Trophies for the victors — not the spoiled

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There’s been lots of talk lately about kids and trophies.

Leagues and parents have come under criticism for awarding trophies to kids who don’t particularly excel or try very hard. The kids get the bling for just participating. Some experts say that leads to laziness and a much bigger problem for some kids: They get spoiled.

Other parents and experts say kids need all the encouragement society can provide and deserve recognition for all positive effort.

As you can imagine, with dads and moms among those taking part in the discussion, the argument gets heated.

But, hold on. Keep reading. I’m not going to try to pull you into that already convoluted debate. I’d rather get you to consider a consequence.

Because these possibly pampered kids got a heckuva lot of trophies over the years, a heckuva lot of old trophies sit in a heckuva lot of attics and basements — collecting a heckuva lot of dust.

And I have a way to get rid of them.

No, I’m not going to get all artsy and whimsical and send you to Pinterest.

It is true that such venues offer advice for turning trophies into planters, bookends, lamps. There are directions for unscrewing the little figurines, painting them and making them into wine stoppers, park scenes, Christmas ornaments.

All well and good.

But this is not a call for creativity. It’s a call for pragmatism.

If, like me, you stored away your kids’ trophies and now have no room for them, consider my idea as a way to clear out the house, preserve your free time and make you feel good.

Donate your old trophies to organizations that help disadvantaged kids, like Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield.

The clubs use recycled trophies to celebrate achievements by kids who still get a thrill when handed the shiny silver or gold and faux-marble.

“Oh yeah, it’s something to see. They smile and their eyes get really big. It’s really something.”

That’s from Jeff Long, the Musgrave Unit Director for one of the clubs on the northwest side. He solicits for trophies, rehabs them and figures out how to give what to whom.

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It can be like putting together a big puzzle. Or, taking a couple different puzzles and trying to make pieces fit where there aren’t any pieces.

He seeks help from a local trophy shop and buys some parts with the goal of getting trophies to match, with new engravings and victory symbols, but he avoids spending a lot of money.

The non-profit Boys & Girls Clubs serve families that aren’t exactly awash in the silver and gold — not the cash kind or the trophy kind.

A majority of the kids qualify for free or reduced school lunch. As you might guess, many live with parents or guardians who cannot afford fees to join the kinds of sporting leagues that guarantee trophies.

“Half the kids live with one parent,” Long said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs do not guarantee trophies, but Long and staffers and volunteers try hard to use the recycling effort to bring some booty and bling to big club events.

With the national discussion of the abundance of trophies and how kids might be taking them for granted, I hadn’t thought much about the youngsters from the poor parts of town. While some more affluent kids might have trophies spilling from dresser tops and shelves, the ragamuffins on my radar don’t have much of a shot at getting any at all.

The kids at Musgrave, Long said, look forward to the prizes.

Trophy recycling is not Long’s most important job so he has to fit the work in around other chores. It’s also difficult to predict when trophies will be donated so a banged up trophy can sit for some time before it can be refurbished.

The longer it sits, the more attention it draws. Sometimes a particular kid will show up to stare, and stare some more, even at a dinged trophy that still has old engravings, the donor’s First Place or achievement still intact.

Long said he sometimes cannot help himself; he gives away those keepsakes to the kids infatuated with them. “They don’t care what it says. They just think it’s neat. You can tell they probably never had one before.”

Think about that as you consider the bigger trophy debate. It’s actually not much of a debate at all for the families on the lower economic rungs of our country.

I don’t see a downside to letting a underprivileged kid get a little joy from a foot-tall, golden, basketball player that a little rich kid down the street has kicked to the curb.

I’d just announce something like: “Billy, you get first place for being the best-behaved, most dedicated hallway trophy monitor this week. Today, this one is for you to take home.”

I doubt that little Billy is suddenly going to start believing the world owes him everything, or he no longer has to cut grandma’s grass for his allowance, just because he’s been given a used trophy.

Long noted that the clubs don’t usually hand out individual trophies, anyway. For the most part, the clubs dispense the keepsakes in the same way as they are given out by sporting leagues and schools, except the club trophies are recycled.

The clubs don’t like to give out mismatched trophies, so they plan ahead. Right now (early September 2016) Long and club staffers are working to gather about 60 trophies to give out during a big “Games Competition” in the Spring.

Kids from eight different clubs come together to compete indoors at checkers, pingpong and lots of kinds of board games to win top places — and the bling.

Other times of the year, the clubs hold more impromptu competitions, for example free-throw shooting on a particular night, when it’s great to have some trophies on hand for prizes, Long said.

This little guy seemed to enjoy his recycled trophy earned at the boys and girls clubs in Springfield.
This little guy seemed to enjoy his recycled trophy earned at the boys and girls clubs in Springfield.

I lugged around dozens of trophies from my five kids for years before they finally told me point-blank they could not take them to their own homes. I resorted to moving all the little gold and silver wrestlers, hoops players, baseball catchers and soccer goalies on to my driveway for a recent garage sale.

It was one of my dumber moves; I got no takers.

I did notice how the shine and glitz caught the eye of more than one or two little street urchins wandering through our neighborhood. They asked questions about the trophies, read the engravings, wondered aloud how hard it would be to wrestle and argued over who was the better baseball player.

I could understand how a kid who never had the thrill of running the bases with a a trophy held high would delight in taking one home, especially after besting his peers in pingpong or foul shooting or pool.

I didn’t know the local nonprofits accepted trophies before I held my garage sale. A passerby suggested I call and a staffer at Musgrave greeted me with enthusiasm and thanks in advance.

I planned my delivery and it went smoothly.

Long says he’s always happy to hear someone wants to donate but he likes the chance to do a quick screening first. Some older trophies (especially those made from heavier materials and less standard parts) are difficult to refurbish; new parts simply don’t fit.

The clubs also cannot use flat plaques or frames, designed to hang on a wall rather than stand on a shelf, Long said.

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If you’re concerned about privacy, for instance whether your child’s name appears on a donated trophy, Long said you can remove the child’s name fairly easily yourself or the club staffers or volunteers will do so. He also stressed that trophies usually do not include names, often only the ranking or place achieved and the event.

 

Long says he’ll help you figure out if your trophies can be used by the clubs. Call 869-8211.

The mission statement of the clubs — which have been around a very long time — includes a heavy emphasis on building self esteem.

The statement also stresses that the clubs have “special concern” for kids “from at-risk circumstances.”

“At-risk” and “disadvantaged” are polite ways of saying some of these poor kiddos have been dealt some pretty bad hands. They need a break.

Director Long and those who work for the clubs are doing what they can.

These from the clubs are scrappy and inventive. They’ve shown the pluck to reuse and recycle to put together some memories — and nice mementos — for the boys and girls.

They deserve a granddaddy size trophy that says “Super Scrappers.”

Give them a hand if you can.

And consider getting your child involved if he or she has the social conscience to want to help. There are certainly lots of fine kids from more well-to-do families who volunteer to help those less fortunate.

Maybe while you’re sorting through some trophies together you can relive the moments that earned your kid that top prize or first place. My kids did not always appreciate my attempts at reliving their successes on the sporting fields and in the classroom. I tended to get a bit maudlin at times.

I think they were really glad to hear the trophies were gone. Then, I alerted them that I took photos before giving them away.

They didn’t seem thrilled that we’ll be able to share more memories while perusing those photos for years on down the road.

Editor’s note: Learn more about all the good done by the clubs and other ways you can help at www.bgclubspringfield.org.

Author: David Iseman

Longtime newsguy. Retired. Tinkering with words. Lemme know what you think.

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