No ribbons, medals, awards

Lincoln Middle School, in Clarkston, held their annual Lancer Invite for cross country yesterday. Without the high schools, the atmosphere was a little more relaxed and the officials a touch less formal.

The other thing missing - no individual awards, ribbons, etc. Several of the coaches commented on it, and favorably. I know that we've been working with our kids to divorce the running from the racing, and the racing from the results. We've gone so far as to ban watches on athletes during the race. They can get their times later.

I don't think the kids actually missed it. They knew how they did and where they placed. When they weren't racing, they were cheering, not just for their own teams. Heck, most of the coaches were cheering for everybody, in between coaching their own kids as they went by.

Middle school is a terrific age to work with - there's enthusiasm and hope. Most of these kids don't care at this point if they're really fast or not. They have friends on the team, and they're doing this cross country thing together.

They may not even admit that they like it, but judging by smiles afterwards, they do.

I'm a big fan of competition and most of the kids are, too. But I'm not a fan of awards. The medal or ribbon changes the emphasis from competing to see who's best to doing well enough to earn some bling. It devalues the effort of the less physically gifted kids who work just as hard, and leaves the gifted kids with the idea that not gaining a medal is a form of disgrace. The awards value the result, not the race.