By the time they reach high school, most kids have received dozens of sports awards: trophies for competing in Little League, medals for playing on soccer teams, and ribbons for taking part in gymnastics. But instead of recognizing just the top performers, many sports programs have started awarding trophies to all athletes, regardless of their performance.
Some people say giving everyone a trophy encourages young people to keep playing sports even if they're not superstars. But others say that sends the wrong message and fails to reward hard work. Two experts weigh in on whether everyone should go home with a trophy.
Everyone on a team should get a trophy regardless of whether the team came in first or dead last. That's because participation trophies help young people celebrate a time when they learned new skills, had fun with their teammates, and belonged to something bigger than themselves.
Trophies are also a great way to encourage people who aren't gifted athletes to keep playing--and to reward them for their effort. Research shows that young people who participate in team sports have better social skills and are more physically fit than those who don't. Playing sports also teaches time management and problem solving--two things that help kids in school and in life. Not to mention, exercise is good for the mind, body, and spirit.
I've seen firsthand how powerful getting a participation trophy can be. Recently, a group of young men who once played on a baseball team I coached visited me. Each had brought along the tiny trophies they received at the end of the season. It was clear how much they valued them. Together we laughed about failed plays and remembered how we managed to squeak into the playoffs. We ended up losing in the first round. But that didn't matter. For most of those young men, it was the first time they'd been part of a team, and they looked back on the experience--and their trophies--fondly.
Competition is certainly an important part of sports--as is learning to win and lose gracefully. But winning isn't everything. For everyone who plays, the reward also comes in the form of self-confidence, sportsmanship, and teamwork. That's why all participants who show up at practices, work hard to improve their skills, play in games, and support their teammates deserve a keepsake of their experience.
President & CEO
YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio
We spend an estimated $3 billion on trophies every year in the...