Congrats, You Showed Up!

Why Participation Awards are Detrimental to Development

Murray, NEB.–Most everyone nowadays who has been in a sport or activity, especially when they were younger, has received the “participation award.” I myself have several soccer trophies from losing teams I was on, and a few cheap pieces of paper to remind me that I was in a spelling bee. Honestly, I don’t care about them. I’m not bitter about not winning, but I don’t think that it is necessary to be congratulated when you haven’t done anything significant.

While I recognize that we want to encourage our kids to participate and be active in groups and on teams, I’m sure there are better ways to accomplish this then giving them cheap trophies for showing up.

Many will argue that this practice is in fact hurting them later in life. It’s great when everyone’s a winner, but oftentimes, that’s not always the case. Setting them up with that mindset will only impede their chances of success in the real world.

Participation awards teach kids to be totally content with what they have. That can be a good thing, but at the same time, there is a difference between simply being content, and being indifferent. Nobody achieved their dreams because they sat around with their participation trophies and said “it’s good enough.” It is important to work towards your goals. If you don’t do this, then you will likely never accomplish anything. Having awards for winners gives kids something to strive for. If they care about the activity, then they can work until they are winners, too.

Most people didn’t become a pro athlete, or a prominent politician, or the self made CEO of a corporation, or a leader in the scientific or medical community because they sat around. They worked for what they had and it paid off. That is a skill that can be taught through competition, but is inhibited when everyone is rewarded regardless of how they did. They have no motivation to get better.

You can have smaller goals too. But you still need to be in the mindset of accomplishing.

Some people will argue that participation trophies are a good way to reinforce children at a developmental stage. They say that these awards exhibit “positive reinforcement.” That participation trophies show the value of being there, and being part of a team, no matter the outcome.

While this is a valid point, the best way to reinforce the value of teamwork is to teach how to effectively work together as a team. Teaching them how to work together to succeed. Teaching them how to react if they don’t win, is a conversation that can be had when that happens.

Instead of finding a quick solution to temporary sadness or disappointment, it is important to play the long game and do what will be best for kids into adulthood.

Participation awards are a detriment to our society, and they are potentially harmful to expose our kids to. So, really, let’s not.