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Discussion: Do Medals Matter?

in: Orienteering; General

Jan 14, 2020 7:56 PM # 
This comment is spinning out of another AP discussion. I think it deserves its own thread. In the other thread some folks were starting to diss the importance and expense we spend on giving medals to out top three performers particularly when those three are the only three or fewer in the class.
No doubt there are occasions when a medal is not really earned or in some cases even wanted. But consider the greater good that we in orienteering do for our population in giving them a chance for recognized athletic success.
Look around you at any event. You will see people being called to the podium who were never star athletes in their youth or in their prime. I include myself here. We may have played house league sports. But few of us would have been picked for the all star or travelling baseball, football, soccer or hockey teams. I knew I would finish off the podium in the sprints so I drifted to middle distance. I’m glad I did. I still have the clipping where I finished third in the Intermediate Central Ontario District Championships.
Why is that important? Because young insecure kids benefit so much from the recognition, any recognition, they can get. It makes them a somebody in their peer group. It may just get the bullies off their back and this is important they may just not feel a need to bully a lesser because they have achieved the status they sought.
It goes on into older groups, too. I know I gained status as a teacher to be able to wear my latest Team Canada track suit around the school. I probably would never have considered a political career, or anyone considered voting for me if I didn’t have a cv listing a considerable number of orienteering achievements. If the sport had not been there for me the achievements would not have been their either.
In Canada we have about 70 sports that have national championships. About half of those get to play in the Olympics. It doesn’t have to be orienteering but somewhere in the world is a sport that will help make someone feel good and accomplished. I’m glad when for someone that sport turns out to be orienteering.
Enough for now. If there proves to be any interest in this thread I’ll tell the story of how her love of orienteering has turned one young lady’s life around 180 degrees. Let me leave it with this: the best thing we can do for a person, particularly a young person, is help him or her feel good about himself/ herself.
Jan 14, 2020 8:59 PM # 
The Ontario Championships medal policy was changed a few years ago after an organizer asked the OOA board to consider reducing the number of medals since it would allow them to reduce entry fees. After consultation with clubs, the board decided that medals would continue to be awarded 3-deep to Elites and Juniors. Masters categories age 35+ now get a 1st place medal only. Organizers are free to give other prizes (cookies, wine, whatever) 3-deep in all categories if they wish.

Around the same time, OOA needed to order new championship medals. (OOA buys a multi-year supply of medals to get a volume discount and to ensure consistent quality and design. Organizers reimburse OOA at cost for the medals they use.) OOA also announced a medal recycling program. If anyone wanted to return their medals, they would be put back into the rotation. Quite a few medals were returned, almost all of them from Masters. So far no one has complained to the OOA board about the lack of 2nd and 3rd place medals in Masters categories.
Jan 14, 2020 9:03 PM # 
I'm perfectly fine with awards three-deep, or even deeper (particularly for the Elite categories). But that's assuming that the fields are bigger. And as I've noted elsewhere (ad nauseam), the obvious way to do that in our current situation is to make the age groups bigger.
Jan 14, 2020 9:11 PM # 
We have 10-year age groups for Masters in Canada.
Jan 14, 2020 9:17 PM # 
I like the paper award certificates we get at CNYO Rogaine. Suitable for framing!
Jan 14, 2020 9:23 PM # 
I dislike medals. If you are going to do something - make it memorable/tasty.
Jan 14, 2020 9:46 PM # 
Yeah, edible awards are great. Big cookie on a ribbon to put around the winner's neck. And s/he can keep the ribbon as a memento.
Jan 14, 2020 9:55 PM # 
I like medals for the championship (I'm in the one champs event camp - it can be either SML or two-day classic, but one is enough)

For non-champs events, NRE's etc I think medals for the juniors, perhaps for the open -21+ class, the rest can be regional treats or just bragging rights as far as I'm concerned. Don't need/want the extra swag. I'm also in favor of the 10 (or 15) year age groups.
Jan 14, 2020 10:07 PM # 
Recognition is great, especially for kids. Medals are fine.

I like going to events where I think I will have fun. Things that are more fun than being given a medal for "winning" my class of one (1) competitor:

- having lots of friends and competition in attendance
- running in interesting terrain
- getting to use a good map
- going to the dentist
Jan 14, 2020 10:09 PM # 
Jan 14, 2020 10:35 PM # 
You have a different perspective on dentists than most people though, Bash, admit it.
Jan 14, 2020 10:35 PM # 
My mother used to win open ocean swim races on the Jersey Shore back in the 1920's...long before Title IX. She beat all the men, and claimed their big trophies, which I remember admiring in the 1950's. Never can tell what a trophy means to someone.
Jan 14, 2020 11:08 PM # 
@JJ, you're right. :)
Jan 14, 2020 11:22 PM # 
I liked the soaps from the Masters this year. I have one kid who doesn't care about medals, and one who is rightfully proud anytime one is earned (and I bet you can guess which is which). However, the prospect of medals doesn't have much to do with our travel decisions.

