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  • Writer's pictureAlison Burmeister

Trophy Life

I can count on one hand the amount of trophies I've won in my lifetime--make that two fingers.

Two trophies, and neither of them for sports. With a home sewn dress made by my mom, I placed third in the Miss Illinois Pre-Teen Pageant; and my friend Maggie and I schooled the eighth grade Speech Team competition with a witty scene from, "The Importance of Being Ernest".

I was never super competitive. What little competitive sports I played ended when I had my tooth knocked out from a rogue serve in eighth grade volleyball. Instead, I opted for less aggressive activities like dance and theatre. Even in my adult life I notice the activities I enjoy are things like hiking and yoga.

So the irony is not lost on me, that I am raising a super competitive, athletic daughter, who in her 15 years has already amassed enough trophies and awards to melt down into a midsize car.

As her mom, I feel it is my duty to help her find the balance between being a good athlete and becoming an even better person. I want her to see that life is not about winning the trophy, it's about doing what it takes to earn the trophy.

Also, who am I kidding? It's about the trophy people! Winning feels good. Even yoga, the one physical activity that supposedly has "no ego" has managed to become competitive. Just Google "Yoga Challenge" and you'll see what I mean.

Encourage your kid to play sports (read "be active"). Learning to compete, to win, to lose, to be a team player, is one of the best things you can do for your child. Even if they aren't that good, I guarantee they will still be awarded more trophies than me.

In this excerpt from the chapter "Not So Sporty Spice" of my book "Advice To Your 12-Year-Old Self" I offer more pearls of wisdom in a letter to my daughter, on why I think it is so important to play sports.

While I can't go back, I have found a way to pay it forward by telling stories of my own successes and failures, so that hopefully we can all learn and grow from them.


An excerpt from, ADVICE TO YOUR 12-YEAR-OLD SELF-a collection of both humorous and embarrassing anecdotes, as well as cautionary tales from my past, each paired with reflective letters to my Tik Toking Los Angeles raised daughter. In addition, each vignette is matched with relevant and relatable yoga poses, self-care tips and journal prompts. It’s a little like Chicken Soup for The Soul, meets Dear Abby, meets Yoga Journal for pre-teens and parents.


"Not So Sporty Spice"-a letter to my daughter.

Dear Skyla,


Looking back, I wish I had played more sports, not only for the physical benefits, but the mental benefits too. Except for two years of volleyball in junior high, and one very quick and disastrous season of field hockey freshman year, I participated very little in organized sports. I feel belonging to a sports team in my youth would have helped to strengthen the competitive bones in my body and lay a great foundation for life.


Now that I’m older, I realize healthy competition is one of the best ways to develop life skills as a human being. Competition teaches us to try our hardest, never give up and remain calm in the face of adversity. Competition is like a great debate. Both sides working hard to make their point, each one thinks they deserve to win. The question is how do you win? Do you play fair? Do you bully the other person? Do you cheat? Do you bust your butt so hard that the only thing left is your heart on the playing field? It might seem cliché, but the saying It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”, certainly applies here.


To succeed in a sport, you must give it your all and you can’t be afraid to fail. When we look at failure as an opportunity to learn, rather than a mark on your ability or character, there will always be a positive outcome somewhere down the line.



If you truly want something, you can’t give up. Take Tom Brady for example. You may not know him nor care about his career, but the moms reading this I guarantee will know who Tom Brady is. When he was in high school, he was just an average quarterback. He almost chose baseball over football when he tried out for a college team. When he played in college at Michigan, he didn’t even start. In the pros he was the 199th draft pick and yet somehow, he eventually made his way to becoming one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Just because you are not the best, does not mean you should not try. Just because you are the best, does not mean you will succeed. At a certain point what separates the great athletes from the good athletes is practice and perseverance.


Sports teaches us adaptation and physical awareness. Consider any one of the female pole vaulters you admire from Katie Moon to the Moll sisters. All these women played more than one sport before they became world champion pole vaulters. Katie was a diver, and the Moll sisters both avid rock climbers. As our bodies grow and change, we discover new skills and strengths. Some of the best athletes played multiple sports, which not only helps to develop your body, but your mind also.


It is one thing to have natural athletic ability, but to truly excel, you must strive to beat your personal best. One of my favorite athletes of all time, Michael Jordan was cut from his varsity high school team sophomore year. Instead of hanging up his high tops, he instead went home that summer and practiced every day until he got better. He came back next season, stronger and more confident. He went on to play in college for North Carolina—and eventually to the pros where he led the Chicago Bulls to win 6 NBA championships. He is by far the most well-known and talented basketball player and possibly all-around athlete the world has ever seen. To this day, Jordan still thanks his high school coach for pushing him to practice and get better. Giving proof to anyone who practices, whether is it is a sport, an instrument or creative skill, that practice develops discipline and raises the odds of succeeding. This is a characteristic that will benefit you for a lifetime.


Those who strive to succeed never accept that something is good enough; they always push themselves to do better. This will translate into schoolwork and eventually the workplace. There is a reason why so many former athletes go on to become successful businesspeople. Discipline and the will to succeed are part of who they are.


A true athlete is not only physically strong, but mentally and emotionally strong too. When it comes to sports remember, a positive attitude goes a long way. You might be the best player on the team, you might not be. The more competitive you get, there will always be someone better than you, someone younger than you and someone stronger than you. Rather than striving to be the total best, strive to be your personal best. This applies to not only how you play, but the person you are when you play. Never take being good at sports for granted. Know that one injury could bench you for the season just as easily as a bad attitude.


In a society of technology where so much of what we do is anti-social and sedentary, it is important that we keep moving and have social interactions with others. Playing sports is a great way to do just that! Sometimes the first sport we try, is not the sport we are meant to play. With so many opportunities, basketball, badminton, track and field, lacrosse, volleyball, soccer, yoga, chess, mathletes, e-sports, whatever—just choose one and go for it! One activity might open a door to another you never would have learned about, had you not tried. I can credit my dance teacher for introducing me to yoga. She warmed us up with yoga before every class. I didn’t realize it then, but yoga would become a major part of my life philosophy and practice. When we breathe and move, we feel better. No question.


The great thing about playing sports is that no matter where you go in the world, you have something that will not only keep you active, but also connect you to people you may not have met otherwise. If you are passionate about sports, know there are a lot of opportunities out there and you don’t have to play professionally to get involved. When you are in high school, team sports are a great way to make friends. When you are in college, intramural sports are a great way to break up the debaucherous nights and days studying. When you become an adult, it is a way to stay in shape and have fun with friends. I didn’t play competitive sports for long, so I feel lucky that physical fitness and movement have always been important to me. I’ve always enjoyed working out.



So much of sports is the strength to persevere when you are not the best and the humility to know when you must try harder. For a girl, there is no greater way to gain humility and strength than to play team sports. Even if the competitive sports we play in school don’t end with a scholarship or a future athletic career, there are so many great life lessons and social skills to learn through participation in sports when you are young.


Be coachable. Never assume you know everything and listen when people you respect are trying to help you. There is a fine line between confident and cocky. Have the confidence to push yourself to play your best every game and handle constructive criticism when you don’t. The more you listen, the more you learn.  Successful athletes aren’t just born, they are made, with passion, practice and perseverance. Have fun, play your heart out, and wear a mouth guard for goodness sake. Trust me on that one.  




Love, Mom


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