I was going to tell you about my time as a Primary School after school swimming coach. Here it was important to give each child some recognition for their improvements, as on Friday nights “Club” highlighted the top performers, but “club” also had a pointscore for personal bests and this added up across the season and often this was not the fastest, more natural athlete.
But then I remembered a time where my daughter attended her sport, figure skating. Figure skating in Australia is certainly a small pond. If you were good, you mostly won all the competitions. And for many children, this was their (and their parents) goal. My daughter was very talented, and for her the path was just that, winning many awards and competitions and championships. Her best friend was not as natural an athlete and at Club championships they were to skate in the same level. My daughter did not skate well at all, but still won the event. Her friend skated the best we had ever seen her skate and finished forth. Her friend was devastated that she had not placed. I sat with her (as her parents also had not been happy with her “result”) and explained that she should be happier with her skate than my daughter. She scored the highest marks she had ever scored and my daughter had not, regardless of the placing given by the judges. Often sporting bodies can miss an opportunity to recognize this sort of “result” and they loose players (skaters) and often the child become less interested in sport and keeping fit as they mature.
So, now I have shared that with you, I would say that token rewards can be effective, but they must not only recognize “the champions”, because we never really know all of the slower developers, that can often be missed and fall away from participation, training adherence, practicing on their own, because they don’t get any recognition, or they only see everybody else getting the recognition.
And for what makes one athlete “tick” may contrast to another. So finding out this is also very important