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Participation Trophies: My Politically Incorrect Viewpoint

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Participation Trophies Just Say No

I’m not a big fan of participation trophies…I don’t like the idea that you get a trophy for just showing up. Trophies should be about accomplishments, not rewards that have no real meaning. Participation trophies, while making everyone “feel good, ” send a message to our kids that I find a bit conflicting with the reality of life, and this is why.

Participation CAN be just about having fun and building skills.

Since when do kids need a trophy to feel good about themselves? Whatever happened to just having fun for the sake of having fun?

When kids first start playing organized team sports, it should be about having a good time, learning new skills and teaching sportsmanship and other important life lessons. Let the kids have fun and simply learn how to play the game. Have a team party at the end of the season and call it a day. There’s no need for trophies.

Success is never guaranteed.

As the kids get a little older, we’re doing them a disservice when we pretend there is no winner. Ask anyone who’s coached youth sports and they’ll tell you, the kids keep score anyway. Why are we so worried about competition? Because our kids might not win? Who cares?

Teaching kids how to lose gracefully is just as important as learning how to win graciously, and it’s easier to learn this at a younger age than an older one. In life, things don’t always go your way. The sooner kids learn how to roll with life’s disappointments, the better off they will be in the long run. 

Trophies should be a reward for an accomplishment.  

Winning at young ages means absolutely nothing. Everyone develops their skills at a different rate, and a kid that is really good at a sport at age 6 won’t necessarily be as good at age 12 or 16. As kids get older and play at higher levels, winning does become more important, and that’s fine. 

When we hand out trophies for participation (even at the young ages), we’re setting an expectation that it will always be that way. Trophies should be reserved for accomplishments. By acknowledging everyone equally, we aren’t acknowledging those that put in extra time and worked extra hard. Instead we’re actually sending the message that hard work isn’t really valued. Sports are about healthy competition. Competition is not a bad thing.

[Tweet “Reserve trophies for accomplishments…not just for showing up. @dishofdailylife #youthsports”]

I realize to some this may sound a little overboard. But I never want my kids to feel entitled to an award just because they participated. I want them to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes from working really hard to earn that award. And if they never earned a trophy, it wouldn’t bother me one bit. It’s okay to just do something for enjoyment.

How do you feel about participation trophies? 

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Seana Turner

Monday 7th of April 2014

I'm with you on this one, Michelle. I think getting a trophy for participation steals the "special" from what the trophy is meant to signify in the first place. My children haven't had any interest in keeping the trophies they got for participating...

Michelle Nahom

Monday 7th of April 2014

No, neither have mine. They don't mean anything to them. :)


Monday 17th of June 2013

I don't have kids who play sports (or did) do this hasn't been something I've had to deal with. I think the concept of not keeping score finally clicks with me after reading this.


Friday 17th of May 2013

I agree with you! Even when my daughter was in the second grade, she felt very insulted by participation trophies and ribbons. One year at an art fair, she refused to take the participation ribbon, because she knew she hadn't really won!