Wow, Readers — The Keller Youth Association’s football league in North Texas has made a decision of staggering proportions: It will no longer give out trophies to kids just for showing up!

Its rationale? Trophies become meaningless when “everybody wins.” Moreover, kids get an unrealistic, indulgent idea of life when they seemingly “succeed” with or without yfsayysbhs
putting in any effort.

Some parents, at least in this interview, are upset because — as one says, “They need to be rewarded…at this young age. We want to keep them coming back.”

“We” want to keep “them” coming back? Does it get more parent-directed than that?

What about the reward that comes from kids actually playing? If that’s not enough, maybe they SHOULDN’T be coming back. Play is a huge motivator, right up there with hunger. If  kids are only playing to get the trophy, something’s wrong.

Worst of all is the idea that our children are so fragile, they cannot withstand the shock of learning that maybe they aren’t the very best at everything they do!

In our home we’ve got a bunch of dusty trophies that mean nothing to my kids, and a very few trophies that do. Maybe it’s time for us parents to make a huge pyramid of all the meaningless metal (or, more often, shiny plastic) our kids have collected to illustrate: Who says our kids can’t handle losing? Hip, hip, hooray — they can!

Fox 2 News Headlines

P.S. This video is missing a track of sound, which is frustrating. If you can find an embed code that WORKS for another video clip of this story, please send it. The NBC Dallas Fort Worth clip does not seem to be embed-able.

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54 Responses to Youth Football League: NO MORE TROPHIES JUST FOR SHOWING UP!

  1. Warren October 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Yes yes yes. Finally a league with common sense and integrity.

  2. Evan October 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    I have no objection to this, as long as they also stop giving kids trophies for winning. If play isn’t worthwhile for its own sake then it isn’t worthwhile.

  3. Gpo October 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    My daughter swims. At meets kids medals or ribbons for placing high enough. Others don’t. My daughter hasn’t won a ton, but when she does it means a ton to her. Swim is great for that. No getting on a good team just to win. It is all about yourself. You mess up no else to blame. She has learned a ton of life lessons in swim. You want a trophy you work hard and get better. No BS in swim. Your time is your time. Everyone knows where they stand.

  4. Liz October 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Cue major backlash from Big Corporate Trophy Industry 😛

  5. Erin October 23, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I almost cried when my son actually won his first trophy in a chess tournament. It was 4th place but it meant so much more that all the others that he got for showing up

  6. Eileen October 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    I have 2 kids that played sports (mostly soccer) most of their lives. Both had opportunities to play college soccer (1 did, 1 did not). They both participated in YMCA sports in early elementary school. Those leagues did include a trophy at the end, but when they moved into sports specific programs/leagues, trophies were not given unless a team won a tournament or championship (I suppose runners up for a state tournament got medals from time to time).

    We’ve never experienced overkill of participation tokens. I think with young kids it’s kind of fun — kind of like the tshirts I get for “participating” in a 5k. The fondest accomplishment for one of my kids was a championship in HS where the “trophy” that was awarded to the coach/school. He was hardly tarnished by getting a handful of trophies from the Y when he was 5-7 (or whatever it was).

    I guess we’ve been lucky to experience a nice balance.

    @Evan, your idea of what’s appropriate is no different than trophies for all. There is value in recognizing accomplishments, they do it academic, musical, and other areas as well.

  7. Michelle H October 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    My son currently is 4 (almost 5), and at his age, he’s been super excited to get a trophy from t-ball or a medal from soccer. That’s because he’s just learning, and it’s his first “real” sports accomplishment. He was so proud walking around showing everybody his soccer medal. That being said, older than the 4-6 range, I don’t see a need to get a sports trophy/medal for just showing up.

    That being said (as well), we discovered once he moved up to U5 (as opposed to U4 soccer), he hates it, as do I, because of how insanely intense the parents and coaches are, even at this age. I asked him if he wanted to go to the last game to get his medal or do something else, and he said he’d rather go do something else. So it’s not necessarily a big deal.

  8. Michelle H October 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Wanted to add additionally, from @Eileen’s comment, “your idea of what’s appropriate is no different than trophies for all. There is value in recognizing accomplishments, they do it academic, musical, and other areas as well.”

    THIS THIS, 1000 TIMES THIS! Competition is good overall, and some of the greatest accomplishments in history have come about because of competition. If someone is better at something than someone else, by all means, reward them! There’s not a better motivator around than competition.

