I was watching Good Morning America the other morning and was intrigued by a feature on participation trophies in kids sports. I remember when I played soccer in elementary school, our whole team would receive participation trophies at the conclusion of the season. Not many of us have kids yet, so we can think about this subject in relation to ourselves. How did receiving participation trophies (no matter how much or how little you actually participated) affect our athletic mindsets? Some parents on the side of participation trophies argue that they “get kids motivated”, “makes them feel like they’re worth something”, “participation trophies are harmless”, and they “give them a sense of accomplishment.” Some parents against
sldfparticipation trophies argue that “they are unnecessary and pointless,” they encourage complacency and “dissuade greatness,” “the trophies make kids entitled,” and “it’s like mocking the kids who don’t win.” Many of these opinions are of parents who haven’t done the research of how participation trophies actually affect their children, but some are still valid. This website has the best quotes from parents arguing for and against participation trophies. Pittsburg Steeler’s Linebacker James Harrison says, “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe they are entitled to something just because they tried their best,” Their shelves should stay bare, he said, “until they earn a real trophy.”
Many scientists say that it is a good thing to reward young children for their effort. Many argue that “participation trophies” are not so much for accomplishment but for effort. “And let’s be honest. Participation trophies aren’t fooling anybody, including the children who receive them.” Kids are smart enough to know when they didn’t earn a trophy. When I was young, I knew when I accomplished something amazing and got a reward for it, versus when I was lazy, didn’t positively add to the team, and got a participation trophy.
Some say we shouldn’t get all worked up over participation trophies, because they don’t actually affect a child’s work ethic later on in life.
So where is the proof and science behind all of these theories? No study has been done to prove whether or not participation trophies are beneficial or hurtful, so it is up to the parents and coaches to decided whether it is appropriate for their child to receive a participation trophy or not, and also to teach them about deserving things, work ethic, and the positive outcome of hard work. The cure to some children’s laziness won’t come by simply taking a plastic trophy away. Just because some kids get participation trophies doesn’t mean those kids also expect everything in life to be handed to them.