Right up there with the debate about whether youth sports leagues should keep score or not, the back and forth over the value of “participation awards” rages on among sports parents and coaches. Some say participation awards undermine the whole point of awards (those that do the best get the recognition they deserve so if you want an award work harder!) while others argue that participating is a lot harder than staying home (and even if your team doesn’t finish first we shouldn’t discredit what they did do). How do you feel about participation trophies?
Just because they showed up that doesn’t mean they deserve a trophy.
Not every team can come in first place and it is a disservice to tell our kids otherwise by handing out awards to everyone. Giving out awards simply for participating undermines any value a trophy or medal is supposed to have. Trophies are something you are supposed to earn through hard work and dedication and effort. Why does the player who only makes it to ½ of the practices and doesn’t really try that hard during games get the same recognition as the player who worked extra hard this season and improved by leaps and bounds? By acknowledging everyone with the same award we’re actually celebrating no one and even undermining the efforts of those who really deserve to be recognized. Why should a player push his or herself throughout the season when they know that no matter how much or how little they do they’ll get some kind of reward for it? Yes, youth sports should be fun and winning isn’t everything, but celebrating mediocrity and skating by on the bare minimum shouldn’t be what sports teaches our kids either.
We should be rewarding real success, not applauding the players for simply bothering to show up.
As long as the real meaning of a participation trophy is explained what’s the problem?
Participating in youth sports is worth recognizing, even if a player’s team didn’t come in first. If we only ever award and celebrate the first place team we’re telling our kids that if they don’t win then what they did do doesn’t count for anything. It doesn’t matter how much work they’ve put in or how hard they tried—if they aren’t first then who is going to care? Belonging to a youth sports team takes commitment and motivation and those are qualities we want to encourage in our youth athletes. Maybe a 4 year old tee ball player doesn’t get nervous, but a 8 or 9 year old pitcher can definitely start feel the pressure to perform well (either from parents, coaches, or just their own internal push). We should celebrate the fact that these gets gout outside, played hard and come home dirty as opposed to sitting for two hours on the computer. Participating is a lot harder than staying home.
Even though their team didn’t sweep the league with wins, the players still deserve credit for the work they have put in and a participation trophy can’t hurt.