Too often we reward children for simply showing up.

In the sports world, just showing up isn’t good enough. Just being there doesn’t mean you deserve anything. Playing time is worked for. Accolades are earned.

It’s one thing when we’re talking about little kids who are just getting into youth sports. It’s nice for them to get some sort of recognition for showing up — as long as they’re showing up consistently and working hard when they’re doing it, even if that doesn’t necessary translate to success on the field or the court.

When you’re playing for a Little League baseball team or a 6- and 7-year-old football squad, absolutely I believe everyone should get an opportunity to play. That’s how you learn; that’s how you get experience; and that’s how you grow.

But there comes a time when we have to start teaching children they don’t deserve to play just because they’re there. It’s hard to decide when that line should be drawn between everyone deserving a shot and when it’s really time to start competing.

Middle school is when coaches and players really need to begin thinking about wins and losses or at the very least being competitive.

In this generation, a lot of young people think things should be handed to them; they don’t have to work for them but they still should get them. And parents are getting worse and worse about thinking their kids deserve the world.

I’ve had so many people complain to me about their kid not getting his or her name in the newspaper, and I’ve heard multiple parents complain to coaches about their children not getting playing time. Especially at the varsity level, that’s a part of sports.

A player can work just as hard as someone else, put in just as much time and keep trying to get better, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to win a starting job if he’s simply not as good as the guy ahead of him.

But here’s the important part: That doesn’t mean that player’s role is any less valuable.

Ever heard of an NFL practice squad? Sure, those guys don’t get to play on Sundays and they aren’t winning Super Bowls, but they are still a valuable part of the team and that’s why they get a ring if their team succeeds. Competition breeds success, and that means within teams too.

Look at the quarterback battle between Iverson Hooks and Logan Hunt at Reeltown this offseason. Hunt was the returning starter and Hooks was a rising sophomore with a lot to prove. Because of his athleticism and strength with his legs, which is better suited to the Rebel offense, Hooks won the job.

Did Hunt quit? Did he let his head hang and say he didn’t want to be part of the team? No, not at all. Instead he worked even harder learning the inside linebacker position and won a starting job on that side of the ball.

And what happened when Hooks went down last week with an injury? Hunt was that much better of a quarterback because he had been pushed to become better due to the competition with Hooks in the offseason. Hunt stepped right in and directed the game flawlessly in a really tough situation.

I’ve said this over and over again: Sports aren’t just about sports. Sports aren’t just about wins and losses. Sports are about life lessons, becoming better people and taking that into the next phase of life. Sometimes you’re gonna get passed over for a job; sometimes a coworker is going to get a raise you feel like you deserve. Sometimes bad things are just going to happen, and you’re not going to get a trophy just for showing up every day.

Does that mean you quit life? No. That means you keep going, you keep working and you hope one day you get your chance in the spotlight.

And when you’re angry because your kid isn’t getting playing time, just remember Jalen Hurts. Good things come to those who wait and those who continue to work.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.