Problematizing a Topic: The Participation Trophy Generation
Today, some kids who participate in sports have shelves full of trophies and team records
full of losses. Awards labeled “participation” sit upon their dressers collecting dust. Do
participation trophies affect the behavior and ambition of the youth receiving them?
As controversial a topic as this is, a great deal of opinions have formed regarding whether these
awards should be given out, not given out, or rather some form of variation in the middle. But
what is the best option?
The idea of a trophy for participation is a fairly recent thing. Meaning that to most of the
older generations, this concept is not even a debate; The winner gets an award for winning. This
rewards the talented and hard-working athletes, and motivates the kids who aren’t yet at the top.
For team sports such as baseball or football, if only the winners get a trophy, it would drive
team-work in order to reach the common goal of being the winning team. This would be the ideal
situation coming from the coaches of high school and older, more competitive teams who don’t
want their athletes coming on the team with an established sense of entitlement; It teaches kids
that they have to work hard and make it a real commitment to earn an award instead of getting
things handed to them.
While this might lead to a tougher, harder-working generation, what if this method were
to deter young children from the desire to play sports in the first place? If a less-talented young
athlete gets labeled as a “loser” or feels inadequate in comparison to other children at as young
of an age as five or six, then that brings up the possibility of the child quitting sports altogether
and losing the desire to participate in any competitive setting, which is not the goal. No one’s
intention is to cut a child down or discourage him from staying involved.
The solution to this may be to make sure every child feels included. When every
participant gets an award, that ensures that the children want to continue participating in said
event. It becomes more about enjoying the game instead of getting caught up in the competition,
which is how it should be. It teaches them that their worth isn’t dependent upon a piece of plastic
and rewards them for trying. Acknowledging all of the athletes would keep feelings from being
hurt and keep everyone humble. Ideally, kids should look forward to each season, not be worried
about winning or losing.
However, if kids have the idea that at the end of every season, good or bad, everyone
gets a trophy, that may be the only thing to drive them to finish the season instead of wanting to
improve and finish strong for themselves. Constantly handing out trophies is like telling kids you
don't care about their improvement or...