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"Participation trophies produce stronger, more confident kids."
At least, that's what pop psychology told us a few years ago, when everyone was rushing to offer participation trophies for EVERYTHING in an effort to help kids boost their self esteem... to make them feel better about themselves.
But does it work?
I would like to submit that the answer is NO.
Maybe you've had an experience like this one.
Recently, my 8 year old daughter participated in a school chess tournament.
It was a long day, with several hard-fought matches. In the end, she fell out of trophy contention in the final moments of the final match of the day.
My daughter took the loss hard. As she sat through the awards ceremony, she was on the verge of tears the whole time. As a father, it was very difficult to watch her struggle with the devastation.
So, good thing there was still a participation ribbon... right?
She threw that thing in the trash first chance she got!
She knew she hadn't earned an award, and she wasn't interested in pretending. Rather, she came home determined to work hard, get better, and bring home a REAL trophy the next time... one she actually EARNED.
And in that moment, when I saw the determination in her eyes to keep working to get better, I was so proud of her.
I have no doubt that soon she'll experience the glow and feeling of triumph that comes from working through a problem and actually finding victory on the other side.
Real confidence is hard won. There are no short cuts.
It's about facing a challenge and overcoming it.
That's why the key to helping kids develop REAL confidence is this:
Present them with situations that are challenging without being crushing.
And then give them the tools and encouragement they need to overcome those challenges and experience success.
This is exactly why baseball is such an incredible opportunity to build the kind of confidence in kids that leads to more life success.
The kind of confidence I'm talking about has a fancy name... it's called "self efficacy"... and according to one clinical psychologist, here's why it matters...
"Unlike self-esteem, self-efficacy isn’t about a sense of self-worth; it’s about believing you are capable of producing a desired result – that you can achieve your goals."
For instance, people high in self-efficacy take better care of themselves, see tasks as something to be mastered, and they feel more empowered.
They’re not controlled by circumstances.
They see setbacks as challenges to be overcome and can cope with hardship better than those with low self-efficacy.
They learn from failure and channel it into success, like Thomas Jefferson, Walt Disney and J.K Rowling.
People higher in self-efficacy also have a greater sense of motivation and persistence.
Self-efficacy affects how we feel, think and act, and low self-efficacy has been linked to helplessness, anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, whether your current level is average, ample or absent, much like physical attributes, self-efficacy can be enhanced." (Source)
As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think that you can or you can't, you're usually right.”
According to world famous psychologist Albert Bandura, there are 4 ways to increase self-efficacy.
1. Performance Accomplishments (i.e. Past successes)
"Self-efficacy is developed, in part, through success – and even small achievements can pack a powerful punch.
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