Letter to the Editor

Build authentic character in youth sports

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Not everyone deserves a trophy.

In fact, unearned rewards can be harmful, because artificially inflating a child's self-esteem merely for participation in sport sends the wrong message, warns psychologist Jason Richardson.

"There are plenty of incarcerated felons with an inflated self-view and there are extremely successful people grappling with a more moderate self-concept, so self-esteem alone is not the measure by which we should prepare our children for greatness," says Richardson, a Pan-Am Games gold medalist who is also known as "Dr. JRich" among colleagues.

Richardson isn't alone. Last year, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison returned two participation trophies given to his two sons, awarded not for a specific victory that they'd earned, but simply for being student-athletes.

Anyone can give and get a trophy, but the true value of youth sports is in the occasional tough lessons -- and successes -- children experience through hard work and merit.