  9. Stephanie October 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    I love it. The soccer league my son is in gives trophies to all players in U6 and U8 teams, but once you’re in U10 and up, only the top two teams get it. My son just hit U10 this year, and he says likes it because he now knows he’d like his trophies to mean more. Won’t be getting one this year because his team has only won one game so far this season, but he’s having lots of fun.

  10. hineata October 23, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    @Michelle H – does U5 mean under-fives? Please tell me no! ‘Competitive’ sport at that age, insane!

    My youngest ‘played’ rugby at that age, playing consisting of standing in the field smelling the flowers or watching the action while others ran around her.. She was only in the team at all because she insisted on it, after watching her older brother (which was a hoot in itself, a really skinny little Asian kid trying to avoid getting stomped on by his much bigger mates!).

    Only time I ever let a kid do preschool sport, just an exercise in comedy – would have been cheaper to rent pay-tv :-).

  11. Eileen October 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    @Stephanie – yup, that sounds very reasonable and has been our experience with 2 boys that played a lot of sports. Having the little trophy on a shelf is a nice little reminder for a little kid about the experience.

    It’s very common to hear parents talk about how participation trophies are a big issue. I can think of lots and lots more (Michelle H already identified one) to be concerned about in youth sports (the cost, the parents, the sportsmanship, and more) rather than small trophies for little kids.

  12. Eileen October 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    I’ve watched the video of the father who said “we want to keep them coming back”. He seems like a very nice guy and talked about “at young ages” how getting a token for working hard and showing up every day at practice even in a win-less season was a nice acknowledgement.

    Exercise is good for your kids…team sports can give your kids useful experiences in cooperation and teamwork. I don’t see a big deal with him saying he would want them to keep coming back. My son showed some talent in middle school band..but his experience with that director was so bad that he didn’t come back. I “wanted him to go back”. I didn’t force him to, but I admit to “wanting him to” — just like that Dad.

  13. Evan October 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    “your idea of what’s appropriate is no different than trophies for all.”

    Yes, exactly. Except that with “trophies for all” you’re wasting money; you could achieve equally valuable results by not buying any trophies at all.

    For the record, I am also adamantly opposed to grades, bribes, and all other forms of extrinsic motivation. I know most Americans are too steeped in reward-culture to recognize this fact, and I will probably be the only voice making this argument in in this conversation, but rewards hurt kids more than they help them.

    Giving ribbons to the four fastest kids in the race teaches the four fastest kids that the reason to run is to win ribbons, and it teaches the fifth-fastest kid that there’s no reason to run at all. It distorts the whole purpose of play. You cannot reward some without punishing others.

    “There is value in recognizing accomplishments, they do it academic, musical, and other areas as well.”

    There is value in telling a kid s/he did a good job. There is value in telling a kid that you love to watch them play. I wish we all just did those things, and quit giving them shiny plastic statues.

  14. Michelle H October 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    @hineata it’s actually the older 4 year olds, and some 5 year olds. So yes, it’s insane. They just let the kids actually play soccer without telling them what to do, and some of the parents actually yell at their kids. We won’t be playing it again.

    @Evan actually when I won when I was a kid running track, it taught me that I was faster than the other team, and had accomplished something for my school. We only got medals at the state or county meets, not for just normal school meets. I’m not sure where you’re getting this “the only reason to run is to win a ribbon” thing. My entire neighborhood has kids ranging from 2-senior in high school. The older kids all play a variety of sports. None of them play those sports just to get a medal or trophy. The high school girl’s cross country team just won the state meet, so they accomplished something great, and got a school trophy and medals. That’s a token of their accomplishment. My next door neighbor was super proud to tell me about her race, and the team, and only showed me the medal when I asked. Kids who play sports and love to play sports will do so because they love it.

  15. Warren October 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm #


    Are you for real?

    Competition and the rewards for winning are not only sport related. People compete throughout their lives, for jobs, for fun, for spots in colleges, for scholarships, for the best deals, and on and on.

    Competition breeds effort. Competition breeds improvement. Competition breeds confidence.
    Your logic in regards to what the runner in the fifth position learns is weak, and flawed.

    Those who place second do not learn that they run to get ribbons. They learn that their hard work paid off, and that there is room for improvement, should they be so motivated.
    The one that finishes fifth learns that they could work on some aspect of their race to improve their finishes, be it the start, the pace or finishing kick.

    If the lesson a child learns is just the ribbon, or why bother, then the coach, and the parents need to look at themselves. Those teaching the athlete need to teach what competition, sportsmanship and the game are all about.

    If a someone takes away, the “why bother” attitude from a non placing effort, then I point the finger at poor coaching and even worse parenting. You never judge an athlete by how they win, you judge them by how they lose.

