Thursday, February 11, 2016

40. My Participation Trophy

Winning is overrated. I’ve had this discussion before, many times. I don’t think I’m a winner in the typical sense.

I lost a number of student council elections. I’m not particularly competitive in sports. (Except in competitive walking, there’s a post to come on that later). I just kind of do my thing and hope for the best. I realize that’s kind of wishy-washy, but winning awards or trophies have never been at the forefront in my daily life. As I liked to say when I worked for the newspaper, “That’s why I write about sports.”

I got my first (and only so far) professional award last year when I won the “Best New Journalist” award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association. (I kind of wonder how big the actual pool was.) I was proud of that award and happy that I won. I really wanted to win this year for best column, but I didn’t get a call. I was disappointed at first, but that feeling passed.

I got a participation trophy and I think I liked it better. It was in the final volleyball game I covered in Marshall. It was an honor to have “Nick Hansen Theme Night” at Marshall High School. I don’t think they gave it to me because I was the best sports columnist in Minnesota, but I think they liked that I cared about my job and my beat. I just kind of did my thing with heart and got it done.

I was also recently profiled for the City Pages. It was definitely one of the weirder things that I’ve been profiled for. I’m not a particularly talented writer or critic of food, but I’m passionate about it. It wasn’t an award, but it was something fun that I was happy about.

I hate all this debate about participation trophies. No, you can’t have an trophy unless you win! I get that people shouldn’t feel entitled, but what about if you put in the work and effort?

People talk about that we need to win all the time. I hate that. What are we teaching children when we say that winning is the only way to be successful and happy in this world? Screw the Donald Trumps of the world. Even when they lose (see Iowa), they manipulate it to look like they win. I think it’s healthier to admit defeat and learn from it. It’s no use to continually deflect it.

If we only focus on winning, we lose site of the weird, wonderful things along the way. I like those times where my friends or family compliment a piece that I’ve worked particularly hard on. Or when my friends laugh at a joke or some accomplishment.

I think we need to compliment participating more. Too many people stay on the sidelines. Lots of people would rather sit and watch Netflix than go out and be engaged in their community. You know what? I think we need participation trophies for voting. (Starbucks gift cards?)

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