Not everyone gets a trophy / by James Leath

“As for you, my fine friend, you are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. 

You are confusing courage with wisdom. 

Back where I come from, we have men who are called heroes. Once a year, they take their fortitude out of mothballs and parade it down the main street of the city, and they have no more courage than you have. 

But they have one thing you haven’t got: a medal.

Therefore, for Meritorious Conduct, Extraordinary Valor, Conspicuous Bravery against the Wicked Witches, I award you the triple cross. 



You are now a member of the legion of Courage.”

The lion showed courage without expecting a medal. Was he scared? YES! Remember when he jumped out the window, and scared himself by grabbing his own tail? He overcame those fears. He and his team came together and completed their task of killing the Wicked Witch.

Over the last few weeks there has been much discussion about youth athletes receiving trophies for participation. The conversation caught fire when Pittsburgh Steeler’s Linebacker James Harrison took away trophies awarded to his sons for participating in a camp that was just a few days long.  [Here is the link] Unfortunately, as most controversial news stories go, few people actually read the article and instead run their mouth (and their keyboard) without knowledge of the facts.

Here is what he actually wrote:

“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…’cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #Harrisonfamilyvalues”

There is a very important word he used that I feel is a huge problem in sports and in our society in general: entitled. Entitlement is the opposite of gratefulness. If the two dispositions were a road, Entitlement Avenue leads to a dead end, while Gratitude Boulevard takes you straight to the freeway. The Cowardly Lion was grateful for his medal, but did not expect it. He then displayed it with great pride, the way a humble, victorious individual should.

The world has plenty of mediocre individuals. What we need are some formerly cowardly but now Courageous Lions who are not afraid to take on a challenge and risk not winning anything.



James Leath is a sport psychology consultant and college professor. He has been coaching and teaching for over 15 years. His website,, is used to educate athletes, coaches, and parents in sport psychology and personal development. He is currently working on a graduate degree in Performance Psychology. James travels all over the US speaking to teams and organizations but always looks forward to returning to his home in San Luis Obispo, CA to join his bride and two dogs on a hike in the hills. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter @jamesleath or you can sign up for his weekly Coach Note by clicking here