  16. Michelle H October 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I’m still not understanding where you got the “Giving ribbons to the four fastest kids in the race teaches the four fastest kids that the reason to run is to win ribbons, and it teaches the fifth-fastest kid that there’s no reason to run at all.” That makes no sense. The 5th place kid learns they have to try and practice harder if they want to get into that top 4 spot. The other 4 kids learned they accomplished something cool, but they better keep it up otherwise they’ll get replaced as the top 4. Why do you think the kids are being taught to only run to get a ribbon? They run because they want to, the ribbon is a physical token of their accomplishment. What’s wrong with that? They’re still going to run next time because they’re on the track team, not because they won a ribbon.

  17. Thomas Arbs October 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    Getting some kind of recognition, a diploma, a medal, or, as suggested, a T-Shirt for participation is a nice motivator I as a grownup appreciate just as much as a child would. An actual trophy is only for the winners. Which involves a very hard lesson: losing. At some point, earlier or later (by the tone of the post you suggest: earlier), a child needs to understand that someone may be better. That even doing one’s best may not suffice. When is that point?

  18. steve October 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Personalities are different. And kids play for different reasons.

    1.) Some play primarily for social interaction.

    2.) Some play primarily because they like moving and exercising
    their bodies, even though they may not realize this.

    3.) Some play primarily to improve their skill.

    4.) Some play primarily to win.

    5.) Some play primarily for physical contact and the combative nature
    of the game.

    6.) Some play primarily for recognition and applause.

  19. Eileen October 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    @Thomas, I’m not sure if your comments are directed at me or the original post.

    But my thoughts on giving participation token/medals/trophies/whatever at younger ages and then discontinuing is because at some point kids realize that’s exactly what they are…tokens. They mature enough to realize that. They create clutter, cost money, and generally start to lose any real value. They have their team uniform as a memento.

    To a 5 or 6 year old, a little trophy on his shelf is pretty cool. As a 10 year, less so.

    But my feeling is that for any league that doesn’t hand out trophies…if the parents feel like they need a token, then they’ll gather up the parents and collect the money to get them anyway, lol.

  20. Suzanne October 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    My family participates in long distance running. It is a sport where frequently everyone gets a “finishing” metal, yet I never hear complaints about them being meaningless. My Husband EARNED his marathon medals even if he came in well behind the fastest runners. It is also a sport where most of the participants are really competing against themselves (ie can they finish the race, can they beat their best time, can they run further then they did before). My nine year old will be running 10K for the first time this weekend. I don’t think this race has metals but I doubt that will matter to her as much as the victory of succeeding at her goal.

  21. pentamom October 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    “Giving ribbons to the four fastest kids in the race teaches the four fastest kids that the reason to run is to win ribbons, and it teaches the fifth-fastest kid that there’s no reason to run at all. ”

    Um, no. First, the only means of teaching your kids is not located in the reward/lack of reward system. These kids all have parents who can teach them that there are other reasons for running.

    Second, it teaches them to keep trying because someday they may be one of the four fastest kids, which is actually objectively better than remaining the fifth fastest kid if the improvement is the result of effort and diligence.

  22. pentamom October 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Suzanne, I think long-distance running is different. Completing a marathon, half-marathon, or even a 5K is something that inherently takes effort that not everyone can do. (I’ve completed two 5Ks but I didn’t run most of either one. For me, that’s an accomplishment, but it’s not a great one.) But playing as one member of a team in a football game with other little kids, and getting a trophy just for showing up, is a different kind of thing. It’s one thing for everyone on the team to get a t-shirt at the end of a season, or the end of a race, but it’s quite different if nobody gets any more than that, no matter what they, or their team, actually accomplishes.

    And I don’t know about your situation, but I’ve been pretty close to the distance running world for some years now and I’ve never seen a situation where people who actually finished at the top of races or the top of classes within races got no more recognition than the people who completed the race, which is what you have with these “everybody gets a trophy” youth leagues.

  23. pentamom October 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    And BTW, I don’t really have a problem with non-competitive leagues for younger kids — our kids did Y sports when they were younger and it was like that, which was a good thing because my kids just aren’t very talented at team sports and probably would have been shut out entirely from any kind of participation at all in a competitive league. What I don’t like is when there are no opportunities other than non-competitive ones, because people believe that competition is somehow “bad” even for the kids who thrive on it and excel.

  24. lollipoplover October 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Motivation should come from within. Kids play sports for a variety of reasons but I can guarantee that a generic, made in China participation trophy would be at the bottom of the list for most kids.

