Kids and Sports: Why My Kids Aren’t Allowed To Accept Participation Trophies

Intro by Bill Plock

303cycling is proud to support Haute Route Rockies and here is a guest article from the CEO of Haute Route North America, Alain Lambert who will be riding in the second edition of this ride from June 24th through July 1st. This ride will be 523 miles and over 50,00o feet of climbing. Stops include Boulder, Winter Park, Avon, Breckenridge and Colorado Springs. The final stage will include an ascent of Pikes Peak. Check it out!

Alain’s passion for cycling (and food) is evident during Haute Route. Bill Plock of 303cycling recently rode the San Francisco three day Haute Route saying, “its such a great combination of camaraderie, amazing routes, white glove service and great food, I can’t wait to try it in the Rockies!”

Here is Alain’s thoughts on kids, cycling, mental toughness–gives you a snapshot of his way of thinking which trickles down through the spirit Haute Route.



On June 29th, I spent more than seven hours on my bike riding with my eighteen year old son Alex. We were riding from Snowmass to Crested Butte Village in Colorado. We rode about 170 kilometers and climbed almost 10,000 feet together. It may sound like a lot of riding and climbing, but in the grand scheme of things, it was just another day on the bike. To be more precise: ‘It was just another day out of seven long days of the Mavic Haute Route Rockies.’

The Mavic Haute Route Rockies is a timed and ranked competitive amateur cycling event which takes place in the Colorado Rockies. This year the event was held from June 24th to 30th. It started in Boulder and finished in Colorado Springs. That week, my son and I – and about 350 other cyclists – rode 817 kilometers and climbed 50,000 feet.

While it was my third participation in an Haute Route event (Haute Route also runs seven-day events in the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites) it was Alex’ first participation. The Haute Route is a very good test of mental toughness. It is so long and so difficult that you cannot possibly replicate it in training, especially if you have a full-time job or go to school full-time like Alex. If you are a true amateur, you go from doing the odd long four-hour ride to riding five, six and seven hour for seven days in a row. If you have done the training and you are mentally strong, you will get through it without a problem. If you are weak mentally, you are in for one pretty miserable week.

I enjoyed riding with Alex on what was the longest stage (stage 6) of the week as I had not had an opportunity to ride with him much during the first five days; Alex is a much stronger rider than I am – although he only picked cycling in September 2016 – and he preferred to hang in front with the ex-pros, Olympians and Cat 1 racers. On day six, Alex was not having his best day (like many other riders) and that gave us an opportunity to hang out together. I didn’t see him much on stage 7 as he reverted to his favorite spot: at the front of the pack.

On the bus transfer from Crested Butte Village to Colorado Springs the next morning, I wrote a long private email to my family and a few close friends detailing my thoughts about Alex’ achievement, the importance of competitive sports in kids’ lives and how it can contribute to raising well-adjusted adults. I later told myself that the email could serve as the basis on a blog post on my experience as a father whose kids started competing in sports at a very early age. Yes, competing, not participating. I’ll explain later.

I never got around to writing the post as I have been travelling extensively since Haute Route. On a bike ride with Alex along the California coast today, I convinced myself to just start writing and see what this post would read like. So here we go.

To better understand the positive impact of competitive sports in children’s lives, let’s first analyse its opposite of it which is the concept of safe spaces.

Have you ever heard of a safe space?

It is a recent invention by unwise university authorities to insulate students from real life, ensuring they remain child-like and dependent on either their parents or, more likely and problematic, their professors. Safe spaces are mainly used by immature students to avoid having to hear ideas they were programmed to reject or that they feel could offend them. Imagine having a real job and being offered a safe space in lieu of a bad job review. Wouldn’t that be great? Imagine coming home from work and your wife unloads on you about what a terrible day she had because your four kids were sick all day and vomited all over their beds. Wouldn’t it be great to just ignore it and go to a safe space? Imagine your spouse having breast cancer and you having to deal with the disease and take care of your three children. Wouldn’t it be great to just not having to deal with it all and go to a safe space?

It would feel good for a short while but how can safe spaces be good for society? We need society to raise men and women, not grown-up male or female children, don’t we? I can tell you that at eighteen, my son Alex is much more of a man than the average college student out there who needs a safe space and he proved it in spades in Colorado at the Haute Route.

Competitive sports are the opposite of a safe-spaces: In competitive sports, you get the chance to win and to lose, to be on top of the world or be humiliated. You will never get good at it if you don’t train hard and if you train hard, the sky’s the limit. In competitive sports there isn’t anywhere to hide as the results will be posted online for everyone to see as soon as you cross the finish line or the game ends. I do know that some kids’ sports leagues don’t post results, keep score or will stop the scoring if one team is losing by a lot. That isn’t competitive sport so it isn’t what I am writing about. Those sporting events are meant to be the sports’ equivalent of safe-spaces, so before registering your kids in any sports league or team, make sure you pick one that understands the nature of competition and offer your kids an opportunity to feel bad about losing badly.

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