Have you ever seen the small stickers on the back of college football player’s helmets? Have you ever noticed that some players have a lot and some players have very few or none? Have you ever wondered what these stickers mean?

Growing up as an avid college football watcher, I was taught what the stickers meant young, but for some reason this year they have really stuck out to me. The small stickers are known as helmet stickers or pride stickers, and are usually in the shape of the school’s mascot, logo, etc. These stickers are given to individual players who make key performances throughout the game (i.e. blocked kicks, interceptions, etc.).

Seeing the stickers on the helmets today, I am really bothered by the fact that teams still give them out. Football is purely a team sport and it takes a team, not an individual player, to win a game. The amount of stickers on the back of the helmet clearly separates the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ players, which divides a team. This makes me think back to the success equation: ability + preparation + effort + WILL = success. Some football players may have minimal ability, but their preparation exceeds that of any pure ‘talented’ athlete. As a result, the talented players (those making the ‘big’ plays) are the ones getting the stickers, not necessarily those who prepare the hardest or make those small plays that result in big results.

I command the many schools that have stopped using the stickers for various reasons. I believe JoePa, a legendary football coach at Penn State, puts it the best, “I’ve never been for that stuff, nobody achieves anything without the others.” An interception would not happen without the rest of the defense there to help. The helmet stickers continue to take away from the idea of a team sport.

If schools want to continue their long time tradition of having helmet stickers, why don’t they go about doing it a different way? For example, having paper helmets in the locker rooms and putting stickers on those to show accomplishments. Another example is rewarding stickers to everyone for a team accomplishment, instead of singling out individuals. I hope teams and coaches can start to eliminate helmet and pride stickers, and start acknowledging the team as a whole for their accomplishments.