    My kids are athletic but sometimes choose team sports with good friends just to play, not to win. Teaching good sportsmanship and keeping the game fun are what it’s all about. Other individual sports like wrestling and swimming require dedication and skill that winning a ribbon or medal means the world (and teaches them hard work pays off).

    I’d rather my kid be a gracious loser than think they deserve an award just for showing up.

  25. Celeste October 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    I have a set of kids from my first marriage who are grown but used to be in organized youth sports, and another set today who are involved in organized youth sports. Over the years throughout the many games, tournaments, meets; sometimes participation trophies/ medals/ certificates/ ribbons etc were given out, and sometimes not. For all my kids, I guess in general it was nice to get one, sometimes it hurt not to get one, but either way it was never the most important thing about playing the sport. I don’t have an inclination to say that participation trophies are inherently good or bad – if kids are enjoying the sport and camaraderie, and getting strong and gaining confidence, that’s what’s important. Though I do think about all the trophies out there taking up valuable closet space or clogging up landfills……

  26. Mary Cardoza October 23, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    My now college freshman daughters were thrilled to receive their first Little League trophy at age 5. After that they quicky pointed out that “everyone gets them” and the participation trophies quicky acquired the sobriquet “breathing trophies” in our house and never made it to their shelves. (Except for the soccer bobble head trophy from 4th grade which was so darn cute)

  27. Whitney October 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I would rather my children not get trophies for “participation,” as I personally think that it dilutes the meaning of a trophy. My boys, however, LOVE the, so while we don’t make a big deal out of them, we let them display them in their rooms. What I find most irritating is that the reality around here is that everyone gets a trophy as long as you show up when they are distributed. Even if the kids missed a majority of the games and practices! You can’t even call them “participation” awards at that point. To me the message is: Your parent paid the registration fee which entitles you to this award through no merit of your own.

  28. pentamom October 23, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Oh, I should have made clear that while I’m not against non-competitive leagues, I think “trophies” for every kid are dumb. It’s fine to organize a league where the object is just to let everyone play on a non-competitive basis so the less talented kids get a chance at fun and exercise, but it shouldn’t be equated to what a trophy actually represents — real achievement.

  29. Ann in L.A. October 23, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Somebody needs to start a playing league. Kids love uniforms, so get them uniforms. Kids love the snack, so bring them a snack. Then bring balls, some cones, a net or two to be a field goal, maybe some hockey sticks or lacrosse nets. Have the kids come twice a week and bring a chair with a nice umbrella with a cup holder for yourself. Then grab a book and a nice beverage, sit down, and just let the kids get on with it themselves! Let Calvinball commence!

  30. mystic_eye_cda October 23, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    I think that some make the valid point that you need to reward effort, over results. Too many times those who are naturally better at something are not challenged, and fail to learn skills they need such as self-motivation, how to deal with failure, etc.

    This is particularly true with kids, and dare I say, more with physical skills where kids are vastly different sizes and often there’s a huge difference between the youngest and oldest in each grouping.

    Rewarding results over effort also makes people safe. If faced with only being rewarded for results would you stretch and try something new and difficult, if you can do something safe.

    Yes, ultimately in life you probably will be rewarded more for results over effort, but being built up for things that come easy to you misses so many opportunities to learn. And yes, some children aren’t motivated by external rewards, and that’s something that should be encouraged, but most of us need a little encouragement, a little reward, a little prodding, from time to time. So yes, maybe only the winners should get a trophy, but those who show up and do their personal best should be rewarded as well, in a meaningful way

  31. Emily October 23, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    I agree that participation trophies for any but the youngest kids, are a stupid idea, for all of the reasons that everyone has just outlined. However, one thing that stood out to me was when one of the pro-participation-trophy parents said, “We want to keep them coming back.” That bugs me, because, WHY should kids who don’t want to play competitive sports, be bribed, goaded, guilted, or even straight-up forced to play them? Is it because free play has suddenly become “dangerous,” and all physical activity and social interaction must be structured and adult-led? The fact remains that human nature hasn’t changed, and for every child who’s keen to play peewee football, there’s at least one other child who’d rather forgo the organized team sports, and just go play at the park, or ride bikes or Rollerblade around the neighbourhood instead. There are other ways to learn teamwork in a non-sports context–I learned through high school band.

  32. Reziac October 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    Parents are so fragile, they cannot withstand the shock of learning that maybe their kids aren’t the very best at everything they do!

