Do Participation Trophies Encourage Bad Habits in Youth Sports?

Historically, competitions across all genres have been relatively cutthroat, affording an award to only the winner. But as competition has continued to evolve into children’s activities, concern over hurt feelings has prompted many institutions, from spelling bee groups to little league baseball, to award trophies for basic participation.

Although the courtesy of a participation trophy is quaint, new research argues that they could detract from the competitive spirit of a group. Limiting trophies and awards to just the top three players sparks healthy competition in others to achieve higher goals.


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Real World Preparation

As an adult, employees are not awarded a trophy for just showing up to work each day. They must triumph with a new client sale or design a product that knocks out the competition. Beginning competition early in life teaches children about real world logistics. Dealing with failure or rejection is part of growing up. When the trophy goes to the winner only, this failure only stimulates an internal effort to do better next time.

Debunking The Value Of Practice

Critics of participation trophies argue that children, teenagers, and even adults that are accustomed to participation awards might not learn the value of practice. A pianist that stumbles through a solo still receives an award, for instance. As a result, they feel less inclined to practice to achieve a level of excellence deserving of an award. Effort and practice arises from a deep need to accomplish things and receive recognition for those accomplishments. Reserving awards for the top three winners keeps practice as a main priority for artists, academics, and athletes.

Encourages Goal Setting

A coveted award that’s difficult to attain encourages people to improve themselves mentally and physically. As a result, they develop abstract thought; they see a distant goal, and subsequently plan a path to that goal. This abstract thought is critical for adult success, and it’s attainable as children and teens use the competitive spirit to set goals. Although they may not be first place, any improvement gives them a sense of pride and improvement or advancement with regard to their activity.

Transitioning Team Sports

Because many youth sports teams have a habit of handing out numerous awards and trophies, perhaps a transition period is in order. How about this; to spark healthy competition, team leaders can pass out paper certificates for participation success. Actual trophies and awards can be reserved only for the top three players. As other players see the difference between the certificate and the trophy, they have an instant goal for the next game or season.

Award Types For Inspiration

To progress the competitive spirit, select awards and trophies that reflect the activity’s tone. For example, provide a swooping glass award for artistic endeavors, while reserving trophy cups for team sports. Customizing the award makes it more valuable for that particular activity as it reflects a person’s talent. A person with many different trophies and awards only sparks other people’s interest to set their goals for outstanding success.

Encourage competitive spirit by limiting trophies and awards to just top players. The adult world demands competitive minds to harness business contacts and clients. Let’s not raise a generation of children that expect to be winners no matter what; that’s just not the way real life is.


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Priya is a technology blogger. She loves to blog about blogging, business, gadgets, social media, latest tech news and wordpress.