Participation “Rewards”?

Parents want their children to be the best people they can possibly be and to do this, they often insert their kids into various sports and activities to build character. Refrigerators are decorated with certificates and gold stars while the walls are ornamented with ribbons, trophies, and other memorabilia. While this may seem uplifting and confidence- boosting, the message in between the lines could actually be more threatening than rewarding. In the midst of the ribbons and trophies, there is bound to be an unfortunate participation trophy.

Participation trophies have been around for years, allowing equal and fair rewards to be distributed throughout all team members and participants. Just for showing up and playing, you get a trophy. Even if you don’t play, you still get a trophy. This attempts to minimize kids “feeling bad” and acknowledge good work that was invested. However, if this is the case then children will continue growing up with this mindset. We raise kids to prepare for the real world but this is when the idea gets contradictory. We raise them as if they are entering a kind, understanding world just to tell them that the world is actually harsh, unfair, and unjust when they’re older. Participation trophies being given out as kids establish a sense that if they do something, a reward will simply be handed to you. This eventually does the opposite of its intention and inputs a lack of discipline, effort, and patience.

In 2015, Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison spoke out on Facebook about participation trophies after his sons each received one- claiming he was going to take the trophies away.

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While you should 100% earn what you receive, Kevin Kilgour of The Emory Wheel stated, “I find it unlikely that Harrison declines his paycheck following a Steelers loss, nor that he feels any better about the loss despite his reward. Likewise, participation trophies in no way deceive children into being satisfied with losing.”

Eventually, with trophies being handed out like candy to kids, the value begins to fade. Also, the outstanding participants are held to the same standard as the ones on the bench are. Participation trophies are an extra pat on back to simply going out and trying. For somebody to find something they truly love, you must fail and figure out what you are and are not good at. If trophies are being handed out “just because”, it will make the process much longer and difficult due to being blind sighted by what they really may not be good at. Losing may reduce confidence, but earning and winning is worth the effort and time put in. It helps separate those who are good and who are not. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because nobody would want to be consumed in something they’re not good at anyway. Participation trophies encourage that idea. The extra-curricular world would be much better off by having an team dinner or banquet in honor of all the kids who came out and tried.

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Very Superstitious

I will start this off by saying that prior to this year, I was not very knowledgeable about baseball to say the least. All I knew was what I learned from playing baseball on Wii Sports. The 2017 season at Samford has brought a much better understanding of the game, strategies, and the guidelines of the sport itself for me. After reading a few posts from some of the baseball boys in our class, I began learning a little bit more about some of the aspects, the bullpen in particular, including all the fascinating yet questionable ideas, beliefs, and stories it entails. Eager to know a little more, I did a little bit of research and came across a viral video for the second time.

Bullpen Prank Call

If you can’t tell through the screaming and excitement of these baseball players, they prank called Texas A&M’s bullpen and told the coach to get pitcher A.J. Minter up and ready during a game against Stephen F. Austin. After ending the phone call, the TV screen showed the coaches beginning to change pitchers and the boys erupted in disbelief that they actually accomplished getting a player hot. The athletes behind this unbelievable phone call come from Eastern Oklahoma State College. Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time they’ve gone viral for a crazy baseball inspired video. They have one more that went viral a whole year ago.

Pregame Ritual

This fanatical video is actually what sparked my interest for writing this post- why do we as athletes participate in crazy warm up routines and why are they routine? Is it for good luck? What happens if we do a part of it wrong or not at all? Why are athletes so superstitious?

Every athlete has superstitions, ranging from mild to severe. If you watch any sport, every player at least performs roughly a series of different motions, twitches, or repeated patterns. Batters typically draw a little “X” in the dirt or perform a number of swings before stepping to the plate. Volleyball players bounce, dribble, spin, and hit the ball numerous times before they serve it; same way with basketball players. Often, if a player messes up, it’s because they “didn’t dribble the ball exactly 6 times” or their “right foot wasn’t three fourths of the way past this specific line on the field”. These are very mild representations of superstitions and rituals that we as athletes find necessary to perform before we execute a usually simple athletic move. It can go as far as having to wear the exact same pair of socks or underwear every game or even doing a recurring pregame ritual such as the Eastern Michigan State baseball players.

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We sometimes see these things simply as “good luck” but really, it goes much further than that. It can more so be viewed as an illusion of control over what we are doing. A New York Times Article found that “George Gmelch, a professor of anthropology at the University of San Francisco who has studied superstition in baseball for decades, says that superstition indeed tends to be more prevalent in areas where there’s a lot of uncertainty”. This is directly reflects athlete’s situations: we don’t know if we’ll win the game, or if we’ll make the serve, make the free throw, or whether we’ll hit the ball or get a strike. These rituals provide confidence and help cope with uncertainty that all humans- not only athletes- generally dislike. It manipulates our belief in what we’re capable of and how well we can perform it. There is a term for this, broadly dubbed as self- efficacy.