    Fixed that for ya. 😉

  33. Nicole October 24, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    I like recreational leagues (over competitive leagues) for kids. The focus should be on fitness and fun and teamwork, not winning, in my opinion. So I have some issues with the need to declare winners. I don’t care either way if the league gives everyone or no one a trophy, I just don’t think we should be treating these leagues like it’s an adult sport.

    I understand better when we’re talking about swimming or chess or a sport where you’re not a team, but even then, I don’t think there should be undo stress placed on winning. Kids know when they’ve won, and they know when they’ve lost, no need to make a fuss about it either way.

    Once you get to the teenage years obviously it changes, however I think if a kid wants to show up, try, and learn they should be allowed on a sports team (especially school sponsored) regardless of skill.

    Maybe that makes me a wimp. If it does, I’m quite happy being a wimp.

  34. John Carter October 24, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    We also shouldn’t take the 7 yr old kids to Dairy Queen at the end of the season, unless they actually win the league. Let’s not reward them just for playing.

  35. John Carter October 24, 2013 at 1:49 am #

    Surely there must be a study out there showing a correlation between people who received participation trophies as a very young child, and lack of success as an adult. No? Come on, the prisons must be filled with these types. Next time I pass someone who lives under a bridge, I’m going to asked them about unearned trophies from pee wee league soccer.

  36. Donna October 24, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    A couple weeks ago my daughter’s Girl Scout troup went to a corn maze and ended up there at the same time as an end of the season party for a girls softball team. The young coaches (male college students with no kids on the team – the horrors) bought each girl a candy bar symbolizing her contribution to the team and briefly said something positive about her when he gave it to her. So one girl got a Fast Break for stealing bases, another a Babe Ruth for hitting the most runs and another a Now and Later for best improved.

    This seems much more meaningful than a trophy you get for essentially paying a registration fee. The coaches clearly put some thought into each kid and each kid got some encouragement for whatever effort they did make but noboby was pretending that everyone was a great softball player.

  37. Eileen October 24, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    @Emily, I’m not sure if you just read the snippet of “we want to keep them coming back” or watched the entire video/interview with the Dad that said it. You are really taking his message out of context. He talked about the spectrum of experiences..his kids have been on teams that won that leagues “super bowl” but also on team that were without wins. He felt like the end of season trophy was a bright spot that noted their efforts despite on-the-field success.

    “Wanting them to come back” is not awful. Most parents who see the value in sports or music or dance or debate or theater probably “want them to come back”. That doesn’t mean we force them to return, but that we just want the overall experience to be positive and would like for them to continue the activity. Will a trophy do that? Who knows (they never specified the age groups they were talking about), but the Dad seemed like a nice fella who didn’t think the trophies were bad. That’s it.

    @John Carter, I agree with you. This has been such an issue and soundbite that I think is just dumb. We just concluded 16 years of sports with our boys and I feel very confident that if there’s something amiss with youth sports it has NOTHING to do with participation trophies. Over involved helicopter sports parents? Absolutely. Disrespectful players on the field and parents in the stands? Absolutely. Bad handling of injuries? Yes (although I will say that even in our time of being sports parents, we’ve seen vast improvements in this area). Unnecessary travel and expense in the name of “competition”? Yes.

    Participation trophies are just a buzzword for something that’s a non-issue in my eyes.

  38. Lark October 24, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Does one really need an end-of-season trophy? I mean, life actually is full of small recognitions – I got an actually pretty cute paperweight when I’d been at my place of employment for five years, for instance. I see no harm in some small recognition for kids that hey, you came to practice and you didn’t quit even though it was probably kind of boring or frustrating sometimes…so what about actual trophies for actually winning and then some small memento for the season? I suspect that kids – if they’re anything like I was – would be happier with some kind of little button or patch with the team name and season on it than with a big plasticky trophy that just sits around. Mementos are nice – you play for a few years, you have a little collection of pins or patches or felt pennants or something to remember your time by.

    Also, honestly, no kids are really playing a whole season to get a random trophy for showing up. That’s not how anyone actually thinks except maybe an exceptionally time-serving and careerist kind of adult who is building a mendacious CV.

  39. Warren October 24, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    I honestly do not think this issue, like any other issue around competitive sports gets a fair shake on this site.

    From past posts to this one, there does not seem to be any commenters that grew up in competitive team sports. If there was, there would be greater understanding of what the kids want, need and get from sports.

    Winning, losing, score keeping, sportsmanship, injuries, slumps, streaks, team performance, individual performance, physical mental and emotional wellness, are all apart of it. When you eliminate one you affect the rest.

