The Pros and Cons of Participation Trophies

Topics: Sportsmanship

Winning a trophy is a big deal most of the time, but does the idea of a trophy mean the same thing if everybody gets the same one? Should all children receive an award for just participating? Why are the children who don’t put in the effort receiving the same award for someone who put in all the work? John O’Sullivan states that it “does not teach kids about the real world, and promotes a warped sense of their own self-importance”.

Trophies and awards today do not symbolize and reward a child for making practices and games, or putting in a great deal of effort, or showing improvement of skills. Trophies in todays world are symbolic in the fact that they reward children for having a parent stand up and take the initiative to register their child in a sport or extra curricular activity. When you sign your child up for a team or activity there is often no requirements as to commitment and determination; as long as the child shows up and shows their face once in a while, on the last day when the awards are being handed out, they still receive one.

It’s like the awards are for being registered and spending money and nothing else, and after the initial excitement of receiving the award, it sits on a kid’s shelf collecting dust and is never thought upon again. One year or as little as a couple of weeks or months later if you asked that child what that particular award was for 95% of the time they couldn’t tell you.

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Kids shouldn’t get participation awards because they often are the same award as everyone else receives. The trophy or award does not hold any significance to the child and does not encourage children to want to be better and to strive for anything more. It’s also teaching kids that you don’t have to work for what you want. If you lose you will still be rewarded, if you have a poor sportsmanship you still receive an award, if you don’t show up to practices and games you still receive one. If you win you receive an award it holds a great deal of meaning but when you loose and receive an award what does that mean to a child?

Children should be taught that there are winners and losers. If everyone gets the same award and praise, children might begin to feel like they haven’t achieved anything! Yes, children that don’t win or receive anything might be upset, but that leaves room for that child who did not receive anything to want to better themselves and be better at whatever it is that they are doing. Having a child strive for something more is instilling a sense of confidence and determination to want to be better, and to work towards a goal. Receiving a medal does not help or encourage a child to want do better the next time. Kids shouldn’t get a medal for just showing up. The people who actually worked hard to deserve the award should get one. The kids who see the other children receiving rewards for working hard, will push the ones that did not receive anything to work harder to achieve the metal, trophy, or award the next time around.

On a daily basis in everyday life ,you do not just show up to work and receive a trophy for working hard or waking up and showing up that morning, you have to put in time work and effort, and still on most days receive no recognition for anything you did during that day. However, are we teaching kids this or are we enabling them to believe that because they showed up they should be rewarded? According to a study done “In Southern California the Youth Soccer Organization hands out roughly 3,500 awards each season — each player gets one, while around a third get two” (Merryman 2013). No matter what the participants skill level is or how many games they win, they get a trophy.

“Letting kids lose, or not take home the trophy, isn’t about embarrassing children. It’s about teaching them it can take a long time to get good at something, and that’s all right. Kids need to know they don’t have to win every time. It’s O.K. to lose, to make a mistake.” (Gonchar 2013)

Kids participating in activities sometimes participate for the sole reason of getting a trophy. Starting at a young age many teams give everyone a trophy and award for just participating and showing up. As kids get older it becomes overwhelming and excessive with the amount of awards children get for only participating or showing up. Kids need to learn the concept of losing. A kid can go to practice everyday and have a terrible attitude and not improve or work hard but still receive a trophy at the end of the season along side with the kids who worked hard, improved, and showed a great team and personal attitude. A child does not have to be the best athlete to receive recognition for their participation and determination, but teaching them if they work hard they will get recognized for their work and a sense of pride and achievement will help them strive and succeed when they grow up.

When children are giving trophies to everyone for just showing up and showing face from time to time, it puts an image in a child’s mind that they do not have to work for things. If everyone in the world received an award or gold medal just for showing up, we would live in a world where there is no room for growth, or improvement in individuals. If this is how the people in todays world worked the world would be filled with mediocre, comfortable people. And that is not what sports or life is about. Life is about wanting to better yourself and wanting to grow and learn more as an individual. It is important to want to strive for more and strive to be better than someone or better at something. Growth is an important part of life. In any game somebody wins and somebody loses. In a Yankees vs. Mets game with the Mets winning the Yankees are never given Subway Series rings if the Mets won, you lose you lose. No one cares about how the Yankees would feel if they didn’t receive rings. They lost they lost, and will try again next year. In life someone is always handed a medal and somebody goes home empty handed, it’s just apart of life and part of growing up.

When one hears the word “trophy” or “award” the first thing that comes to mind is winning a game, or receiving first place in the spelling bee. Nowadays children receive awards for just showing up, regardless of the work they put in or didn’t. But is this right, should children receive a participation award? Do children receive awards for their work and participation in a sport or activity or for their parents determination and commitment to the team.

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The Pros and Cons of Participation Trophies. (2022, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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