Our local library offered 2 chess workshops in January, and Jake was eager to sign up. He enjoyed the classes, and continued to play at home, wanting to sign up for the chess tournament that they were holding in early February. So I signed him up for the tournament, but as the date grew closer, Jake got nervous about participating. He had all kinds of worries...that he would be paired up with an older kid, that he would lose right away and have to go home, that he would get too nervous to remember the right moves....the list went on and on.
We kept telling him that all he had to do was show up and try his best....we tried to compare it to baseball for him, that when he first started baseball he didn't know how to do everything, so he had to go to practices and games to get better. Chess was just like that; the workshops had been his practices now the tournament would be like a game.
The day of the tournament rolled around, and he was definitely nervous in the car, but seemed more relaxed once we got there. We were happy to find out that you weren't automatically eliminated from the whole thing after a loss, you just moved to a different bracket. Parents weren't allowed in the room once the tournament started, so we headed over to the children's section with Liam, who made himself at home in the tiny house made of books that I'm obsessed with.
Long story short, Jake ended up losing all 3 of his games. Liam and I had left after game 2 since it was getting close to lunch/nap, but Brian texted me to say that he was sad, but wasn't crying or anything, didn't appear to be devastated. Great!
Well, then the trophies came out. I'm sure that even if you're not a parent, you've heard/read articles by now about how everyone gets a trophy these days for everything. I see both sides honestly....you want to build self-confidence in the kids and providing positive reinforcement at the end with a trophy is one way to do that. But at the same time, I get that it's also teaching them that just showing up is enough, and potentially setting them up for disappointment later in life when they realize that sometimes it's not enough to just show up.
Jake has played baseball since he was 3 and did a season of basketball this past year; he has a whole shelf full of trophies and medals to show for it. This was the first time he was participating in something competitive and not walking away with a trophy or medal. Brian said he held it together in the library, but started sobbing in the car about losing the tournament. We said what we could to make him feel better...that not everyone got a trophy, that he was one of the youngest ones there (the tournament went up to age 12), that he can try again next year if he wants, that we were proud of him for even giving it a try....etc, etc. But we just had a devastated little boy on our hands. It was hard to see him upset, but I know it's also something that he was bound to learn sooner or later.
He did get a little certificate for participating and this cool little pawn key chain, so he didn't walk away totally empty-handed. And hopefully he maybe even learned something from the experience.