  40. pentamom October 24, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    “Also, honestly, no kids are really playing a whole season to get a random trophy for showing up. That’s not how anyone actually thinks except maybe an exceptionally time-serving and careerist kind of adult who is building a mendacious CV.”

    It’s a little more common than that. My kids knew someone in high school who joined every club he could possibly fit into his schedule just to put it on his college apps, without really contributing in any of them. But I agree with you it’s not how most people function.

    Yeah, I don’t think the point is that it’s wrong to give kids some kind of little tribute at the end of the season for having been a consistent, contributing member of a team, whether that’s a trip to Dairy Queen or whatever. It’s the giving of a trophy, which used to be understood as a special reward for excellence, that is inappropriate.

  41. Eileen October 24, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    @Warren. I was born in the 60s, I grew up playing sports, and have 2 siblings that played sports in NCAA Div I programs, and have a child that played a Div II sport in college. In the 60s, I was convinced by my brother (a runner) to participate in a 1 mile run put on a by a local running club at a local track. Each finisher got a very small trophy. A participation trophy … in the 60s. We laugh about it now because it was the ONLY reason I agreed to go, but it wasn’t enough to keep my interest in running (I only developed that 40 years later) but boy I felt like I earned it that day!

    My kids received a handful of very small trophies when they played in YMCA leagues. They moved on to competitive programs where they had to “try out” for teams and trophies/medals/plaques came with “winning something”. Getting a few small participation trophies had zero impact on what kind of athlete/person they became. For small kids just learning a sport or how to be a teammate, it’s simply a little token/reminder.

    I haven’t heard of any older leagues where participation trophies are a widespread thing….for young kids…give them, don’t give them — it’s really not a big deal. Certainly not the big deal some people like to make them out to be. Talk about “not a news story”. Again, there are far more important issues in youth sports to talk about.

  42. Rachel October 24, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    We’ve also encountered ribbons given to all participants in an effort to make the kids feel good about themselves, that actually backfires and leads to lower self-esteem and kids dropping out of future competitions.

    This happens in the kids’ ballroom dancing competitions. There, everyone gets called up for ribbons that are ranked. So the kids in the very last place get called up with the announcement of their last place spots, which the kids find really embarrassing. I’ve suggested that they stick to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons, so the kids who didn’t win don’t have to endure the polite clapping, and long walk up front for their last-place ribbons.

  43. CrazyCatLady October 24, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    My kids are in a non-competition soccer group and all they get at the end of the season is a potluck with a game of soccer where all the kids and adults are playing at the same time, usually with two balls on the field. All have a good time, though out the season.

    On the other hand, my kids participate in 4-H and exhibit animals and their arts, crafts, vegetables and more at fair each year. Everyone gets a ribbon – even the general exhibitors. They also get a form that explains what was judged and how. Even the young kids who get a participation ribbon. A wide range of kids will get 1st place ribbons, not just one person. One person will get various rosettes for best in show, people’s choice and superintendent choice. (These also get a blue ribbon.) Kids with rosettes or blue ribbons have the option of sending their items to state fair. So far the only one to complain is my youngest who got a well deserved rosette for a project he worked really hard on, but didn’t get to go to state fair because he did not yet meet the minimum age limit.

    The difference I think, between the 4-H and the sports, is that the kids get really specific feed back on how to improve (according to the likes and dislikes of a particular judge.) If every sports trophy comes with an end of the year form on how the kid can do better next year…maybe it would be good. Otherwise…not so great.

  44. Eileen October 24, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    @crazycatlady….you make a good point, feedback can be important. But the league where my kids got participation trophies it would have been inappropriate because it was a purely recreational league. Learn the rules, be a good teammate and competitor on the field, get exercise. It was in no way competitive.

    I thought of another way to rate/review/reward “competition”. There are (or at least were) musical competitions where the performances were rated on a 1-4 basis. I think 1s were the best, but in any case, each performance was rated. I think the highest got a medal. Multiple groups could get the same score, but that mostly because the same set of evaluators didn’t watch EVERY group. The participants (in this case it was solos and quartets) were evaluated on quality of what they presented. No one really cared if another school group also got a 1 (and probably didn’t even know), but they knew how they’d performed and got feedback.

    Point being, there are SCADS of ways to evaluate and give feedback to kids that choose a hobby, sport, academic extracurricular. Getting bogged down in what’s “right” and “wrong” on this topic is a waste of time. The fact that kids are choosing these things to enrich their lives is the important part. Parent/kids can choose the activity and the setting (competitive, recreational) which makes the most sense to them.

