students GPA ranking.

A child that has worked their tail off throughout school will no longer have the chance to be first in their class all because we don’t want to put stress on the children to be the best. Guess what, life is stressful so get used to it. 

Another story I read mentioned a girl who planned on suing her high school if she wasn’t reinstated after cuts to the Varsity Cheer squad. The coach said she was cut simply because she wasn’t good enough to make the team. This is what we’ve come to. I want my way and I’m going to make a stink until I get it. 

 

It’s all our own fault

We created this monster all on our own. Out of fear of children’s feelings being hurt we’ve decided it’s OK for them to want their safe spaces or sue when they don’t get their way. Look,  it’s OK to tell your children that trying your hardest is all that matters. However, it’s easy to cringe when you say this as a parent, especially to a child that just gave up a season-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. That child doesn’t care to hear that at least he/she tried hard. Sadly sometimes your best isn’t good enough to win. We want them to try and put themselves out there and learn how to overcome. 

 

Conclusion

Somewhere along the line, it was decided that we don’t want to single people out for their successes. We don’t want to hurt the feelings of others who perhaps didn’t do as well. We should not reward little or no effort at the same level as those who go over and above. Life is a competition in many ways. Prepare your children accordingly. Second place is just the first place loser.

“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses then why do they keep score?” – Vince Lombardi

What are your thoughts on the “everyone gets a trophy movement”? Please comment below. 

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