Self-esteem is extremely important for young people. It helps them understand what they are good at and not so good at. It is important for kids to understand they aren’t perfect, but to see themselves in a positive way that is realistic. A positive self-image gives kids the courage to try new things, to respect themselves even when they make mistakes, and to learn how to make healthy choices about their minds and bodies.
For children involved in sports or any competitive activity for that matter, receiving an award is a terrific way to help boost their self-esteem. Generally, there are two reasons to give trophies. The first is to recognize or mark a special achievement, like winning a championship or setting a new record. The second, and maybe the most important, is to help motivate kids. Trophies like Most Improved and Best Team Spirit can encourage kids to try even harder, while at the same time recognizing their value to the team.
Awards and trophies should be given throughout the season, not just when the last game has been played. Verbal recognition for a job well done is terrific, but stopping practice to celebrate can have even more impact. For instance, create a roving trophy and award a “Captain for a Day” for outstanding effort on a particular drill or activity. While the child doesn’t keep the trophy, it will sit in their locker or on top of it until you award it to the next child. Of course, the trick is to avoid over-use. The trophy should only be passed on when it is well and truly earned. If a child doesn’t have to do much to earn it, then it isn’t worth much to receive it.
Last but not least, in our effort to make sure every child feels good, we may have over-used awards and trophies. Making up a category to be sure every kid gets an award doesn’t impress anyone, especially kids who can be extremely critical. So awards and trophies should be used for meaningful recognition only — something that must be specifically earned.