GoofBoy won a trophy. He was named "Runner of the Meet" at his last track meet. He is absurdly proud, and he should be. No question there has been an absurd proliferation of trophies for participation. A couple seasons of rec-league soccer running randomly up and down the field will garner enough trophies to make a kid's room look like Yankee Stadium. I was that kid - I was always far away from the ball - sometimes by design, more often by sheer cluelessness. But not GoofBoy - he really participates. He may not excel, but if he is on a team he really wants to play. This is good, because he has been on some terrible teams - but he doesn't mind as long as he gets to play. I was also on terrible teams, but I didn't want to play because that increased the chance of me being hit in the head by a ball. I did hope, through careful observation, to develop stratagems by which my terrible teams would be transformed into world-beaters. Sometimes I would outline my plans in great detail. The coaches always appreciated this.
In athletics, and hopefully most everything, GoofBoy is not me, he likes practice and, whatever the sport, he is in position and doing everything right. He has really taken to track. We go out on runs together. I get winded keeping up with him. He cruises through two miles and turns to catch and pass me at one and a half miles. He is by no means the fastest kid, usually he is in the middle of the pack. But a participation trophy in track is no self-esteem bauble. Being on the team means running at least 15 miles a week - so even the slowest person on the team is doing something pretty demanding.
GoofBoy is really proud of this trophy and so am I - he earned it.