Why Participation Trophies Won't Hurt Our Kids

by Justin Gomer
Originally Published: 
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Are participation trophies a bad idea for kids?

This is an oddly controversial question. I’m not sure there is a parenting issue that non-parents feel more passionate about (and parents I know care so little about) than this one.

I’ve only coached 6- to 7-year-olds and therefore may change my mind when my kids get older, but I truly cannot find any merit in the anti-participation-trophy line of argumentation.

The most common arguments against participation trophies generally fall within two categories: 1) They undermine the value of sports in various ways, and 2) they create a generation of sissies, especially among boys.

To advocates of the former I ask: Who are all of these kids signing up for weekly practices and games for three months just to get a shiny piece of cheap plastic at season’s end? Where are these kids who say, “Mom, Dad, I don’t like baseball and I could not care less about learning the fundamentals of the game; the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and healthy competition; or making new friends, but I will continue attending practice every Tuesday and Thursday and playing games every Saturday morning for the next 12 weeks because I really want a trophy for my bookshelf.” The idea that participation trophies confuse kids about the benefits of sports is a quintessential straw man.

To supporters of the latter, I get it, masculinity is always in crisis, blah blah blah. Every generation since at least the turn of the 20th century has had its own list of reasons why and how men were supposedly becoming feminized, and it’s all bogus. I say, save it, Teddy Roosevelt!

In a few more years, I’ll probably think my oldest child will be too old for participation trophies. I’m also pretty sure that by then she’ll have no interest in receiving one; she hardly cares about the one she got last season! But for now, I fully intend to reward all of the kids I coach for showing up, taking instruction, improving their skills, and being a good teammate with a participation trophy.

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