  45. Nicole October 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Hee Haw! Sadly it’s often the wealthier kids who get the trophies, who really need them – NOT! My kids were gifted with old trophies their dad’s players (he’s a coach) no longer wanted – and we donated them to the YMCA where my kids played. The had mini-tournaments and passed around a trophy (each kid kept it for a week :). My sister’s kid’s team used to buy their own trophies- until one year she was in charge and decided on hats instead. They basically kicked her off the team many were so upset.

  46. Nicole October 24, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    @Nicole (a different Nicole),

    On our soccer team the emphasis is on development, and you often only get that in competitive leagues. Yes for kids fun should be first, or they won’t want to keep playing, but getting better can make it more fun. Often the only way to do that is professional coaches. In other countries these are all free, sadly in the US it can be quite expensive. It’s been a pretty grueling education for the parents (not the kids!) that’s it’s not all about winning, but they are slowly coming around. it’s beautiful to watch a competitive group of 10 year olds play well without a coach yelling what to do every step of the way. No trophies except in tournament play (no participation trophies 🙂

  47. Emily October 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    @Eileen–Actually, I did watch the whole video, and while the kids in the video seemed to be participating enthusiastically in football practice, not every kid who’s involved in competitive sports, or dance classes, music lessons, etc., necessarily wants to be there. It’s not awful to “want them to come back” (because, there’ll always be kids who are neutral or enthusiastic as well), but there are much better ways to accomplish that than participation awards–incorporating fun drills into practices, special “whole team” incentives, and not always the standard “ice cream after the game/recital/show/whatever” either. For example, one girls’ softball coach told his team that he’d cartwheel around the bases if they won, or reached some other goal, and they did, so he did, and one of the parents videotaped it and put it on the Internet. Most of all, at least with younger kids (before high school), everyone should be allowed, and encouraged, to participate; not just the “superstars.” So, everyone on the hockey team plays in every game, and everyone in the dance class is in the final recital. That way, the kids will have positive memories of actually being involved in the activities, and not just watching from the sidelines, and of the “silly” moments, like their softball coach cartwheeling around the bases, or their music teacher demonstrating proper posture by balancing a bean bag on her head, or their ice-skating teacher playing “What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf?” with them at the end of class. None of these tactics involve giving undeserved rewards, but all of them make the learning process more fun, which I think is a better strategy–I mean, Awards Night is just one night, but the season is much longer than that, and that’s what kids are going to remember the most.

  48. Eileen October 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    @emily, you have no idea if this father or this league does any or all of the things you just mentioned.

    My whole point: Pick the activity and the environment that makes sense for your family and your kid and their interests.

    If you are going to decide that a small token is “undeserved reward” than I guess it is. But it’s not. People are really hung up on “the trophy”. It doesn’t say “Champions” on it, it just says “Sharks 2013” or whatever. The kids get a little older (way before HS) and realize what winning a tournament or a title is and by that time they probably aren’t getting them anymore. I’d venture to guess that most kids these days start sports before they even know what a “tournament” is.

    Adults are getting hung up on an end-of-season token way more than young kids are thinking they “won something” when they get one.

  49. Papilio October 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    Pentamom mentioned participation trophies for long-distance events – funny, because those are the only competitions I can think of that give a little reminder of participating.
    As primary school aged kid I walked the Avondvierdaagse a few times and got a little medallion/cross for that. The only English language info I could find on that is here:
    For adults there is something similar for those who complete the Elfstedentocht:
    Well, that, AND a proper trophy for the winner.

  50. Captain America October 25, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    As a kid, I always wanted a trophy!

    Finally got one, at the state fair, a small thing, for the kid’s tent crackereating-then-whistling contest. Hot damn!

    This was a long time ago, When not all kids events had trophies or ribbons.

  51. gap.runner October 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    The base where I work has a 10-week after school skiing program. On the last day the kids do a little race against the others in their respective groups. Even though the kids are “racing,” the instructors are not allowed to tell them their times or how they placed. My son was in that program from 1st to 3rd grade. When he was in 3rd grade, he was in the top group with 6th to 8th graders. He placed 5th out of the 6 kids in his group (the kids usually find out how they did despite the prohibition). After the race everyone gathers for an award ceremony, where all of the kids in the program get participation medals. My son was more thrilled by the fact that he wasn’t last in his group (he was expecting it because he was so much younger and smaller) than by getting the participation medal. In fact, he asked me why he got a medal since he wasn’t in the top 3 and said that he didn’t deserve it because he was 5th.

