As a member of the Participant Trophy Generation, I know what it is like to grow up getting a trophy for everything. However, because I was born near the beginning of the generation, my parent’s generational upbringing had more of an influence than those born in the more recent years. My parents, and those of similar age to me, educated us on which trophies really matter (the most improved, 1st place, 2nd place, hardest worker etc.). This is because they grew up working hard to establish some of the equality norms we have today such as Title IV and many others. Admittedly, I am also guilty of some millennial stereotypes and often catch myself thinking “I deserve an award for this” when really all I am doing is being a hard worker, teammate, or just doing my job. But sometimes that is hard to do. Someone who has appropriate knowledge and insight of these values knows how to change this thinking towards intrinsic rewards and motivations. However, many people, especially current athletes, lack these skills.
Many athletes and teenagers today have unrealistic expectations for their careers and lives which can be limiting to both them and their team. As a wife of a high school coach, I see many of his players get frustrated for not getting enough playing time and some even quitting the team as a result. When in reality, oftentimes, these players get more playing time than many of their teammates. Teaching athletes skills to manage these expectations and learning how to reward themselves internally would help their performance, team, and overall well-being.
Happiness is internal, not external. Clinical social workers can help athletes work on improving their sense of self to have a healthier, more balanced version and perspective of reality. Social workers can also help coaches and athletic staff learn more effective ways of communicating and handling problems or stressors that may occur through emotional dysregulation with the "Participant Trophy Generation." Sports are excellent venues for not only teaching individuals how to work hard to enhance their talent but also how to become successful in all areas of their lives. Having social workers assist athletes and coaches with enhancing their personal self will carry over into them being a better teammate, future coworker, and family member.