Why I Hate Participation Trophies

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Participation trophies, when did that start? When I was a kid we received ribbons for placing in the annual Field Day events. There weren’t trophies for participation. Participating was its own reward.There were no trophies for participating.

Others stood on the sidelines but, you decided to do something different. You stepped out and joined a smaller group/team to do something either together as a team or, competing with each other.

You don’t win anything for joining. You win when you participate against another team or, individual. And when you are the most successful team or individual, you’ve won an award. That’s worthy of an award.

And then, that KIA Sorento “Built for Football Families” TV ad came out. And with that a big, collective “hell, no!” to participation trophies.

Yeah, what’s up with those participation trophies? Since when? The team wins the entire season and is treated the same as those that didn’t? It doesn’t make sense!

Thinking about my daughter’s experiences in recreational soccer, they knew who won and who didn’t. Even though a score wasn’t kept. Kids are smart. What was even more important to her (and us) was how she did as an individual on the team. When she scored a goal or, made a pass. How she treated other team members. How she was learning to be a part of a team. That was more important to us. And it was more important to her.

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I think that’s what we need to get back to. When we reward everyone, no one learns. No one learns sportsmanship, how to deal with defeat and how to develop better (possibly winning) strategies.

When everyone wins, winning is diluted and the moment to provide motivation to improve is missed. Motivation and learning from failure has effectively been eliminated.  That’s flat out the wrong way. We have few better ways to learn than from our failures.

Equal rewards for everyone sets us on the wrong path. And it seems to have led to other problems. A lifetime of “fair treatment” has led children to feel entitled. And these children grow up to be adults. What does that mean for our kids, the future leaders of America? Will they feel compelled to support this idea of entitlement? That’s a very scary thought.

And while we’re at it, where are the trophies for academic achievement? Award the Principal’s List students, like my daughter, with trophies. That would seem to be a better use for trophies than just recognizing participation. She’s okay with the certificate, she’s in middle school. For sure, the effort is worth the trophy. She’d probably think a trophy was overkill. But, that’s not the point. She’s an academic champion and should be recognized as such. There are no participation trophies in academics, and that’s just as it should be.

4 Responses

  1. Totally agree with you. One of the positives of my (now grown up) daughter playing travel soccer was that all the participation stuff went away for the most part. You had to at least come in second to get a medal or trophy.

    Also agree with you on academic achievement acknowledgement. We need to do a much better job of recognizing achievements in an area that’s far more impactful to a child’s life than sports.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments, Jon. I would really like to see my daughter’s academic achievements move beyond the paper certificates. Sports are important but, I agree with you, what you learn in the classroom is equal to, or a bit more impactful.

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