Trophies for everyone? You have to be kidding me

Trophies for everyone? You have to be kidding me
October 14
14:50 2020

I debated over writing about this topic, because I wanted to be in the right frame of mind while I worked on it. I try to stay as objective as possible when writing, but as you will see, my stance on this topic is rather obvious. To put it bluntly, kids nowadays are way too soft and it’s the adults’ fault.

I have previously written about this subject, but was reintroduced to it while watching an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumble recently. While watching this episode, I realized that this “trophy culture” we are in is getting out of hand.

During the episode, a mother of a soccer team stated they provide trophies for all the athletes in the league, regardless if they come to practice or games. As long as they are on the roster, they receive a trophy. That was so unbelievable to me that I had to rewind it just to make sure I heard it correctly. The show also reported some youth sports leagues don’t even take scores.

Another part of the segment stated one organization had trophies for a kid who finished in 17th place. The coup de grâce for me happened when the reporter asked a kid with a trophy what place he finished, and the kid said last place. If I had long hair, I probably would have pulled it out at that point. I find it laughable that we have gone to these measures to make sure everyone feels included.

Where did this new ideology come from? Do parents think it’s in the best interest of the child to acknowledge participation alone with a trophy or ribbon? I am all for celebrating a child giving his or her best effort, but to present them with a trophy like they have won something is going a little too far in my opinion.

For me, it is setting a bad precedent to allow kids to think they will receive some sort of reward or acknowledgement for just participating. As an adult, those are not realistic end results to most outcomes. You don’t see employers sending out care packages to the 17th best candidate who interviewed for a job.

More specifically, I think this could be very dangerous for children of color. To allow a minority child to think they will be celebrated no matter the outcome is totally unrealistic, especially if they are growing up in poverty. That reality simply does not exist in most minority communities. Children of color do not have the luxury of growing up thinking the world will give them something just for showing up. 

I think this is one of the biggest reasons a lot of the youth today have a flawed sense of entitlement. I guess if you grow up with adults telling you that you’re great no matter where finish, you expect that same treatment into your teenage and young adult years as well.

To top it all off, I think this “trophy culture” also lessens the drive to get better. If a kid gets a reward for finishing in dead last, what incentive does he have to strive to improve?  If I finished last in an athletic event and received the same reward as the winner, why would I try harder since we are both getting the same thing?

When I was growing up, I did not play sports for the recognition at the end of the game or season. I played for the love of the sport and to beat my opponent. If I did not win, I didn’t cry or mope; instead I chose to work harder on my craft and get better for next time.

There were no participation trophies and that was okay with me. As long as I walked away knowing I gave it my best effort, there was no reason to get too down on myself. Of course, I was disappointed when I lost, but I didn’t feel the need to be patronized with a participation trophy.

My question to those that feel the need to give everyone a trophy is, what’s wrong with leaving with the knowledge that you did your best, but your best was not enough to earn a trophy or ribbon that particular day?  

I remember running track in high school and I am not sure how I would have felt if the person who finished in last place received the same trophy I did, even though I was the winner. That just doesn’t seem fair.

My daughter also runs track now. I always tell her I am proud of her, no matter where she finishes. I do not think she deserves to have a trophy if she finishes last. I think it is OK for kids to fail, to be happy knowing they gave it their best effort.

Why is it that we only do this in sports? We don’t give a student a participation award for getting an F on a test or a report card. I would think that a kid getting an F on an important test is a little more damaging than coming in last place in the 50-yard dash. People fail every day – why is it only in sports where we feel the need to make it all inclusive?

I think we need to give our youth more credit and not coddle them so much as children. They are more resilient than that. Teaching a kid that their best effort may not always result in a win is ok. Let’s get back to teaching the kids that you have to work hard to achieve success in all avenues of life. If not, then don’t limit the trophy culture to just sports. Let’s have participation trophies for everything.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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