Were you an athlete when you were a child?
At the end of the season, did each child on your team receive a participation trophy or award?
What lessons did you learn by receiving a participation trophy? Did you learn anything about real life?
When my son was about 9 he played on a local baseball team. A dad we knew decided to coach the team. The kids had a great time, they learned how to play as a team and they won several games. They also had their share of losses too. The league wasn’t a competitive league so there wasn’t a championship at the end of the season. However, each child did receive a trophy for participating on the team.
Our coach was supposed to pick up the trophies from the community athletic office however it slipped his mind. He said he would pick it up and get it to each kid but he never did.
There were a few kids that were very upset that they did not get their trophies. And there were moms’ intent on getting little Johnny his trophy.
Then there were others (like my son) who weren’t even fazed by the absence of a trophy. (Don’t praise him or me because he was unfazed. There is a critical point to be made about that below.)
It was in that moment, that I realized that these trophies are meaningless…well, actually, they mean something, the message of which I did not want to communicate to my son!
Parents tell themselves that participation trophies or awards are intended to reward their kid for going out there and playing the game!
That these awards are given to prevent hurt feelings and to build self-esteem.
But for the kids like my son who didn’t really care about the trophy, the intent to spare his feelings was lost on him!
The trophy held no significance to him because he did nothing to earn it!
The truth of the matter is that by giving children participation awards we clearly communicate three points:
If you just show up in life you are rewarded
No hard work is required to obtain a reward
No one loses
Are those the life lessons you really want to teach your children?
Because they are all LIES!!
When was the last time you got a pay raise just for showing up to work?
Or the time you got something other than a pink slip for slacking off at work and not working hard??
Oh, and how many times did you lose or fail at something before actually achieving the sought-after goal?
You see EVERYONE. LOSES. SOMETIMES!!
Someone must lose in order for there to be a winner!!
Losing builds resilience IF you are strong enough to pick yourself back up again and try again!
We should be teaching our children to be resilient…not to expect that things will just be given to them, just because!
Children who are given participation awards/trophies are prone to become sore losers!
WHY? Because they don’t know what it is to lose….and they damn sure don’t know what it is to lose gracefully.
Is it any wonder why children today have such entitlement issues?
If you are unfortunate enough to have a child on a team that doesn’t adhere to the NO PARTICIPATION TROPHY policy, here is how I recommend you deal with the scenario:
Respectfully inform the coach that your child will not be receiving a participation award (Thank you, but no thank you!)
Sit your child down and explain to her why that little gold trophy is not coming home with you:
a. Trophies are for winners! Said a little less harsh (try something like…): “You’ve had a good season, you’ve learned great skills, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. For that, you get some Baskin Robbins on the way home! Not a trophy.”
b. Give an example of a sports team who lost the championship and went home with nothing. Pick a sports team which plays the same sport as your child. Ask your child whether the losing team went home with a trophy? Ask your child why the losing team did not go home with a trophy.
Pre-empt your child’s next point:
It isn’t fair!
YES, it is fair! If everyone received a trophy in the championship game then it diminishes the importance of the championship trophy. It simply wouldn’t be as special. The championship trophy is coveted and sought after because few have obtained it!
A trophy should be something you’ve worked for and earned after committing significant hard work, dedication, focus, and victory over your opponent.
Youth athletics are intended to teach children life lessons to further enrich their lives. Let’s not tarnish those life lessons with participation awards, which do more harm than good!
Where do you stand on the issue of participation trophies/awards in youth athletics?