Should children receive trophies for just showing up and participating in an activity? This debate has been long discussed among parents, psychologists, and even athletes over time. It is something I myself have been mulling over these last couple of weeks… and I find myself going back and forth when it comes to picking a side absolutely. There are clear reasons why all children should not receive trophies for participation, and there are clear reasons why they should receive some type of reward, whether that be a ribbon, certificate, medal, or trophy for their efforts.
After reading article after article- some being psychology journals, sports blogs, and parenting guides, I have gathered enough information to back up both sides of the argument. Just from googling “should kids receive participation trophies” it is clear to see that one side is further supported than the other. Back in August, when Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison made his two sons return their football participation trophies, debate over the issue blew up on the internet, with most articles agreeing with Harrison’s decision. Still, the internet is also riddled with reasons why participation awards are healthy for children if given with the right message behind it.
Even though I am torn right down the middle when it comes to this debate, hopefully by presenting information from both sides, you will be able to form your own firm opinion for you and your families to abide by.
Those Against Participation Awards
1. Children Should Be Taught to Earn What They Receive
The New York Post’s article, “Here’s how to make sure your kid grows up to be a loser,” explains the thought process of NFL linebacker James Harrison when it came to him returning his sons’ participation trophies. Harrison says that he is not sorry for his actions, and that “‘everything in life should be earned.” He did not want to raise two sons who grew up with the idea that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best. “Sometimes your best is not enough,” he says.
2. Not All Children Even Deserve a Participation Award
NPR.org wrote a wonderful article on this same topic, showcasing both sides of the “participation trophy debate.” On the side against the participation awards, psychologist Carol Dweck had interviewed a mother who explained that her daughter rarely showed up to her soccer practice, barely played in the games, had a bad attitude the majority of the time, and still was given a gold trophy at the end of the season- which she would have been devastated had she not received one.
3. Healthy Competition Helps Children Prepare for the Future
Life isn’t easy, and the sooner our children realize this, the better. “Should Kids Get a Trophy For Showing Up” brings up a good point. It asks its readers, “At what time of a child’s life do we want to bring home the cruel reality that somebody’s better than somebody else?” In life, there are winners and there are losers. This is a fact that cannot be ignored or overlooked. To prepare our children for life’s cruel reality, and to motivate them to be “winners,” a little healthy competition is completely necessary. By giving all of the children the same participation trophies just for showing up, we are fueling the “entitlement” fire that burns bright in many children nowadays.
Those For Participation Awards
1. The Awards Are More of a Memento Than an Actual Trophy
On the other side of NPR.org’s article, there are reasons explaining the benefits of giving out participation awards. In the article, Jorge Perez, vice president of youth development and social responsibility for the YMCA, says that the Y gives out trophies to help “anchor the experience.” He went on to explain that over the years, young adults had returned to the Y with their old trophies they had received for participating in the sports program. They had kept their trophies not because it was strictly an award, but because it reminded them of an enjoyable time during their childhood.
2. Participation Trophies That Acknowledge A Player’s Certain Skill Can Be Beneficial
If every player is receiving an award for participation, the way to maintain individuality and to motivate improvement would be to give out awards that highlight each child’s strongest skill. San Jose Mercury New’s online article, “Should kids in sports get trophies for just participating?” explains that if a child is praised for something that they do well, like hustling well in a soccer match, that it sends out a positive message. It tells the child that “they have control over their success.”
When it comes to children’s sports teams or competitions, the goal of the activity should be to foster growth and provide entertainment for the child involved. Thus, the competition shouldn’t be too hard core. In this case, a way to maintain the balance between healthy competition and the “everyone’s a winner” mentality, different types of awards should be given out. Those children who are the best on the team should rightfully receive their first, second, and third place trophies. Then, the rest of the players should be acknowledged for their efforts with smaller trophies, medals, or ribbons. That way, everyone is satisfied and being fairly noticed for their efforts.