Seeing our O-friends and traveling to neat places, on the other hand...
Jan 14, 2020 11:23 PM # 
Although many may claim that medals are not important, it seems that Virtual Running Club has made an industry upon the fact that they are. In looking at the results from the Virtual Running Club website, most of their clients are in what would be our masters age categories. Don't underestimate the value of medals for not only youth but others as well.
Jan 15, 2020 12:15 AM # 
I like medals, although I prefer ones that were specially designed for the event rather than generic ones. I also like useful prizes, although I now have quite a collection of drinking glasses, bags, and water bottles. I especially like it when the prizes are something different and more creative, handmade, or unique to the local area of the race. Some of my favorites have been an engraved pocket knife, an orienteering themed ornament, a stuffed bear, maple candy, the soap mentioned above, and a stained glass control.

That said, since I often get one by default for finishing both days, I look at the medal/prize more as a souvenir. When I look at it I remember the event and things like having fun, beautiful terrain, and being with friends. I do have a few that are special to me because they were in larger classes and I really did earn them through performance. I know which ones they are :-)

(I should add - I would still travel to national events even if there were no medals/awards, or even if the classes were so large or competitors so awesome that I would have no chance of getting one. I don't do it for or because of the medals, but they are nice to have as mementos.)
Jan 15, 2020 1:15 AM # 
I don't know how popular parkrun is in North America (probably not hugely with around 40 events nationwide in each of the USA and Canada - Australia in contrast has in excess of 370) but participants there don't get medals or even recognition for finishing in the top 3, other than in the results email, and yet weekly numbers at individual events range from 10-700 (depending on location - there were 51,889 finishers and 3556 volunteers at 329 events (many were cancelled due to the fires) last weekend). So it's very, very popular.

The popularity there stems purely from finishing the 5km run/walk and achieving milestones (50, 100, 250 events), getting (virtual) badges (e.g. collecting the alphabet - an event starting with each letter; visiting a parkrun in each state; going to "launches", etc), beating your own time from previous runs and basically the fact that if you do regularly go to the same parkrun (which I definitely don't) that you're going to know a whole bunch of people there, so similar to orienteering with that last one.
Jan 15, 2020 1:18 AM # 
parkrun but for orienteering would be way better than a whole box of US Champs medals.
Jan 15, 2020 1:21 AM # 
Jan 15, 2020 4:12 AM # 
At least one year at the 1000-Day, the prizes were mugs, with artwork on them specific to the event. We went deeper than the top three in the results, in fact... we went all the way down. Even to DNFs. When you came across the finish line on the last day, Hutch was there handing you a mug. (And then I think the top finishers got ribbons, but there was no awards ceremony, the meet director just pinned them next to the results on the string and you picked it up when you looked at the results).
Jan 15, 2020 4:35 AM # 
Jan 15, 2020 6:46 AM # 
What matters to me is meaningful competition. I'd far rather go to a race with a high-quality field and come 10'th than come 3rd in field of low quality. Getting a medal because I was the only one who showed up seems like an insanely hollow victory.

The only medals that should be awarded in North American Orienteering are the following ...
1) Canadian Championships - maximum 3 individual races per category (plus relay)
2) United States Championships - maximum 3 individual races per category (plus relay)
3) North American Championships - maximum 3 individual races per category (plus relay)

All other events should give out other prizes, like chocolate, coffee, pies, wine, honey, cars, trips, etc. depending on race budget.

I have a box full of medals. Some (COC's, NAOC's, US Champs) I cherish (not for the actual medal but for the accomplishment). Others, not so much.
Jan 15, 2020 6:51 AM # 
The most recent event I just signed up for is a 50 km ski "race". Winner gets a free beer and 25% off food at the local pub. So do all the other participants. Looking forward to it.
Jan 15, 2020 7:25 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I have won my age class a number of times in the norwegian veteran's champs, I can't remember the last time I got an actual medal. :-)
We used to get medals in the county champs but that stopped maybe 15-20 years ago.
Jan 15, 2020 1:28 PM # 
It's also worth mentioning that OUSA spends about $2000 per year on medals. Even though we only give official OUSA medals™ out at the championship events, that's a lot to pay for something to stash in a shoebox.
Jan 15, 2020 1:43 PM # 
Sounds like OUSA might want to try a medal recycling program too. One senior couple returned 30+ medals worth $150 to OOA because they received them at almost every championship race and just didn’t need that many. They hated to throw them out though.
Jan 15, 2020 2:21 PM # 
We returned/recycled quite a few USOF medals (all the same design they'd been for decades) a few years back.

