Participation Trophies: Beneficial or Unnecessary?

meredith ablao, news editor

Throughout many young kid’s  journey through life, they will experience sports. They will learn teamwork, sportsmanship, and the importance of exercise. These concepts are all crucial parts of growing up and developing hobbies, friends, and talents. However, playing sports at a young age does not increase the chances of becoming professional. According to a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that 26 percent of U.S. parents who make their kids play a sport hope that their child will become professional athletes, and sadly, they are shooting pretty high considering that 1 in 168 high school baseball players will be drafted by MLB teams, and 1 in 2,451 men’s high school basketball players will be drafted by the NBA.

Why does everyone freak out about the concept of participation trophies?

James Harrison, a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, posted a message onto his social media stating that he will be returning the participation trophies given to his young sons, stating, “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.” Wait a second…they are just kids! Sports should be stress free and super fun, not frustrating and negative. Considering that self esteem is built starting at a young age and parents shouldn’t preach the wrong things to their childrens, everyone must understand that “80% of success is showing up,” a quote stated by Woody Allen, a writer, actor, and director.

A child’s self esteem develops at a very young age, and participation trophies can help aid these kids self esteem greatly. It is harmless to their growth as young people; in fact it builds them up. According to Kenneth Barish, an associate professor at Weill Medical College, at Cornell University, participation trophies are not harmful to kids’ psyches. It is how they are affected by praise that actually counts. He also says, “this is a minority view now,” due to the fact that many people believe more in winning than in good effort for their children.

Many coaches in the Portage and Kalamazoo area coach teams in soccer, football, and baseball- many of which are parents themselves. Parents and adults should look for good motivators for their kids. In fact, Dr. Joe Evans, a child psychologist at University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute child psychology program who, in fact, coached kids in sports, says that these particular trophies motivator the youth to grow an interest in sports, not for the achievement but for the effort. He says that they are “really not for achievement but for the effort… If you only gave achievement awards, we’d only have two or three kids playing ball.”

“I feel like participation trophies make kids feel good about themselves and help them want to work harder so they can win an actual trophy. I feel like it’s just a good motivator,” Lena Klemm (10), a swimmer at Portage Northern High School. In her experience with sports, she feels that they help kids feel like they contributed in something, to further their interest in the activity.

Frankly in my experience, kids can tell the obvious difference between winning because they showed up and winning because they defeated their opponent. Parents who teach their kids to play sports like crazy to win and be better than other kids are toxic parents. Moreover, according to a child psychiatrist who is a part of the International Society for Sports Psychiatry, says more and more parents are becoming obsessed with their kids athletic careers. This can cause large quantities of stress and depression within the child. Instead of parenting your kid to be better, teach them to be humble, and happy no matter what their skill level is. Stop preaching winning to children, and start preaching exercise and excellence.

Let’s give the participants something to remind them they were a part of a team, because these kids gave their time, effort, and enthusiasm to the team they played for.