Dear Athletic Support: My son just recently completed his senior football season. I was excited about attending the post-season awards banquet, but I just got word there won’t be a banquet this year. What’s up with that! My son (and I) are very disappointed. He’s worked hard to try and earn one of those “MVP” awards, but now he won’t get the chance. Do you have any idea as to why his coach might have cancelled the banquet? — All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go)
Dear Dressed Up: Awards banquets are one of the few events where parents, coaches, and players can come together and experience genuine fellowship. Despite this fact, post-season athletic banquets are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
The reason? Trophies, awards, and most any other spotlight reserved for a single player can cause dissension amongst the rest of the team (and parents), especially in 2019.
If your child has ever been on a team where “participation trophies” were handed out at the end of the season, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. What’s worse — your child knows it, too.
Kids these days have been handed trophy after trophy, and now they believe they’re the best. The champs! Even when they aren’t. As a result, awards banquets are no-win situations for a coach. Even if he gives his best player the “MVP” award, he still runs the risk of upsetting the rest of the team.
There are, however, some kids who should be recognized. The ones who’ve worked their tails off and done everything the coaches asked. Sadly, there aren’t many awards for this sort of player, even at the end-of-season banquets. (Side note: When I was a coach, we gave awards for attendance, which was a tangible way to measure commitment).
In a world of black and white — win or lose — awards are purely subjective. Stripped of all the flash and hype, an award is basically just a popularity contest, and that’s not what sports are about.
Even the coveted “All State” and “All Conference” honors fall victim to subjectivity. Those distinctions are chosen by the coaches at the end of the year. The more games a coach wins, the more “All State” certificates he can hand out. That’s it. That’s the whole process.
If you think my stance on awards is harsh, I’m not alone in this assertion. Bill Belichick has six Super Bowl rings, yet you won’t find a single trophy or award in his office. Coach Belichick does not rest on his laurels. He’s always looking ahead, turning his focus toward the next season, the next game.
I would urge any young player (along with his/her parents) to follow the example set by the winningest coach in NFL history and keep it simple. Stay focused on the team.
Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit elicranor.com.