Then in the last couple of years they switched to a design with the new logo, and the year. I don't think adding the year was a good idea (unless it didn't cost any more than not doing so) because you can't recycle them.
Jan 15, 2020 8:59 PM # 
I was able to get our medal cost down by going straight to the factory to purchase them. That made it so that we could make them specific to the event, with a different logo for Junior Nationals, Nationals, and Masters Nationals, with the year on it, and have the back side laser etched with the race/class instead of having to deal with stickers.

The medals that we made for the last NAOC that we purchased through an awards company were $4.50 each plus setup fees.

I'm currently supplying medals to OUSA at my cost, which is substantially less than that.
Jan 15, 2020 9:42 PM # 
Medals are an important symbol of achievement. I have been to A-meets (National Meets) when they were not presented. This diminished the importance of the competition and many came away disappointed. It made the organizers look cheap. My opinion, but shared by many others.
Jan 15, 2020 9:55 PM # 
I'm happy to celebrate by being called up to a podium and have a photo taken that I'll print out in that year's photo album. Having a medal in a box taking up room in my garage that eventually will just get thrown out is wasteful and is not a good use of the world's limited resources. I would love to be able to recycle or just not accept medals, if given the option. So case for not putting the year on...
Jan 15, 2020 10:06 PM # 
Seems like local 5k races get this right, offering gift cards to local establishments as prizes for top finishers. You get recognized, people cheer, you can get a picture, and then you get a useful prize. The gift cards are likely donated as a sponsorship item and bring more business to the local place, so it's win-win.

I'm sure there are people who would be disappointed if the physical medals went away from, say, the US Champs. But I don't know if those people want the actual metal medals or if they just want the recognition in some form. An AP discussion thread is unlikely to yield an answer to that.

In any case, I'd still rather have more competition at an event than any award whatsoever. Clearly I'm not alone there but same caveat as above.
Jan 15, 2020 11:33 PM # 
I order wooden engraved medals, by local artist, with ribbons from Aliexpress, comes to about 2$ each. Hope you can see by clicking the link.

My kids love medals, They love even more being cheered at the finish line. And they are very proud to excel in Orienteering that not many of people around know about.
Also try giving souvenirs to all the kids that come to the events we organize, like special rocks, shark teeth etc.

I personally can go without easily at any event of any level.
Jan 15, 2020 11:53 PM # 
The race this weekend gave out one of the best awards I've seen yet: rock salt.

Obviously not useful in all climates or times of year, but the idea of giving something that I'll actually use is much more meaningful for small races.
Jan 16, 2020 12:28 AM # 
Danish Dynamite:
Medals aren’t too important. The only medal’s I’ve won that I really value are the 2016 Ontario champs when I won the sprint, and the 2015 Canadian champs when I was 3rd in m20.

I don’t actually care about the medal, but in both cases I wasn’t expected to win (or achieve what I did) or no one considered it a possibility I could win, so the medal represents the achievement.
Jan 16, 2020 12:41 AM # 
For the record, I considered it a possibility you could win Christian!
Jan 16, 2020 1:37 AM # 
Medal now devalued.
Jan 16, 2020 5:41 AM # 
Children very much value medals and are proud to wear it around the neck afterwards. Older orienteers are thinking storage etc and would prefer something small, storable or useful. While it adds significantly to an event cost to have any sort of championship event without a presentation really devalues it. We have a triangular chocolate as reward for full attendance at a Summer Series (weekly for 5 months) but handing out chocolates time after time at other presentations isn't cutting it after a while.
Jan 16, 2020 1:15 PM # 
Hey, at least our sport hasn't stooped to the level of giving out medals to everyone!

I look at my sport medals a lot like my military medals, ribbons and coins I've received over the years--they are visual symbols and cues that bring back good memories of hard work, great friends/associates, overcoming obstacles, and accomplishing something great. Its not the object itself so much as what the object represents or reminds me. And because of all that I like having some of that around to remind me.

Also, the medals that are designed in such a way that they are unique and symbolic of a specific event are great at any level of competition, and I am glad that organizers arranged this for some of the events I've attended.

