The participation situation


I’m assuming we’ve all received a participation trophy at some point in our lives, whether it was for sports, a spelling bee, or a science fair. Nowadays, trophies line shelves in kids’ rooms or are just thrown out. This is because the trophies don’t mean anything two years down the road when you realize everyone who participated got something too. I believe trophies should be awarded as an accomplishment, not just a reminder of something you took part in.

Betty Barden’s article on participation trophies holds a valuable message. “Trophies for all convey an inaccurate and potentially dangerous life message to children: We are all winners,” she writes. This is unhealthy for kids because, first, it doesn’t motivate them to get better. Kids will not learn from failure if we make it seem like there isn’t any to begin with. Children who just go through the motions and don’t put in any additional effort will still get the same trophy as someone who may have put in a lot of extra time. This hurts the child that doesn’t put work in because that child develops a poor work ethic and doesn’t feel the need to improve it. On the other hand, this hurts the child that is trying hard because that child may become frustrated that their work is worth the same as someone who puts in less, yet receives equal acknowledgment.

Another problem with participation trophies is that they give children a sense of entitlement. Children start to expect rewards for doing basic tasks and may be upset and angry when they don’t. However, that is exactly what needs to happen. When children are upset and angry, they don’t like the way it feels, which will motivate them to get better and try harder so they don’t feel this way again. Also, the children who get participation trophies for their performance may think that their lack of effort can be applied in other areas of their life. This can negatively impact their performance in school and many of the other activities that they regularly participate in.

 Even though trophies and medals should only be awarded for those who finish in the top three, I’m not saying that children who don’t place on the podium shouldn’t be recognized. However, I believe that it shouldn’t be in the form of trophies, medals, or ribbons. Rather, it should be in the form of words from parents or a handshake from a coach. This will start to teach kids at a young age that if you really want something, you have to work hard and put your all into it because in the real world, there’s not room for everybody at the top.