What is cool about athletes in particular, is that we typically understand that these rituals don’t actually work and they don’t really determine the outcome of the game. However, the rituals are so engrained in our heads that it honestly isn’t worth the risk of not performing them. There is no cost, seemingly only benefit from doing so. On that note, an experiment conducted in 2010 found that after a superstitious thought or behavior occurred, it actually did lead to subsequent performance improvement- self- efficacy. So when in doubt, luck it out.

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From the Desk of Michael Jordan

Growing up, we’ve been trained and conditioned to believe that the goal of life is to succeed. To advance to the next grade we must “pass” all our tests, our parents aspire to see us “flourish” as adults, and countless virtuosos recite the mantra: “failure is not an option”. Society trains us at a young age that failure is not something to be proud of, nor is it something that we should ever want to encounter. However, Michael Jordan says otherwise. “To learn to succeed, you must learn to fail”.mj 1

Michael Jordan, a man who has been dubbed with countless awards, possesses two Olympics gold medals, and arguably is one of the best basketball player ever, believes in failure. A man who has seen an astonishing amount of success has also seen an astounding amount of failure. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed”. What is it about failure that has such a negative connotation to it? Is it the embarrassment and the humiliation? Or maybe the frustration and mental defeat that comes with it. Obviously all these traits come with failure, but without them, there is no room to grow from the person you are today. If Walt Disney gave up on his dream after the editor of the Kansas City Star told him he lacked imagination, our childhood would have been deprived of countless experiences and there would be no infamous Disney World, nor Disney Land. Failure is a necessary toxin that we must endure. In the absence of hitting extreme lows and major highs, it’s impossible to evaluate progress and success.

Without regard, one of the biggest issues about success is that there is always somebody better. “We all fly. Once you leave the ground, you fly. Some people fly longer than others”. Honestly, this whole statement is so defeating. How can we possibly want to achieve success, knowing that ultimately, somebody is still being bigger and better than we are? One thing to remember is that it can be taken one of two ways. It can either be taken as a check in the L column or it can be used positively to create a better you. “Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation”. As an athlete, winning of course is the best: it’s thrilling and places you on a pedestal you never want to step down from. Furthermore, I don’t know many other athletes who take pride in beating the easy teams. It’s the tough, robust, power teams that people want to beat. Bigger and better teams have things that you lack. It isn’t a bad thing because of how much can be learned from them to implement into oneself, making them better.

Being okay with failure is to be perpetually dissatisfied with all you do. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. There are so many who are quick to surrender to the fear and anxiety that failure holds. But there are also some who embrace that pain and who are motivated by it. “[Michael Jordan has] failed over and over and over again in [his] life. And that is why [he] succeed[s]”. In conclusion, if we all want to eventually reach a point of success and be a little like Mike, clutch the failure close to you and use it as a ladder to climb even higher than anyone could think.mj 2

 

Silencing the Crowd

As athletes, we desperately long for a moment of silence; a moment of peace and quiet from the constant voices of coaches and whistles beginning the next play. Day in and day out there’s completion of a routine consisting of raucous and rampage in a practice; sometimes it gets overwhelming. Except, what if silencing the daily raucous was actually more deafening than the noise itself? Regardless of how long athletes compete in a sport: high school, club, collegiate, or pro, the time comes where an athlete retires and has to transition into the real world without the structure that athletics provide.

Where there used to be exclamations of awards and recognitions, outstanding performances and congratulations, there are only memories of this noise that were once listened to on repeat. Athletics have done more than just keep players in shape and at times boost an ego here and there. They have provided an identity and a regimen that sculpts them into the specific human beings that they are. 1 Peter 4:10 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied Grace”. A handful of God’s children received an athletic gift, and it becomes an identity and platform to communicate faith. To hush what has been done day in and day out for so long is a form of silence that I don’t wish on anybody. After the last whistle blows or buzzer sounds of a final game, an unreal stillness floods over those who have no more.

Now that the games are over and nothing but an overwhelming amount of free time stands before them, the silence becomes a place to think and ponder how to transition out of being a competitor. When retiring from being a college athlete, it becomes time to move onto a job, a life, and a new start. Naturally, the competition in life is thrilling, but unfortunately not everyone is like that. Part of transitioning into the real world means transitioning into it with other people who were gifted with other talents besides being able to run fast and jump high. Figuring this part out is just as frustrating as dealing with the taciturnity of life, but ultimately, it shapes us into an even better person than we were when we were learning life with sports in it. The problem solving skills learned when being apart of our team seems to have vanished when performing individual tasks, it’s a puzzle at times. For a long time, it is hard and confusing until being what athletes sometimes consider “normal” actually becomes normal. With this being said, it seems as if it takes just as long to adapt to normal life as our competing life took.

We all want and need a little bit of alone time, but it’s hard to realize that when the last buzzer blows, that’s all a retired athlete has and suddenly they’d give anything to have it just once more. A long life of sports provides so many beneficial things that supposedly are preparation for the quiet life outside of them. Next time a little alone time is needed, I encourage people to bask in the noise because one day it will all be a recollection.

Why Brett Favre is Basically Oprah

Before I dive into this wild comparison, I would like to start by saying that I understand this notion might be hard to grasp. They are indeed unalike in some ways but who isn’t. Despite that, they are uncannily alike in another aspect. Yes, they are both successful and wildly famous and from the same state, but they are also alike in the fact that they both began with the underdog, benchwarmer repertoire.

