Despite being so popular to blame, I have yet to see any evidence of that link. Plus, I am pretty sure a lot of the current societal problems others created prior to the dreaded ‘participation trophy’ era. Still, these words now leave a bad taste in the mouth, but is it really that bad? Let’s address some criticisms of it.
It teaches kids losing is alright.
Yes, losing is alright. “You win some, you lose some,” right? Losing doesn’t even mean you did not do your best or that you did not do well. You can do everything right and still lose; that’s life, as Captain Picard pointed out. You absolutely have to fail at some point headed towards success, as JK Rowling attested.
Still, participation-trophy-haters treat failing as a thing to be avoided at all costs instead of a necessary step to winning. Failing more does not even make you worse at something. For example, did you know JFK failed the bar exam twice? I did not fail it, but he was definitely a better lawyer than me.
Furthermore, this avoidance of failure has in many cases led to higher levels of anxiety and stagnation in a generation. There is a fear to try new things in case you fail, to risk innovation in case you fail. Many feel depressed simply because they aren’t perfect at everything, and depression does NOT increase productivity.
We have to get over a fear of not winning yet, which is what losing usually is. Besides, it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game, isn’t it? And that’s we are supposed to do: PLAY games.
Participation trophies teach kids you deserve something just for working hard.
Hate to break it to you, but you absolutely do. What do you think paychecks are?
Hold on a minute: we are not talking about not keeping score in games, suggesting having no cut try-outs, or giving out awards for people who don’t participate. We are simply acknowledging that the real benefit comes from when a lot of people try. If you work, you should get a reward for it, just like in the real world. The top seller in a sales company is not the only employee who gets paid.
Competition is important.
It definitely is. And why is that? Because when everyone tries to do their best, the product is greater for the whole and the individuals all improve themselves. When teams or people are properly matched in competition, it’s more fun to watch, but the winner is not an accurate representation of the best as much as the group that had a good day, good play, no accidents. In a well matched team rewarding just the winners is actually awarding luck.
It breeds entitlement.
Finally, let’s look at the sports culture in America. Actually, I’m very supportive of sports, played them in high school, and think it’s character building.
But, athletes who continuously win also thrive in a culture of entitlement. This often leads to handed out grades, hazing, illegal activity, and accusations of sexual assault. Let’s see, OJ Simpson, Mike Tyson, Michael Vick, and Jerry Sandusky to name just a few were actually convicted.
Despite the fact many college football coaches make more than universities’ scientists and professors, I don’t really want my entire society framed on their moral compass based off their ability to play a game. Also, as a winner, I don’t want to take competitiveness lectures from anyone who yells at little league games.
So my kid is 1 and 1/2 and got the SAME gymnastics medal as every kid. They only had to regularly attend the class and participate in the Show Day. I am a pretty competitive person, both in sports and academics, and I don’t see a single problem with it.
Here are some things that she got out of athletics:
- Began to hit milestones faster
- Increased flexibility, strength, and coordination
- Social skills and friends
- Fun and bonding with daddy who often takes her
- Getting out energy in a safe place to keep mommy sane at home
- Exercise as a regular part of routine from a young age, for lifelong healthy habits
- Braver in trying things
- Learning to take directions from a coach/teacher
- Participation trophy: A super cool medal
- Apparently, a sense that hard work doesn’t deserve recognition as much as winning (woops)