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The Participation Trophy Debate: Should We Give Our Kids Participation Trophies?

Are participation trophies a bad thing?

Do we give our children false expectations about the real world by giving them participation trophies?

Participation trophies are frequently associated with the millennial generation. They are given to children for just being a part of the team. Despite a losing or winning season.

These types of awards are used by some to prove how "soft" this generation is. Not only "soft," but also "lazy" and "entitled." 

But the controversy resulting from participation trophies also causes us to ask, "why do we care about trophies at all?"

And, is the idea of winning and losing helpful to our children either?

Questions like these shed light on the participation trophy debate and the debate surrounding anyone receiving a trophy. Both sides can fiercely support their opinions. 

Where do you stand on this debate? 

Read on to discover both sides of the participation trophy debate. 

Argument Against Participation Awards

People against the rewarding of participation trophies believe that it gives children false expectations. They believe sending the message that just "showing up" will get you a reward is flawed. 

They see participation trophies as something that wasn't earned. Like a pat on the back, a form of sympathy for the losers. 

This side argues that these false expectations don't reflect the real world. They worry that the participation trophies culture will result in their children not trying hard enough. Or that it will result in them believing that it's okay to lose. 

This side wants their children to be successful. And, many do encourage their children's efforts but see trophies as something to aspire to. Not something that is freely given for effort alone. 

After all, in the real world, we either get the job or we don't. We get the promotion or we don't. There are no participation trophies received for applying to a job and not getting it. 

So, will these children who grew up with participation trophies not be able to deal with defeat? Will they feel entitled to praise and corporate awards no matter what?

This side believes that participation trophies harm the child's ability to want success. By showing them that showing up is good enough, they worry they won't strive for more. 

Let's look at the other side of the debate to see how their views differ. 

Arguments for Participation Awards

People for participation awards believe that effort should always be acknowledged. They see that effort and passion for the sport as an intrinsic reward. They don't want the children to ever feel like losers.

So, why not acknowledge that these children made the effort to show up to practice and to try?

Some proponents of this side also believe that the "winning and losing" culture isn't healthy. And, psychology can agree in some circumstances. For example, when a child is focused solely on the benefits of using their natural talents to win or lose, it can cause them to not bounce back from failure as well. 

The children who were praised for their ability to persevere, on the other hand, were more resilient. These children still wanted to win, but they also were proud of themselves for trying. And, they enjoyed playing the sport and being a part of a team. 

Supporters of this side are also concerned about the message "winning" sends to children who lose and those who win. 

Will they believe they're a failure the next time they lose? Will they determine that results matter more than the thrill of competing?

Supporters want them to intrinsically enjoy the sport without the pressure of proving their worth through winning. 

Sure, winners get a "real trophy" and props for beating out their competition. But, what happens years down the line when they don't know what winning means anymore?

What about when there aren't life circumstances that have clear cut winners and losers? After all, most of us aren't going to play sports professionally. Will these kids then be disillusioned when the real world doesn't give them any rewards? 

"Winning" in the real world can also mean more pressure, stress, and responsibility. For example, getting a job or a promotion.

After that, it's all effort, endurance, and daily maintenance that matters. Not winning a title over and over again. 

Will they then be "losers" because they don't have anyone else to compare themselves to or "beat out?"

Finding a Middle Ground

Many people fall into a middle ground category. They understand both sides of the debate and think there is a compromise. 

The compromise is to individually acknowledge each child for something they did achieve. They believe each participation award should be customized. They should genuinely acknowledge where the child did succeed despite winning or losing. 

And, even the "winners" can receive these types of participation awards as well. 

For example, one of the participation trophies could be given to the child who improved the most. Another could be given to the child who had the most goals that season. 

A sportsmanship award could also be beneficial when given for participation.

The middle ground argues that these types of awards are beneficial to the child's self-esteem. They argue that children know when they are receiving something they didn't earn. For example, a "showing up" participation award.

By customizing the trophy, however, children can see where they do excel. It can make them feel like a winner for their efforts, personalities, and ability to never give up. 

And, aren't these qualities just as valuable as winning the ultimate game? Isn't the "real world" made up of times when adults need to dig deep and see beyond a failure?  

Lastly, people in the middle ground would argue that this debate shouldn't matter much at all. Children enjoy winning, but then they're back to practicing for the next season.

The middle ground is also concerned about a "good ole days" mentality emerging from receiving trophies at all. 

Participation Trophies: Where Do You Stand?

What are your thoughts on participation trophies? 

No matter what your beliefs are, remember it's the coaches giving out the participation awards. Children aren't asking for these awards. 

Participation trophy or no participation trophy, always encourage, congratulate, and reward your child's efforts. And, their ability to get back up when they lose or win. 

Interested in customized participation trophies? Contact us today to order your team's participation and winning trophies