Say no to participation awards
January 10, 2016
An MVP and a benchwarmer play two different roles on a team. One holds the responsibility of delivering commanding performances consistently in order to help their team win. The other sits on the sidelines and offers encouragement to the other players. These two roles, both important to the overall team dynamic, often receive the same or similar awards at the end of a season in youth sports. A participation trophy, awarded to everyone on a team, reduces the importance of some players. When an athlete’s abilities are diminished by equally awarding someone with less skill, the desire to strive for excellence can become greatly eroded.
Not everybody receives an A for going to school, so why should every athlete receive an equal award for being on a team? Giving all athletes, no matter their capability, participation awards does not teach lessons of teamwork and effort. It rewards athletes for doing the minimum. In real life, not everyone gets a promotion just because a company is scared to hurt their feelings. The professional world is a competition, where the people with the most talent and strongest work ethic are the most successful.
Some claim that participation awards serve as a confidence booster and encourage players; however, the mindset that someone can earn a reward just for showing up to practice harms children from an early age. The motivation to do better can easily dwindle if someone realizes they will not obtain any higher recognition. According to a study CNN reported on, children who were overvalued were more likely to display traits of narcissism and entitlement.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison wrote that he was taking the participation trophy his sons earned away from them until they earned a real trophy. Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and Scott Sletten, CEO of trophy-making company JDS Industries, also made comments similar to that of Harrison, questioning the point of “entitlement” trophies. According to cnsnews.com, fifty seven percent of Americans believe that only winning kids should receive participation trophies.
Some leagues stated that they will no longer give away these types of trophies. The Keller Youth Association Football Program announced that for the next season, they will downsize to“participation medals” and get rid of participation awards completely at some point in the future.
Instead of giving the same award to all athletes, they should either cater to the individual player, or only given to the ones who deserve it. For example, someone who sits on the bench all season can receive the title of “most spirited player” or “best character.” If a general participation award is handed out to all team members, the top players should receive additional accolade to differentiate them. In life, people can choose to work hard and experience the benefits or can decide to accept mediocrity. Rewarding all athletes with participation awards can help contribute to feelings of satisfaction with averageness instead of offering further motivation.