    As my screen name implies, I am a runner. I have raced in distances from 5K to full marathons. When I first started running, almost 25 years ago, participants only got medals for distances of a half-marathon or higher. Now that the “trophy for breathing” generation is getting older, I have noticed medals for finishing 10K and even 5K races. There are also a lot more untimed fun runs where everyone gets a medal and there are no overall or age group winners. The 4 race medals that mean the most to me are: 1)the finisher’s medal from my first half-marathon, 2) the finisher’s medal from my first marathon, 3) the 1st place team medal for an on-base 10K race, and 4) a 2nd place in my division medal for a local German race. I always seemed to come up short of the podium in local German races (4th or 5th place), so I was thrilled with being 2nd in my division.

  52. hineata October 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Had a couple of instances since this topic came up that reminded me that kids definitely know the difference between deserved awards of whatever kind and the ‘breathing’ ones. Youngest has been entering an Australasian math competition for years, and has several certificates for either participation or ‘credit’. Those lie around the house gathering dust. Finally cracked the ‘distinction’ level, and this one she has decided to frame – it represents a goal actually met.
    Ditto with Midge, who after a short lifetime of being utterly useless at anything physical, and yet still collecting medals for breathing (which again collect dust) has finally cracked some crazy stunts cheerleading. No trophy yet, but a video in which the coach praises her to the high heavens for getting it together – we have been made to watch it over and over, lol! Means more than a trophy because it represents, again, a difficult goal achieved.

    Bragging mum?? Maybe, lol! 🙂 . But it is so cool to see kids break through their own ‘barriers’ as it were. I see it all the time at school too – kids treasure the ‘rewards’ of whatever kind they get that represent a barrier broken down by sustained effort. That’s what makes the lives of naturally talented kids so difficult, unless we raise the bar for them considerably – that inability to challenge themselves.

  53. Emily October 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    @Gap.Runner–That’s awesome that you’ve been in so many races of varying distances. I wouldn’t disparage fun runs, though, because everybody knows that they’re something completely different and separate from competitive events. I was in a fun run (my first) this past spring, and I got a team T-shirt for participating on the YMCA’s team. I was also offered a general “participant” T-shirt from the Rotary Club, but I didn’t take it, because it was white and see-through. Anyway, it was a beautiful day, and I ran (and walked a bit) with other people from the Y, and had a blast. The only slightly bad thing that happened was, while I was running, a bug flew in my mouth, but that was more funny than anything. But anyway, I don’t have any delusions of being a great athlete or anything, because I know perfectly well that fun runs are just for fun, and exercise, supporting charities. There’s a place for competitive runs, for people who want to challenge themselves by competing against others, and there’s a place for fun runs, for people who aren’t competitive, and also for whom participating in a group run IS the challenge. For some people, fun runs are a “gateway drug” to more competitive events, and other people just stick to doing fun runs every year, without moving on to the “harder stuff,” but I think either one is okay–I mean, both fun runs and competitive runs are primarily aimed at adults, and most mentally competent adults can tell the difference between a medal or trophy for winning (or even finishing) a race, and a medal, T-shirt, or other token for participating in a fun run. I know that my shirt from the fun run isn’t a prize, but it is a nice souvenir of a positive thing I did.

  54. Sarah Batz October 28, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I find this conversation very interesting I want to add a slightly different perspective. I played sports as a young kid, but it wasn’t my thing. I was in band and we only got awards for winningcompetition. When we didn’t do well, it motivated us to try harder.

    now as an adult, I raise poultry. I have gotten into showing in the past couple years. This brings me in contact with kids who are usually in 4-h or FFA who are also into showing. Let me say, both of these programs are good for letting kids in ag have an outlet to learn and grow and show off their dedication and hard work. HOWEVER where there are kids, there are parents. And there are some parents who will buy the best animal stock so their kid can win. There is also a contingency of parents who do all the work instead of making the child do it. AND there are parents who DEMAND every kid get an award.

    For you parents out there who fall in this description, guess what, YOUR KID KNOWS. They know they don’t deserve to win. They know it makes the win less meaningful. They know the other kids resent them for it. They know it’s cheating. Some of them are shamed by it. Some of them don’t care because they didn’t want to be participating to begin with. And then there is a portion who are spoiled rotten horrible children who think they deserve to winn winning because they always win because mommy or daddy spent the majority of their young childhood padding the deck. These children are horrible winners and even worse losers.

    While I do believe very young children should be given acknowledgement of participating – especially in pee wee type leagues, I believe continuing to reward kids for just showing up is more detrimental than helpful. When you, as a club, have to have 10th, 11, 12 etc place ribbons, you really should look inward as to why it is necessary to award every kid.? Are you doing it for the kid or for the parent?