Three youth football coaches in New Canaan, Connecticut resigned recently because of charges they supervised a mass burning of third-place trophies they received after a sub-par year by their standards. Here's the kicker, the charges didn't come from an angry student who complained to a principal or a parent who respectfully discussed the issue with one of the coaches. It came from an anonymous letter from the parent of one of the eighth-grade players.
The coaches (Rod Fox, David Jahns and Jay Pirrone) resigned and sent a letter to the players and parents apologizing for the trophy burning. The New Canaan police department investigated and didn't file charges.
Last season New Canaan was one of the most successful teams in their league. They were 9-0 in 2010, and tied for the league championship. This season the team was 7-2-1 and lost in the semifinals of the playoffs. They received third-place trophies for their effort.
In November, the coaches and several of their players went to a local park to burn those trophies. “Our point was to flush away the disappointment of the team’s last game and move on and not dwell on it any further,’’ said Coach Fox. “It was bad judgment. We apologized to the players and parents and made sure that the message was clear for everyone. This was an exceptional group of kids who were very successful. It is unfortunate that this event has clouded the great accomplishments of these young men.”
Ray's Take: The first ridiculous part of this story is that they even have third-place trophies. I checked and there were 9 teams in their division, so that means the third-place trophy congratulated these kid for finishing in the top 33.3% of their league. If they were taking a test, they would have received a "D" for their efforts. I'm all about sportsmanship and celebrating successes in sports, but celebrate the hard work of the individual players by supporting them and reinforcing them. Giving a meaningless trophy to them isn't going to help. No joke, I have a "tennis trophy" in a garage somewhere that I had made in 7th grade. I organized a tournament in the back of our townhouse complex and invited a couple un-athletic kids that lived near me. We hit a ball off a wall instead of to each other, I made up the rules, and I had my grandfather make me a sham of a trophy that I proudly displayed for about three days in my bedroom after my "win". I would rank this third-place trophy slightly higher than my tennis trophy in value.
As a man, you have to learn your limitations and your strengths. If we get a trophy for everything, we'll never know what we need to either work at improving or hand off to someone more capable. If someone around me needs help picking a fantasy football team, installing a hard drive, or changing their oil...I'm their guy. If they need tennis lessons, they should call someone else despite my awesome trophy that I had made. The problem is, I now understand that I'm not good at tennis and I've conceded my trophy as a sham. Some of these kids will grow up thinking that any trophy their parents buy for them must mean they're superstars.
I'm not saying we shouldn't give out trophies, but we should give out trophies that mean something. We should strive for victory, not just "placing". The coaches may have been misguided, but they were trying to show their team that they shouldn't settle for mediocrity. And for that, I applaud them.