Editorial: Participation Trophies Steal From Children

Mallory Gillespie, Reporter

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan, a six time NBA champion and NBA Hall of Fame inductee, understood that through failure we learn and accomplish the most. Today, youth sporting events convey otherwise.

Giving children participation awards is robbing them of vital life lessons.

Our culture of awards and winning creates a stigma around losing. When kids are given participation awards, they get the message that it is not okay to lose regardless of effort or achievement, so everyone must receive a trophy. If everyone receives an award, how do we learn and grow?  Participation awards block a learning process that comes with loss. According to a study in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise of Gold Medal Olympians, previous losses made them better and lead them to succeed. By abolishing participation awards, we teach kids that it is okay to lose and push them to improve.

Allowing children to lose isn’t about embarrassing them, rather teaching them it can take an abundance of hard work to accomplish their goal. Giving awards for everything will ingrain that kids can accomplish their goals without putting forth any effort. It can create entitled children that believe they deserve everything without any of the work. Since trophies are idolized, losing will further push kids to work towards their goal of eventually claiming the prize.

Dan Gould, a sports psychologist, stated in a 2017 Spartan News Room article, “For rewards to work, they need to be earned. If you’re trying to increase a kid’s motivation, emphasize health or emphasize how fun it is to move or play ball.”

Several studies from Explorable have shown that the process of only providing trophies for winners will show kids what they are truly passionate about. A child who has failed multiple times yet kept striving to win is more likely to stick with the activity than a kid who gets mad and immediately quits. It shows a child whether they’re doing an activity out of passion or in need of an external award like a trophy. Giving participation awards will take away this opportunity for kids to find a true passion.

Distributing participation awards will also take away the pride and joy for the genuine winner. After all of the hard work they just put into their event, they see everyone get an award and feel their efforts were useless. It is imperative for the number one participant to earn a trophy to encourage them to keep putting forth the same effort they did to earn the award.

Participation awards should not be used in today’s activities. Instead, encourage great work ethic and good sportsmanship to expand upon life skills athletes can use later in life. Express your concerns to our athletic director, Scott Govern, via e-mail.