 

 

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Oprah in 1983 marked her last year at WJZ

Let’s start with Oprah. Born in Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey is one of the greatest talk show hosts of all time; famous for her witty and friendly personality on television. Although her fame began to peak around an early age of 30, her road was not easy, nor bright. According to a biographical story of Oprah Winfrey, she always had the passion for public speaking and being on air. Prior to her career kicking up, her glistening job in Baltimore at a news station told her that she was “unfit for television” and only lasted seven months in WJZ-TV news, Business Insider says. Obviously, Oprah’s tale is one of the many underdog stories that we hear all about in order to gain a little perseverance on our part. These types of stories are supposed to give us motivation and honestly, who knew that it seemingly could have given another Mississippi native, Brett Favre, the same type of hope.

Rams v Falcons

Three hours down the road from Oprah’s hometown, Brett Favre was just another quarterback in a huge sea of football. After going to the only D1 college who offered him a scholarship, Southern Mississippi, Favre wasn’t even supposed to play quarterback. Originally recruited as a defensive back, Favre wanted to play QB and took the disheartening title of being seventh-string quarterback. Eventually after proving himself as a Southern Miss stud, Favre was drafted to the Atlanta Falcons where he was everything but the stud he once was. Favre saw the game a whopping two times! If you would like to know how bad he was, his first pass in the NFL was intercepted and scored for a touchdown, the other passes were incomplete, and one snap resulting in a sack and eleven-yard loss. Needless to say, he sucked and wasn’t anybody to count on. Brett Favre was traded to the Green Bay Packers after a year.

 

After close consideration and thought, both Oprah and Brett Favre are so alike in the fact that they overcame a deep hole that stood in the way of their ultimate goal. After landing the job of your dreams and being told that you’re unfit for it could’ve easily put Oprah back to the drawing board of what she would try and do next but instead, she continued with being a television personality. And Brett, who after being one of the 1.6% of college athletes who go pro, doesn’t play or provide any leverage for himself on the field, certainly could have doubted what he thought was his talent. Both barely lasted a year in their glimmering start up gig. The two Mississippians have classic rags to riches stories, but what’s truly hard to understand is the concept being the benchwarmer. There is always a potential role, but the uncertainty and doubtfulness by those around you are intoxicating and eventually can lead to despair. Oprah and Brett Favre were the underdogs, the benchwarmers, but now they are the stars.

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Side note: I for real met Brett Favre and it was for real great.

What Day is it?-Through the Eyes of a Student- Athlete

Regarding my sport, volleyball, I participate in the fall season of athletics. Fall is awesome in so many ways. Crisp cool air mixed with the excitement of starting a new school year and starting up the beloved football season. To my team and I, all that is great but it is even better because we start a new season of our sport. However, all great things come to an end.

What day is it? This is a common question that is asked countlessly by numerous people throughout the course of a 24- hour day. To most people, a simple, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday would suffice. Although these responses are indeed quite true, there are other answers that you may possibly receive from the other student- athletes who are surrounding you.

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After kicking back over Christmas break, spring is the time to get back into the grind of things and grow into the new team that is left after the seniors leave. To some, spring is awesome because spring break is right around the corner and soon after that is the end of the year leaving the sweet summertime bliss at one’s disposal. It’s easy to see the glory behind a timeline of seasons, but to an athlete there’s much more behind the glory.

“What day is it?”, one could say. Monday- but what they really mean is conditioning day. Get up and go to individual practice at 7, but life sucks because you have an 8 am so no shower for you. After being in class all day, come workout and do 20 sprints down the football field- it’ll make you feel good they say. Then go eat of course, but coach says to make sure we still have our hands on the ball everyday, so now go back to the gym and play for another 2 hours. When that’s done, do all of your classes’ homework assignments but make sure you go to bed at a decent hour because you have to get up again at 5:30 am to do it all over again on Tuesday. “What day is it?”, one could say. Tuesday- rinse and repeat.

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To a fall athlete, that is the second semester life that is lived. Being completely honest, it almost becomes a blur because of how repetitive it can get. Of course, nobody likes running until they can’t move or weight lifting before the sun rises, but you do it for the sport. While fall sports are priming themselves for the following season, at this time the swinter (spring and winter) sports are already primped and prepped for their season ahead. The myriad of minutes put in by all the athletes finally come together for what they’ve been waiting for. “What day is it?”, one could say. Friday- but what they really mean is game day. Wake up and go to class but obviously it’s impossible to pay attention because of the excitement that is coming in less than 8 hours. Big games flood us with nerves and anticipation throughout the day, making Friday completely meaningless except to the fact that it’s game day.

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Whether it really is Monday, Tuesday, Friday, or any other day of the week, there is a meaning and a series of events following each one. Sometimes they are awful and make you nervous for your life, but they are also thrilling and enticing. To anyone who doesn’t know the life of sports, I write this so you understand the life and the regimen athletes live by and what they really mean when answering the simple question of “what day is it?”.