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Trophies in this box represent Hunter Pinke's many accomplishments in school. (Katie Pinke/Agweek)

The purpose of trophies in the box

We often push ourselves and our kids to achieve success, to win a trophy or an award, but what happens to those trophies after the victory has faded? Our son, Hunter, found out recently when he came home after completing his first year of college. He was asked to speak to junior high students at his former school about his FFA experiences and how FFA could impact them.

While preparing for his presentation he asked, "Mom, where are my baby bison?" When you win an individual state championship in a career development event through North Dakota FFA you are given a trophy with a baby bison on it. Hunter has a few. I replied, "Oh, I'm sure they're up in the closet in your room."

But the trophies weren't there. I ended up finding them packed away in a tote still out in the building where we had Hunter's high school graduation party a year ago. We used his trophies as table centerpieces. Obviously, we hadn't missed them, and I didn't have to dust them.

The trophies represent experiences, but our memories have far greater value. At our house, trophies eventually go in a box. Maybe someday I'll get organized enough to display them on a shelf in Hunter's room or hang the plaques on a gallery wall. But then they will need to be dusted. Accolades are not the goal of winning trophies.

As high school and college graduates walk across stages this month to receive diplomas and degrees, I think Hunter's message for the junior high students is important to keep in mind, both for parents and students.

Hunter said, "Mom, the two keys I learned from all of the trophies are time management and the process it takes to achieve the goal — the preparation and work as well as the competition, winning and losing."

Whether it was a sport or a science fair, a FFA CDE or a music contest, the process is long because it includes hours and hours of practice on your own in the off-season, early mornings and late nights of studying and preparing with your team. The trophies are a symbol of recognition for the process it took to get there.

I love when my kids teach and remind me of life lessons. At ages 7 and 9, my girls came home this past week with ribbons of all colors from their elementary track meet. I have two more kids who need to learn about time management and the process that needs to unfold to achieve the goals they set for sports and extracurricular activities.

If kids work harder and smarter and learn the necessary process to chase after their big goals, winning or losing is secondary. Our culture might tell us differently.

A year after Hunter's graduation, his class valedictorian trophy is still in the box. The trophy represents a wonderful recognition, but the study skills and scholarships are just as rewarding, more so actually, and have launched him toward his goal of receiving his engineering degree.

High school sports awards didn't make Hunter the college football player he is today. It's the process of long hours of hard work that gave him the foundation that carried him through high school and into college. Knowing what it takes to achieve success is daunting.

Take the time to teach your kids and others to appreciate the process it takes to achieve their goals. It requires getting them off the couch and spending less time staring at a screen and more time committed to activities such as science projects, FFA, baseball, golf, basketball or whatever sport or activity sparks their interest. When I was 13 years old my spark became throwing in track and field. My parents guided me to develop my process, which included a summer track club and traveling across the country to AAU track meets.

Every kid learns the process of achievement and success differently. Some learn it quicker than others. Not everyone wins a trophy. It's a key lesson in the process.

Regardless of whether you have a box full of trophies or none, teaching kids the value of time management and what it takes to achieve their goals through hard work will be beneficial long after the trophies tarnish with age.

For now, the trophies and ribbons will stay in a box at our house. I'm not much for dusting anyway. Instead, we will model, foster and teach the process it takes to achieve them.

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