Bringing home the gold;

Participation trophies are setting children up for failure

Malinah Jerscheid, Reporter

   Remember back in second-grade soccer leagues? At the end of the last game of the season, coaches would come out with a box full of shiny gold trophies to give each and every player, just for showing up. 

      In a poll of 150 North Harford students, 91% said they received some sort of reward for simply showing up in their childhood. Handing out participation trophies to children is a form of overprotection. They don’t learn the value of learning from failure, or how to learn from it.

     In a 2017 Spartan News Room article, Dan Gould, a sports psychologist said “for rewards to work, they need to be earned. If you’re trying to increase a kid’s motivation, emphasize health or emphasize how fun it is to move or play ball.” Rewarding children, even if they fail, doesn’t teach them a lesson on how to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and to accept that it’s acceptable to not be perfect at everything.

     Even professional sports athletes have come to voice their opinions on the argument. In 2015, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took to his Instagram, posting a picture with the caption “I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies. While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy.”

     Like Harrison, many argue that the participation approach backfires and leads to the attitude circled around “everyone’s a winner” carries over to later years when teens are less motivated and put forward less effort simply because they expect to be rewarded no matter how their performance is during the season.

     When 150 North Harford students were polled, only 54% said they believed only winners should be rewarded in high school sports. This just shows how the lessons we were taught in our childhood sports teams can carry over to our performance now. Many teens have been led to believe that they are entitled to compensation simply because they decided to wear a bright uniform and pay the fee to be included on the team.

     After his team lost a game in 2016, head coach of the University of Louisville women’s basketball team, Jeff Walz spoke against the idea of participation trophies saying, “Everybody thinks they should get a good job. No, that’s not the way it works. But unfortunately, that’s what we are preparing for. I mean, not to be too blunt, but you’re a loser. Like, we’re losers, we got beat. So, you lost. There is no trophy for us.”

     Statements like Walz’s need to be heard more by some parents and coaches who are spoon-feeding their children into thinking they’re a winner for minimal effort. The result is a generation of individuals not prepared for the harsh realities of the world outside of little league and high school lacrosse tournaments.