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Participation Trophies: Yay or Nay?
Photo of Brian Halligan

Participation trophies have been around for a short period of time, and they tend to be a controversial topic. Some argue that the point isn’t to win or lose, it’s a celebration of your efforts and the work you put into the game. Others point out that this isn’t necessarily reflective of the “real world.” We have outlined the top arguments both for and against participation trophies to help guide your decision on this topic.


The Benefits of Participation Trophies


The following are just some of the benefits that can be associated with participation trophies:


Confidence Booster


One of the most well known benefits of participation trophies is the confidence it helps instill in children. We've noticed that confidence can positively affect several aspects of a person's life. For example, kids may grow up to be the kind of person who is not afraid to try a new business. Another benefit is that it helps prevent victimization. Many self-defense speakers discuss the fact that self-confidence helps deter a possible attacker because it makes a person seem strong.


Achievable Reward


There is no doubt about it, we know that sports can be tough. Sometimes it is hard to win, but everyone who played still tried. Children have to practice and sacrifice their time. In essence, a participation trophy is a token that recognizes this aspect of the game, and it also gives youngsters a reason to continue participating. It is hard to go on without any recognition while losing games. No child wants to feel like their efforts are not worth anything as this could lead to feelings of sadness or depression.


A Parent's Glow


These trophies are not just for kids but for parents, too. A parent's efforts are rewarded with these trophies. Parents have to sacrifice days off or call off work at times to support their kids, which is not always easy to do. A participation trophy is a family heirloom as much as it is a trophy for participation.


The Shortcomings of Participation Trophies


Now, we know there are two sides to every story, and participation trophies can cause certain issues. No one is denying the positive aspects of participation trophies, but we think it is unwise to overlook the negative aspects of these trophies. The following are just some examples to consider:


Misunderstanding Losing


Sports are a bit of a metaphor or a lesson disguised in a fun activity that kids can enjoy. The lesson that sports should instill is the concept of losing and winning. There are major differences between the two, and they will happen in everyone's lifetime. Learning to lose at an early age may help children learn that they may not always get what they want, no matter how hard they try.


Losing also teaches children to reassess their skills or plays, which may help them later on in life. For example, a child that understands how to lose will know to reassess his or her interview approach if he or she is not hired after a job interview. Participation trophies may disguise the loss, which could have a negative effect on a child's natural development. We think it is important to make the distinction between losing and winning. Be careful not to make these instances as important as life and death because they are not.


Glorifying Effort


Effort is definitely important, but it does not guarantee anything. Sure, there are many people out there telling people that rewards are given to those who work hard, but this is simply not the case. Participation trophies might make children believe that all they have to do is work hard and they will be rewarded. This is not a good thing to instill, especially because hard work is not always rewarded. Children who grow up with this kind of mentality might feel depressed or quit a job the moment their efforts are not properly rewarded.


In short, children who begin to glorify effort might begin to think that they are entitled to anything that they put some effort into. It is important to help children understand that effort can be recognized, but that does not mean it has to be awarded. Hard work does not always get people what they want in life though those who notice will not be able to deny that hard work was put into a project or job.


Value, Undervalued


Another possible shortcoming to participation trophies is the possibility of children feeling entitled with no effort at all. Yes, some children might start to notice that they get praise even if they do not work much. These children might start to slack off knowing that they will still get rewarded if they do not work. Some of these children may look at fellow team members who work harder and see they receive no more credit than they do. The participation trophies might give them the impression that life will just give them what they want.


It is important to nurture the idea that participation also means hard work. Parents could make an effort to teach children that they should be honest about their worth. A participation trophy is only as good as the level of participation put into the sport.


There is no doubt that the concept of a participation trophy is one that needs to be talked about amongst parents, coaches and kids. There is a lot to consider, but the key is to be open and talk about what sports are all about. All subjects like participation, losing, winning and all other aspects should be explored before a child even plays a sport.



Whether you’re for participation trophies or not, everyone deserves a chance to play the game. At SquadLocker, we’ll get your team outfitted with customized team gear from the best brands, all conveniently at your fingertips, so that you can focus on the more important tasks that lie ahead - like discussing participation trophies.

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