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American Idol -Youth Sports and Self-Esteem

Updated: Dec 14, 2018

I really don’t care what I hear on the news. We do not have an issue with self-esteem in America.

My proof? The American Idol auditions! The fact that some of these people can gripe, scream and even cry on national television because Steven Tyler (Aerosmith: My favorite band!) told them they were not ready for the big time makes my case. Most people have too much self-esteem Self-Esteem on Steroids

Most parents would never inject their children with steroids to make them stronger. But, we do something similar in youth sports. We inject our kids with shots of false accolades in order to build their self-esteem.

Seriously, does every kid need to get a “Participation Trophy?” I am not the first person to discuss this issue. In fact, the comedian Adam Carolla is getting a lot of attention from a rant of his that is all over the web. (I am not attaching a link to this because of the language he uses to get his point across.)

What Participation Trophies Can Lead To In The Work Place

· Childhood Lesson: The important thing is just showing up on the field. The ability to get there and have a heartbeat is all I need to earn rewards.

o Child as an Adult: “Where is this year’s raise?”

o Real Life: Automatic raises above a COLA increases are usually only rewarded by leaders or organizations that don’t have the backbone to expect and enforce more than participation from their employees.

· Childhood Lesson: I will be rewarded no matter what level of performance I produce. I tried. I am entitled.

o Child as an Adult: “Yes, I know my sales have gone down, but it’s not fair that I made less bonus each of the last 3 years!”

o Real Life: Your salary is for effort. Your bonus is for performance. In fact, in sales you are lucky to still be employed after three straight poor sales years!

· Childhood Lesson: Even if I try hard, my rewards are the same as the kid who is playing with the ants.

o Child as an Adult: “I meeting standards. That’s good enough.”

o Real Life: Standards are the minimum. No one is rewarded for doing the minimum in life.

· Childhood Lesson: If I get recognized for minimal effort or skills, what’s the point of working to improve?

o Child as an Adult: “Career development? More training? It’s optional isn’t it?”

o Real Life: If a tree stops growing, it starts dying. A person unwilling to put forth the effort to grow, will see their career die no matter where they work.

If you are reading this and think I am harsh, you may be right. But, the harsh reality is the work place is full of talented people who believe that hard work and results are keys to success. They will get the jobs, keep the jobs, and then become the boss’s of the kids who did not learn these lessons at a young age.

Sports can teach those lessons. Every athlete who made it through high school sports knows that hard work and results are what get you playing time and recognition. Sports prepare us for the competition of life. We learn that talent without effort is a recipe for being on the scout team.

Our coaches and our teammates don’t admire us for just showing up for the games, and deep down inside, neither do we. Self-esteem comes from accomplishing things that we see as difficult, not from being given something we did not have to earn.

I believe if I continue to place self-esteem ahead of virtues such as hard work and high achievement, I will establish attitudes in my children that I deplore in my workplace and that

I laugh at on American Idol.


Does it make sense to set my kids up to have the attitudes of people I don’t respect in at work or that I mock on TV? What can parents do to overcome this era of artificial accolade injection in youth sports? What do you do?

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