Participation awards: Hurting or helping our youth?


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Participation awards and certificates are given out at so many events, not just in sports.

I was 11 years old sitting in the auditorium at a gymnastics meet anxiously waiting to hear my name being called as one of the winners. With each name being announced, I sank further and further into my chair as I realized that I wasn’t getting a top award. 

Instead, it would be another participation trophy. 

My anxiety increased as my name was called to the stage because I knew that all the people staring could see that I was only up there because the directors felt the need to give everyone an award, even though we did not do our best. 

What is the point of participation awards, they should not be passed out at any age as it gives a false sense of accomplishment and reward.

Every athlete knows the feeling after going to a competition, event, or game and knowing you did not do your best and aren’t proud of how you performed, and then having to sit through an award ceremony. You just feel so frustrated and just want to go home already.

Participation awards don’t stop at sports, though. After school activities and clubs can also include these types of awards. You may not have even participated that much in the activity and still get recognition and acknowledgement for something that you might not have even worked to earn.

 No matter what activity you receive a participation award in, it affects how kids can pursue their accomplishments later on. 

When little kids  receive participation awards or trophies, it gives them a false sense of accomplishment. As the child grows older, they are now expecting to be rewarded for the simplest task such as going to school, completing their homework, showing up to work on time, and participating in a team sport just to be able to place it on their college application. 

An argument can be made for the continued use of participation awards for younger kids because  it promotes a feeling of accomplishment, keeps the child interested in the activity, and gives an overall feeling of happiness. However, there comes a point when a child reaches a certain age that this should no longer be standard practice.   

Our society is creating an unrealistic expectation for these children. As they grow older, they are faced with the harsh reality that life is not full of participation awards. They are no longer singled out and may have a sense of failure. They are not failures, they just need to work harder.

Completing everyday tasks should not be rewarded as it affects their mental expectations. It conveys the message that everything they do in life is worthy of a reward, which we all know is not true.

We need to go back to a time when awards were given out for true accomplishments; first, second and third place is more than enough. A pat on the back or a statement of “Good job, we will get them next time” is more appropriate and eliminates the trophy.  

Life is not one trophy after the other. Life is full of hard work and dedication, and there is only room for a few select individuals on the winner’s podium of life.


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