He was a walk-on football player at Kent State. He went undrafted in the NFL. As an undrafted free agent he was signed and released several times before finally making it with the Steelers.
In 2008 he was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. In his 12 year NFL career he’s a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He also holds the NFL record for longest Super Bowl interception run after intercepting Kurt Warner in Super Bowl 43. He returned the ball 100 yards (a linebacker!).
Recently, Harrison posted on his social media that he was returning trophies his children were given for sports participation. That’s right, he’s stripping trophies like footballs:
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
While I agree kids need to learn there are winners and losers in sports, not every child participates in athletics to become a champion. Many kids play sports for the camaraderie, work ethic, and physical fitness. Those are all admirable qualities.
Millenials are criticized for being spoiled and lazy. Many old school theorists believe it stems from the “everyone is a winner” philosophy which earns all sports participants a trophy regardless of skill level. I’ve seen this exemplified off the field as well. At our school’s 5th grade culmination, students were presented awards for perfect attendance, but no individual academic awards were given out. My son was honored and it felt weird. Isn’t it the law to attend school? Why is he being recognized just for showing up? In fact, shouldn’t MOM be awarded for perfect attendance since I’m the one who drags him out of bed each day and makes sure we’re at school on time?
The differential factor in trophy distribution should be age and the athletic league. At a young age, kids are learning sportsmanship, teamwork, perseverance, resilience, and basic skills. I don’t have a problem with kids under 10 getting a participation trophy. Many are navigating various sports, assessing their skills and deciding if they even like sports. At this age, some kids are even forced to try sports by overzealous parents. Showing up with a positive attitude and following through on a commitment warrants a participation trophy in this case. However, once the child enters double digits, the athletic stakes change and skill should prevail over participation.
Secondly, be wary of the league you participate in. If your child is ultra competitive, do not join a recreation league. There are plenty of club level and travel teams for all genres of sporting interests. Expect higher level of play and awards being earned. This brings us to the league James Harrison’s children participated in. They ran track and field for a nonprofit organization started by his former teammate, Charlie Batch. After reading Best of the Batch‘s mission statement, it’s pretty evident they’re developing children beyond athletics. If Harrison’s focus was on competition alone, he would be better off in a more competitive league.
Our goal is to provide financially challenged youth and their families with the purpose, desire, and resources to give their best efforts in all they do throughout their lives.
By developing after school programs, scholarships for students, restoring playgrounds, and offering sports and leisure activities, we show our commitment to the success of all our youth and their families. The encouragement and involvement of the community stimulates that success.
You should not be surprised to receive a participation trophy from an organization which states their values as “Our passion is to help unlock potential in financially challenged communities by providing resources for children and families, educating and empowering them to give their best efforts in all they do to be the ‘best of the batch’ in life.”
In the end, a true champion will be self motivated. A trophy will merely be symbolic for an accomplishment. Championship medals, ribbons and trophies aren’t the motivating factor for a sports star, it’s the pride in mastering the feat. When you’ve proven you’re the best at what you do, no one can ever strip you of that.