This weekend, if you didn't already know, we were at the Windless Indoor Kite Festival in Long Beach, Washington. For the first time in a LONG time, I saw something happen at the competition. No, I am not talking about the rather large pool of competitors that has been growing every year (there was 18 in the open competition).
I am talking about CASH prizes for the top three. Yep.... they won cash. Paul came in second by .01 of a point behind the first.... then promptly donated his winnings to the World Kite Museum.
So, for those of you not deeply entrenched in kite competitions, this might not seem like such a strange occurrence. The thing is, it has been vacant from nearly all kite fields for quite some time. The reasons why they have been absent can fall into two camps.
1. No funds to do so.
2. Belief that it devalues the sport
Admittedly, I find myself shaking my head at both of these reasons. The first one is a weak one, especially in light of the fact that contestants pay an entry fee to compete. I am not sure if there is some sort of barrier in our line of thinking when it comes to what the amount should be. Are people saying 'there is no funds to do this' because they think that a small competition of say ten, should be handing out big checks for several hundred dollars? While that would be great, I offer up that most competitors would be happy to at least have a chance to win back their entry fee. Anything else on top of that is just gravy.
As for the second 'reason'. No... just ... no. Show me proof. By far and large this simple does not prove true in any sport or competition. You could perhaps argue that in sports like the UFC, that the cash prizes dictate certain actions that may be seen as unsportsmanlike conduct. These are the exceptions to the rule, not the standard. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at THE shining example of what is supposed to be the purity of sports and competition; the Olympics. While the Olympic Committee does not hand out cash prizes (although the medals are worth about $300-550 a piece), individual member countries will pay you for winning. US Olympians earn $37,500 for each gold medal, $22,500 for each silver, and $15,000 for each bronze. (Singapore offers a cool $1 million for a gold)
Perhaps if as a collective we started stepping our game and making it a priority to offer cash prizes or sponsored prizes (i.e. a kite etc...) instead of a trophy, or a medal that will end up thrown in a drawer collecting dust, we might actual start attracting new competitors to the scene. Maybe... just maybe.... what do we have to lose?
When I asked Paul what he thinks as a long time competitor about this subject he said:
"Whatever motivates people to fly for the podium, I am for it. I do not have a moral objection against cash, I think it's ok to get some of my expenses back if I do well at comp. It no different than getting a kite or something as a prize, as now I don't have to buy one anymore, kinda thing."
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and if you feel that indeed the two reasons I mentioned are the reason why there are not cash prizes.... tell me more. This is a discussion we need to be having, and I would love to hear more from those that feel so strongly against cash prizes.