fitness

What Improvement Awards Can Mean

MIP in Sports

Even if you don’t play team sports, you probably recognize awards like Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player (MVP), and Most Improved Player (MIP). These individual awards typically celebrate the distinguished performance of an athlete (over others of a similar skill level) in a game, competition, tournament, or season.

I wanted to learn a little more about the MIP award (reason forthcoming), so using a random Google search I found some MIP award criteria from various sports sites:

  • hard work and dedication (sports-net.org)
  • productivity, contribution to team success, efficiency (WMBA)
  • work ethic, determination, positive attitude in improving skills (GCMHA)
  • “made the most significant strides in their game as a player” (upsidehoops)
  • “the most progress during the regular season compared to previous seasons” (NBA)
a yellow ribbon on a blue background
Photo by Brands&People on Unsplash

It seems the criteria for MIP varies depending on the sport and what improvement looks like in that sport. MIP can recognize either effort or skill, attitude or performance, team or individual success, etc. Some awards require at least one additional year of play for comparison, while others do not.

What’s the difference between MVP and MIP? While the former recognizes “the best of everyone else,” the latter is more like “the best of everyone else at doing their own best.”

MIP is a Group Effort

By now you might have guessed–I was recently given a MIP award (through a vote cast by the team Skips in the Monday night league of the St. Thomas Curling Club). I started playing and learning about curling when the COVID pandemic first started. When my name was announced at our year-end banquet, I gave an awkwardly unprepared speech, took an all-smiles picture with the big club trophy, and sent a photo of my take-home trophy to my mom.

I’m writing about my MIP award not as a humble-brag but because it got me thinking about what else MIP can mean. This award celebrates an athlete’s best of their best, but it takes others to bring out out the best in them. When a team player noticeably improves, there is a team behind them fostering that improvement. Even competitors support the learning and growth process!

These are belated realizations for me: I’ve been mostly academic and not sporty, starting when I scored on my own team’s basketball net (and was benched for the rest of the season) in Grade 7. Decades later, until recently I haven’t played many team sports. I have neither belonged to a sports club nor been nominated for a sports award.

But now, after two years with the curling club and playing on a consistent team, I have a better sense of how my athletic abilities can develop a result of the patience, time, modelling, suggestions, corrections, and praise of others.

What the Award Means to Me

I have curled with a highly experienced and patient Skip (Dale Curtis), a positive and understanding 3rd (Joanne Tarvit), and a sweet and supportive Second (Mary-Ellen Bolt). All the other league players are kind and helpful, and our club leaders tirelessly volunteer to make regular league play and extra events happen. I couldn’t have improved at curling without all these people. I didn’t win MIP over anyone else; I won because of everyone else.

Elan Paulson holding a trophy behind a fireplace at the St. Thomas Curling Club. Photo by Elan Paulson.
Okay, so now here IS a little humble-brag: me and the big MIP in-house club trophy.

So, I’m gonna say this year I won not the MIP but the MBP: Most Benefitted Player. I benefitted the most from all those around me as I learned how to do the best of my best at curling this year. If you have ever curled with or against me and you are reading this—that means I have improved thanks to you.

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