The Participation Trophy Debate

Posted on: March 13th, 2020 | by Laura Murdoch | No Comments

Last Updated on: 30th March 2023, 12:56 pm

Should you hand out participation trophies?


The Participation Trophy Debate


Young Player holding a football trophyThere’s something of a debate in the world of youth sports and one that rages particularly strongly in the US. This debate revolves around the handing out of participation trophies. Plenty of people believe the practice has led to a generation of entitled and needy young people. However, there is an equally strong counter-argument that suggests participation trophies are beneficial. So, what does each side say and should we worry about it?


The Argument Against

People who are against participation trophies believe they set children on a dangerous path. That it’s overprotective and mollycoddling to hand out a trophy to every player. It will put children on the path to entitlement and apathy.
Sports psychologist, Dan Gould suggests we should find alternative ways to motivate children. “For rewards to work, they need to be earned. If you’re trying to increase a kid’s motivation, emphasize health or emphasize how fun it is to move or play ball.” Instead of bribing children with rewards, it’s better to focus on internal rewards.
A popular argument against participation trophies is that they cause players to stop trying. The theory is that they will expect a reward regardless of the effort they put in. If a child knows they get a prize anyway, they might as well not try. This also presents worries for the players that do work hard every week. Critics of participation trophies believe that they will see their efforts being undervalued. They won’t see it as being fair if everyone around them gets an award without trying as hard.Participation trophy debate


The Argument For

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who believe that rewarding everybody’s efforts is a good thing. As we discussed in last week’s blog post, winning can help set children up for future wins. Child psychologists believe there are huge benefits to positive reinforcement. This is especially true in young children. Players will get a sense of accomplishment and feel more connected to the sport. Handing out a trophy to everyone also promotes a sense of teamwork. It shows that everybody plays a part in the team’s successes or losses.
Psychology professor, Kenneth Barish suggests that only giving trophies to the winners “doesn’t emphasize enough of the other values that are important.” Children need to remember that sport isn’t just about being the best. It’s also about learning new skills, leading an active lifestyle, and being part of a team. Participation trophies are something that children can cherish and help them feel that they’re part of a team.
Another argument for participation trophies is that they encourage children to put in more effort next season. All children should see that putting in the effort is something to be praised. This shows them that there is more to life than just winning.

Young player holding a Pendle football trophy


It’s all about balance

Ultimately, when it comes to rewarding young children, there should be a middle ground. Children who get overpraised could potentially run into problems in the future. However, kids who believe that life is only about winning or losing will also have issues. That’s why it’s important to find the right balance.
The effectiveness of participation trophies comes down to the person handing them out. It all depends on what they stand for. Children will want to progress in the game if they get trophies as evidence of skills, development, and hard work. Kids may want to give up the sport if they don’t feel that their effort is being recognised. They might not believe there is a way to catch up and quit.
Then there’s the question of how entitled a child would become because of a few sporting awards. Children need to understand that they won’t always succeed but they’ll have plenty of time to learn that. A few participation awards won’t completely alter a child’s view but they could confirm their love of the sport. Football is competitive, so they will experience success and failure in matches. Surely, having a solid base for teamwork and self-confidence will make future defeats easier?
Of course, there is an argument for not taking it too far. There will be a certain age when participation trophies stop being as effective. Children still need to understand that they can’t always win. Handing out awards for little or no effort is just not helpful. The focus should always be on fun and enjoyment. Whether you use participation trophies or not, you need to instil a love of the game in your players. A strong basis in teamwork, hard work, and development will give them a good start for their future.


Pendle Trophies

Are you looking for ways to reward your players? We have a great range of trophies, cups, and medals to choose from. You’ll find more than enough options for you. Get them all at fantastic prices so you can be sure you won’t ruin your budget. Check out our range of football trophies now.

Browse our range of trophies


Pendle Sportswear New Football Trophies


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