The Power of Participation Trophies

The Power of Participation Trophies

Let’s talk about participation trophies -- it's that time again. As one of the most polarizing topics within the youth sports atmosphere, participation trophies have evolved from innocent pieces of plastic into a political branding of the entire millennial generation. We all know what they are; we all have our own opinions of them.

Many cite participation trophies as the promotion of complacency, or the source of the entitlement found in members of the younger generations; others think that the trophies eliminate the all-important life-lesson of learning how to lose from youth sports. While I respect these notions and certainly have personally felt the impact of individuals who have acquired a sense of entitlement, I am going to argue on behalf of the other side of the narrative.

Not every child is athletically gifted; that’s a fact. No matter what you’re playing, your youth sports team will consist of a variety of skill levels, but it’s crucial to understand that one child is no more important to the team than another. In youth sports, there is pressure on teammates, coaches, parents, and, oh yeah, yourself. No one enjoys not performing well, but that should never discourage a child from playing or trying a sport. Participation trophies were initially handed out in order to reward effort, hard work, and keep children motivated to continue persevering through loss.

Blogger Jessica Jurkovic perfectly captured this sentiment in her article titled "What Sports Parents Need To Know About The ‘Less Athletic’ Kids," adding: “Efforts should be rewarded. We want to encourage hard work, determination, pushing through, and giving it everything they’ve got — even when they suck.”

Jessica is spot on here. If it takes a plastic trophy to gratify a child who may not be as athletically talented as others or to keep them interested, there’s nothing wrong with that. Participation trophies do not discount losses, nor do they deflate others wins. As a child who lost plenty of games, and received my fair share participation trophies, I never felt like I didn’t lose; I was always motivated to get back out there and win. But those trophies served as a constant reminder that I did give it all I had, and was rewarded for that.  

To the parents: Give your kids credit for their efforts. Even if they don’t win, they should never feel like that isn’t good enough. Make sure they know that trying and failing is always better than never trying at all. Also, respect other parent’s kids too. It’s okay if your child gets taken out for someone with less athletic ability. Everyone is there for the same reason: to have fun and try to win.

To the kids: Never give up just because someone tells you you’re not good enough. Even if you aren’t the most talented kid on the team, try to be the best you that you can possibly be. Always think about what you can do to help the team, even if you are one of the more talented kids on the team.

If you think that you can be better, ask your parents about CoachUp. Whether you want to train by yourself, with some friends, or at a camp or clinic, one of our coaches can help you be the best you.   

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