Why We Should Not Hand Out Participation Trophies


Matt Lesnik, Editor-In-Chief

Throughout the years, if you win a contest, or a sporting event, or anything for that matter, you normally get a reward. Whether that would be a medal, ribbon, trophy, or a gift certificate, you would normally only get them if you win, or at least finish in the top three. But now, you can get a reward no matter where you finish, with the help of participation trophies. 

What is a participation trophy? Just as it sounds, a trophy for participating in an activity or contest of some sort. Now, of course winning, or even top 3 deserves a trophy, by why anything after that? Morale support? Well, a trophy shouldn’t be able to cheer one up, especially one that doesn’t exactly mean anything.

Now, for kids in elementary school, it does make sense. For them, they’re probably not playing to win, and just want to be with their friends. But once those kids get to middle school, everything changes. Those kids start to get the competitive edge, and they begin to want to win. They want that first prize, and giving them the same prize for last place, or any other placement, devalues what it means to win to them.

MIddle school is also where kids start to learn more about the real world. Jobs, taxes, and everything else. If a doctor is voted the worst doctor in the world, they would most likely get their medical license revoked, but we’re giving rewards to kids for finishing last? It doesn’t make sense. All it is doing is teaching kids that it is ok to be the worst at what they like doing. They should be trying to improve that skill, not be content with it.

Along with moral reasons, there is also scientific evidence that participation trophies have a negative effect on kids. Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel did a story on participation trophies, and they interviewed Dr. Robert Cloniger, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who gave a scientific reason as to why participation trophies should stop from being handed out, “If you constantly reward a kid, you spoil them, and you don’t build a capacity for them to be resilient to frustration.” All that means is, if you reward a kid too much, they won’t know how to deal with frustration. It makes them think that nothing can go wrong for them, and that they are immune to conflict. It is just plain unhealthy.

Participation trophies have essentially been ingrained in American culture, and there hasn’t been much giveback. The trophy industry is worth about 2 Billion dollars, and it is going to continue to grow. Kids are taught that they are going to be rewarded for everything they do in life, and that is plain unhealthy. If you mess something up , you won’t get rewarded, you’ll get punished, it’s just life. Participation trophies are not good for anyone, and they should not be given out.