And I am a believer in continuing tradition in sport as well.

That all said, if the same generic medals like the OUSA ones are being issued over and over again I definitely think it makes sense as others proposed that the year be taken off the medal so athletes can choose to just let that medal be passed on to the next person who might be receiving that type of medal for the 1st time. Still do the ceremonial awarding of the medal on the podium, but if that athlete already has that medal and doesn't need another one piling up at home, yes, let's let him/her pass it on to the next athlete that is getting one for the 1st time to take home. But if its a major event like NAOC, Championship, etc, I think it makes sense to have something very nice and custom-made which will be a 1st for everyone receiving it.

Regarding the awarding of medals to small groups of competitors, I've been there too.. getting a medal for 1st place out of 1, and similar. I don't think there's a cookie cutter way to handle that. I do believe part of competing means showing up. But I also believe event organizers should plan to award medals in a way that awards excellence and not just participation. One way I've seen this handled is consolidating age groups, classes, etc to reduce the number of medals but still award the top 3 in various groupings to those that deserve most earned the honor. When I was an event director for an O-race that involved awarding medals and saw the registration was going to be less than expected, I winnowed down the ways participants could get medals and cut back our order of medals to just 3 instead of 6.

As a competitor I have no problem chipping in with my registration to cover part of the cost of awarding a medal to someone that deserves and has earned the honor.

Personally I would rather have something symbolic and memory-triggering like a medal than something that gets consumed and forgotten. I do like the sports gear, gift cards, etc, etc I've earned/received at championships, ROGAINEs, other sports, etc, but if the award package comes with a medal that is special to that event (not generic blah medal), even better because that still preserves the tradition, symbology, and sentimental value of it all on top of the cool and/or tasty stuff.
Jan 16, 2020 2:51 PM # 
I think there are several different questions being asked and answered here.

- Do people like recognition for their accomplishments? Absolutely!

- Do people like getting a physical award? Often, but it's complicated! Just like people are.

- Is a change in the presence or absence of physical awards at national events going to solve our participation problem? No!
Jan 16, 2020 2:51 PM # 
One nice thing about orienteering is that every race comes with a souvenir that is very specific to the event: the map. My medals are on a shelf in a dusty corner of a rarely visited room in my house. But my maps are neatly filed where I can get at them easily.
Jan 16, 2020 3:25 PM # 
Nothing new to add here, but I think:

1) recognition by one's peers is great for genuine accomplishment
2) medals are nice for kids
3) metals are superior to Bitcoin but Bitcoin is more useful to me
Jan 16, 2020 7:17 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@jjcote: I used to have paper map collections, but for more than 20 years now I have scanned or downloaded all my maps, my QuickRoute/Doma collection covers the last 10+ years, with Livelox possibly taking over as the primary source.
Jan 16, 2020 8:32 PM # 
Makes sense. But if you won a national championship or something, you could certainly choose to frame that particular map.
Jan 17, 2020 1:59 AM # 
My medals are on a shelf in a dusty corner of a rarely visited room in my house.

Is that because it's haunted?
Jan 17, 2020 2:44 AM # 
Depends on who you ask, though most people would probably say yes. I think it has a fireplace somewhere behind the boxes. The former owners probably called it the living room. I usually only go in there to get the kayaks or the hang gliders.
Jan 17, 2020 3:19 AM # 
@jjcote - you've just sparked a thought in my mind. Perhaps clubs/associations could present copies of the championship map - appropriate to age/division with duly printed age/division and placing on it - as prizes. Our competition maps are on durable paper - pretex?? - but the presentations could be just good quality paper.
Jan 17, 2020 3:42 AM # 
I have seen that done, though I don't remember when/where.
Jan 17, 2020 3:55 AM # 
I have seen copies of the competition map printed as prizes onto corflute 'coasters' before. This was in Taree, NSW, tinytoes so must have been your club that did it! Bizarrely I got 3rd place in all three races (1st and 2nd were different in each) so they're identical shaped awards but I have seen some states award slightly larger sizes to 1st before (mucks up the aesthetics if you don't win three of the same place).

Jan 17, 2020 4:00 AM # 
I have seen that done, though I don't remember when/where.

We have prizes that are course maps laminated to make a placemat. I think it was the October 2008 Mt Tom meet, but I'm not where I can check. Both days' courses are printed on the map.
Jan 17, 2020 4:16 AM # 
tRicky - that would have been Greg/Tim production.
Jan 17, 2020 4:43 AM # 
Bill Gookin use to make laminated map placemat awards a lot. I have quite a few.
Jan 17, 2020 6:45 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@jjcote: "I usually only go in there to get the kayaks or the hang gliders."

