The underlying significance of trophies

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Sarah Carrier

What doesn’t belong in the garbage

Although trophies, medals, and plaques provide public recognition for an individual, group, or team’s academic, artistic, or athletic success, they are more significant because of what they represent. I may just be an overly sentimental individual, but for me, each time I received a medal, trophy, or was honored with my name inscribed on a plaque for an academic or athletic accomplishment, I was filled with a sense of pride, not just because of what I had achieved, but because of all I had done and gone through to get to that point. Major success is not achieved instantly or easily, but is only possible with a great deal of effort, time, practice, struggle, commitment, and dedication. For any athlete, trophies, medals, and plaques represent the literal blood, sweat, and tears, both of pain and joy which have significantly contributed to their resulting victory. They symbolize the good and tough moments, such as reaching minor goals, the honor of representing your school, the hours spent practicing and training, as well as the doubt, setbacks, and injuries the individual experienced, endured, and conquered to reach that final moment of triumph. Unfortunately, sometimes the significance of such items is overlooked or not fully understood by others, which leads to disrespectful and insulting actions.

On May 24, a large collection of old University of Regina wrestling trophies, medals, and plaques were discovered by a previous Cougar wrestler in a garbage bin outside of the University of Regina’s Centre for Kinesiology health and sport. Among the found items were two MVP trophies, a Canada West trophy, multiple Cougar Invitational Tournament plaques, as well as some Saskatchewan Amateur Wrestling Association medals. Upset and insulted by his discovery, but determined to prevent the University of Regina’s wrestling legacy from being forgotten, the previous Cougar wrestler donated the items to Sask Sport, who will display them in the Regina Sports Hall of Fame.

In the weeks following this discovery, a great deal of negative responses have emerged from both past University of Regina wrestlers and fans, even more so after it was acknowledged that these valuable items were intentionally discarded because there wasn’t enough space to store them during the current renovation at the University of Regina’s Fitness and Lifestyle Centre. Although I understand that space is limited, especially during renovation, I believe that not only was it a poor and inconsiderate decision to throw out these valuable objects, but also that this situation could have been handled in a better and more respectful manner.

Based on the significant symbolism embodied in these physical items, it is not surprising that some individuals would be upset by the university’s decision. Many past University of Regina wrestlers have spoken out expressing their anger and disappointment, including Inga Hammer. Although Hammer never felt that the wrestling team’s success was fully acknowledged, she never would have thought the awards which had been earned through “countless hours of effort,” would be thrown out because “you [just] assume that an award is… longstanding and… will last beyond your athletic career.”

Other athletes also feel that discarding these items adds further insult since the wrestling team was cut last year. According to the previous cougar wrestler Amber Wiebe (Speaking to Leader-Post reporter and Carillon alumnus Ethan Williams), the University’s decision suggests that “it’s not really a priority for [the University of Regina]” to preserve its wrestling legacy. The wrestling team was cut, “so they don’t have a use for [these items] anymore.” I strongly agree. Getting rid of them so soon after the wrestling team was cancelled is not only disrespectful, but also gives the impression that the university doesn’t care about the success and achievements of its previous wrestlers.

Despite the negative responses, the dean of the faculty of kinesiology and health studies, Harold Riemer, feels he made the best choice considering the lack of available storage space within the Kinesiology building. According to Riemer (speaking to CJME, among others), “very, very little storage space [exists] in this building and any [that does] is effectively full.” Originally, these trophies, medals, and plaques were displayed within the wrestling teams’ locker room, but once the team was cut, they were moved to the offices of the former wrestling coaches. Riemer claims that both former wrestling coaches were contacted a year ago to come clean out their offices, but only one actually did. However, Dane Bueckert, a former wrestler, spoke to his past wrestling coach (as noted by Global News), Dan McGee, who denied being notified, so clearly there was a major miscommunication problem.

Additionally, Riemer disagrees with the perception that discarding these items eliminates their overall significant meaning, as well as the wrestling teams’ past success and accomplishments. To him (as he said to Global) “the award hasn’t disappeared [only] the emblem of that award has changed” since the record of achievement isn’t lost or going unnoticed. In 2008, new plaques were created commemorating the wrestling teams’ accomplishments which all the old information was transferred over onto.

While it may be true that the information was not lost, the value and significance of these items is based on what they represent rather than on the informational recorded. Instead of throwing these items into the garbage, other alternatives should have been considered first. An effort should have been made to ensure that coach McGee’s contact info was up to date, so he could come and pick up the items from the offices. In the circumstance that the coaches did not want the items, they should have been offered to former Cougar wrestlers and then any interested University of Regina students, staff, and alumni. Lastly, they should have been offered to somewhere like Sask Sport to be displayed, rather than discarded.

Plaques, medals, and trophies have special significance to those who earned them and throwing them out is basically saying none of that matters. I sincerely hope that the University of Regina, or any university for that matter, considers the significance of the items the next time they need to make space during a renovation project.

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