Everyone is a winner.

Participation medalsI didn’t see James Harrison’s Instagram post about his kids getting trophies “just for participating.” But I guess it ignited a bit of a fire about everything from parenting practices, youth sports issues and the problem of overparenting.

“Participation trophies” are trophies or medals given to children in a sport or activity. They didn’t win a game. They didn’t earn high marks in a music competition. These trophies are for the kids that showed up. I’m with Harrison on this one (except I would have let my kids keep the trophies).

Here’s an example from my life: This summer, my 11-year-old attended a soccer camp. On the last day, all the campers got a medal.


Wearing the proper attire for a soccer camp? Showing up on time? Remembering a jug of water? What were these medals for?

If they would have singled out a few kids for “most improved” or “best goal” or “penalty kick shootout winner” that would be fine.

No. These medals were given to everyone who was there. Because they showed up.

News Flash: The real world does not reward people for showing up. The real world rewards people who work hard, get something done or show improvement. Does everyone who shows up for an interview get the job? Does everyone shows up every day for work get promoted? Does everyone who attends class for four years during high school get the diploma?

My boys have a bunch of these medals, more than 40 between them (pictured above). And I think it’s giving our children unrealistic expectations.

Now hold on…before your freak out and call me heartless and mean, I think participation awards are fine for young children. Starting about age 10, we’ve got to start tough love. Medals for 1st and 2nd place…maybe 3rd place if you are feeling generous.

My 13-year-old has singled out one of his medals. It’s the one his soccer team earned by coming in first place in a tournament. I asked him if he knew what participation trophies are (he did) and what he thought of them. He said, “They are stupid.”

If we continue this “everyone’s a winner” attitude, we are going to raise adults who think that everything they do is awesome, and all they have to do is “show up.”

They won’t learn that you win some, you lose some.
They won’t learn how to work hard, even through difficulty.
They won’t know how to fail.

Is this an extension of helicopter parents? We all just want our children to grow up to be happy, kind, resilient and resourceful adults, with minimal heartache and drama. Coddling, overprotecting and shielding them from failure or sadness is not going to do that because our children won’t know how to handle the situation, pick themselves up from a disappointment and carry on.

I grew up in the 80s. The winners got medals. The kids who didn’t win got a trip to Baskin Robbins for a consolation ice cream cone, if they were lucky.

How did we end up thinking that our children will be emotionally scarred for life and unable to function as an adult if they aren’t awarded for Every. Single. Thing?

Emojis: Use in Moderation

Emojis: Use in Moderation
Using emojis is fun, but they can quickly escalate into an addiction.

It starts out as an emoji here and there in texts. Then you add them to your Facebook posts. And then emails. One smiley face turns into the “laughing so hard I’m crying” face. Then it’s the dancing girls and the dog face and the snowflake. Fire. Airplane. Wine glass.

Have we gone overboard on emojis?

Did you know there’s an emoji documentary?

Or a map that shows what the most used emoji is in every state?

Here’s a website that tracks emoji use in real-time.

You can order a pizza with the pizza emoji.

I get it. Emojis add a quirky,  whimsical feeling to your written communication. But be careful when using emojis in your marketing and public relations efforts.

Is your target audience high schoolers? Then this anti-drug, emoji-only billboard works.

Emoji billboard

Issuing a press release about a new product? Not so much. A well-known car brand did just that. Wrote a press release…using only emojis.

Chevy Cruze emoji press release
Come on, now. That’s just a publicity stunt. Or their PR department has too much time on their hands.

I’m not totally poo poo-ing emoji use. How can you when 74% of adults use emojis every day? But just because a lot of people of all ages use emojis in casual conversation does not mean it’s appropriate for public relations and marketing purposes. Use them intermittently and in moderation, unless your audience is too young to vote.

3.5 Tools for Busy Communicators

A version of this first appeared on CUinsight.com.

I’m always on the lookout for useful tools. As a department of one, I’m short on time, but have plenty to do. Here are three (plus a half more) of my favorite tools:

Wordmark.it: For finding the ideal typeface.
Don’t let anyone tell you fonts aren’t important. A great typeface is what holds your marketing materials together. Wordmark.it allows you to see how a word looks in all the fonts that are installed on your computer. See them on a white background, black background, all lowercase or all caps. This is a great way to find a new font, or isolate a word that you want to stand out in your materials. Here’s one I did using “credit union.”


  1. Canva: For designing simple graphics.
    I am not trained as a graphic designer, so I don’t know all the tricks of the trade. I don’t use Canva all the time, because it does have limitations. I use it for quick social media graphics, flyers or simple invitations. Upload your own photo or choose from free backgrounds, photos and tons of graphical elements. Here’s a quick graphic I did with one of my photos.Canva
    3. Colorhex.com: For finding the “right” colors.
    Starting a design from scratch? Find hex colors, RGB, tints, complementary and monochromatic colors, plus more.

    3.5 Feed.ly: For managing information overload.
    It’s not really a tool…but a way to wrestle your your crowded inbox. Feed.ly is a news aggregate that allows you to quickly glance at all the news important to you. Use the RSS feed to customize what you want to see, without jamming your inbox with a ton of emails.And these tools are all free…what are some your favorite tools or websites?