Seems to me that you have a living room with garage type direct access! Neither kayaks nor hang gliders like going around internal corners. Actually, modern white water kayaks would be OK since they are just a little bit larger than a surfboard or a high wind windsurfer, but my classic (selfmade) eskimo style river kayak is over 4 m long.
My wife would never allow me to try anything airborne, so no sky diving, hang gliding or para gliding for me. She did get me access to a vertical wind tunnel though when they opened here in Oslo! :-)
Jan 17, 2020 6:48 AM # 
We printed a map on a Mouse Pad for the awards at the Family relays once at Australian Easter Carnival in Western Australia - still have one somewhere
Jan 17, 2020 11:44 AM # 
That is COOL! Any idea of the year?
Jan 17, 2020 11:47 AM # 
I would definitely take a kayak as an award. That would surely motivate me to run more.
Jan 17, 2020 11:59 AM # 
Only if there's a map printed on it.
Jan 17, 2020 3:12 PM # 
The sports gear storage room is at the opposite end of the house from the garage, but they're connected by a hallway that has only shallow angles, so everything just barely makes it. The sea kayaks are stored there, but the short kayak can stand up on one end in the garage, so it lives there with all the bicycles.
Jan 17, 2020 11:41 PM # 
The awards for many of BAOC's events were tile coasters with the same artwork as the T-shirts, produced by artist Stephanie Maclean. It looks like Stephanie isn't producing tiles anymore, but we've also given out mugs with her artwork too.
Jan 18, 2020 6:52 PM # 
I like a nice event memento. A map is fine. Prize givings are the bane of my life (as organiser). Medals are for kids and I don't really want the stuff the sports store couldn't sell.
The best award I ever got was a wooden spoon.
It was from a French 5-day - everyone got one - I guess it has no significance there. Anyway, the poor old thing finally wore out from overuse many years after the event (the spoon, that is ;).
Jan 20, 2020 3:35 AM # 
Good move by GAOC this weekend with the MoonPies as prizes. Delicious!

Also Boris used one of my medals to scratch his scratch ticket and won $15 so I’m warming up to them.
Jan 20, 2020 7:03 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@jjcote: "so it lives there with all the bicycles". :-)

I have a colleague in Silicon Valley/Cupertino who has two sons working for Specialized as bike designers, on my last visit we were going for a ride on some of the single tracks in the hills above his house and I borrowed a bike, it was one of 5 or 6 in a row, right?

It was only after we returned that I noticed the 20+ hanging from the roof of the garage...
Jan 20, 2020 7:24 AM # 
tRicky - eat your heart out!
Jan 21, 2020 5:32 PM # 
To make it count I would love to see OUSA start awarding medals made from real bronze, silver, and gold.

That would give both material and sentimental value to awards!

On the side note, if orienteering is a real sport so awards for winning races should reflect strong stance on this.

Real awards for real sport!

Cookies and such for recreational participants!
Jan 21, 2020 5:42 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I guess we should start charging entry fees for a real sport, then.
Jan 21, 2020 5:59 PM # 
Some people like medals and some people like cookies. We are happy to accommodate both. We opted for medals and Moon Pies. Medals graciously accepted by all who stayed. One was recycled after the ceremony. Moon Pies almost universally accepted. We had 240 or so runners and had 188 medals on hand. Not all were awarded and some people got two. We had 183 cookies on hand and managed to get away with a score. We also had hats for top 3 M/F21+ and $30 gift cards for the top interscholastics runners. And 15% discount off anything (even watches, etc) regular price to any runner with bib at a local running store that donated the cards - which could be used after the discount. It was fun. It was not a budget buster.

I do like a lot of the ideas shared here. Keep them coming.
Jan 23, 2020 4:47 AM # 
Man, it's been so long since I checked out the Attackpoint scene, but check back in, and it's like nothing ever changed :-)
Jan 23, 2020 8:09 AM # 
My personal attitude to medals is that, if I have won one, the achievement probably didn't merit a medal.
Jan 23, 2020 4:00 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@TheInvisibleLog: So you think about medals the same way Groucho Marx thought about clubs?
“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”
Jan 23, 2020 8:04 PM # 
I admit borrowing his line with amendment. I was thinking of the year I won our club championship because everyone who actually deserved the medal had been away running bigger races.
Jan 24, 2020 12:18 AM # 
@invis we can start calling you Steven Bradbury if you like
Jan 24, 2020 5:59 AM # 
Not even the same.

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