Oh boy, here we go again. Another winter has passed, and some leagues are beginning to take shape. And the debate about whether or not kids should get trophies for simply playing has popped up again. DeAngelo Williams, running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers took away a trophy his daughter received for participating in an event. In the next event, Rhiya went out and took 1st place, which gives the people on the “hell no” side a new opportunity to cheer. I’ll admit, I was 100 percent in the camp of, “kids shouldn’t get anything, they need to work hard and learn how to fail.” But after listening to a debate about the topic on my local sports radio, I have completely reversed gears. Before giving my reasons, let me lay down some ground rules:

  • There is a HUGE difference between not keeping score in a game and giving trophies after an event/season. Removing scores from a competitive game is silly, and I’ll never change my stance on that.
  • This topic applies to kids in the 3-8 age range or so. After that, the leagues are very competitive and I start to lean towards the “no trophies” side.

#1- Who is to say that the kid won’t work harder even with a trophy? 

This question is front and center among the “no trophy” side. The major assumption is that if an athlete receives a trophy in a year they did not win a championship, they will simply be satisfied and have no drive to play harder. In my humble opinion, there’s absolutely zero evidence to support this. The real “life lessons” of sports are taught on the field of competition. The winning, losing, and handling either side gracefully happens ON the field/court. I know that I had banquets after unsuccessful seasons and got a symbol to show my hard work. I didn’t pack it up and decide, “yeah, this is enough for me, don’t need to work harder.” The trophy was a symbol of the hard work put in with a tough season, nothing more, nothing less. How do we know that DeAngelo’s daughter wouldn’t have gone out and won the next event WITH the trophy? The bolded question is such a major assumption that’s impossible to quantify.

#2- In an age of technology, a trophy is a good reminder about the value of sports.

Today, it’s far too easy for the youth to ignore the dusty baseball field or squeaky basketball courts for the comfort of the Playstation 4 or XBOX One. Going through a season of competitive sports at ANY level is a challenge. Through the practices, games, and planning in between, playing an athletic competition is an exhausting expedition. A trophy, no matter what the value, is a great reminder about the hard work put in.

#3- Children are smart.

They won’t be confused by the value of a participation trophy. They will be able to recognize that their friends on the winning side have a different or bigger trophy, and will want to get that trophy.

#4- Not every competition is a head-to-head match.

Some younger children participate in running events, field days, and things that are more “team-building.” It’s hard to quantify which place someone finishes when you have hundreds of children in the same competition.

I think it’s time to drop that tough “no-trophies” attitude. The young athletes of today will understand at higher levels that more work is required to put in to succeed. At a very young age, being involved and having fun is the name of the game, and why should we not reward them?

Thanks to LA Times for the details about DeAngelo Williams.

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Just a regular dude who wants to shed light on the good happening around us, and how we can change for the better.