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Jen Harvey
Professor Jackie
English 101
November 2, 2015
Participation Trophies: When the Message is Lost
Constantly rewarding and praising children may affect them
negatively. Participation trophies are given to kids for simply showing
up. These trophies do not symbolize any extra effort put forth by an
individual or an end of season team win. Every child will receive a
trophy no matter the outcome. If trophies are given for no specific
reason or accomplishment, they start to loose their motivational value
and suggest that children do not need improvement in that particular
sport. This practice teaches children at a young age that drive and
dedication do not get them anything extra in life and that there is no
reward for excelling at a particular sport or activity. This may lead to
lack of motivation and the desire to want to better themselves as
individuals and young adults. Children deserve the best possible
guidance and preparation for the future. Participation trophies should
not be given because they may take away the motivational drive in
young individuals.
There is a lack of motivation in children that are constantly
rewarded. Ashley Merryman has been studying the effects of rewards
on children for many years. The science is clear. Awards can be

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powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children
to succeed. Instead, it can cause them to underachieve(Merryman,
A29). Merryman suggests that loosing may actually benefit children in
the future (Merryman, A29). The participation trophies that are given
out by many organizations are constant reminders to children that they
didnt make any mistakes and reassuring them they do not need
improvement anywhere.
When children reach a certain age, they may understand that
they are not as good as some other children. Our job as parents is not
to sugar coat our childrens faults with constant praising but rather
point out their weak points and help to improve them. Nancy Armour
states, No wonder study after study has shown millennials, the first of
the trophy generation, are stressed out and depressed. They were sold
a bill of goods when they were kids, and discovering that the harsh
realities of life apply to them, too, had to have been like a punch to the
gut (Armour, Sports2). Preparation is key is life and everything we do
prepares us for something in the future. Dedication, discipline and
promptness are big in the professional work field as well as life in
Most things in life are earned. Individuals must set goals and use
their motivation to set out and achieve what they desire. The constant
rewarding takes away motivation in young individuals and can make
challenges later in life more difficult. Merryman states in her Losing Is

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Good for You article, Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at
Stanford University, found that kids respond positively to praise; they
enjoy hearing that theyre talented, smart and so on. But after such
praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of
difficulty (Merryman, A29). Everyone needs some motivation in life
but an overkill of rewards may not benefit them. Being prepared for
real life challenges certainly will benefit them. When children are told
so often how good they are and receive an abundant amount of
rewards they often begin to expect rewards for everything.
When children are over-praised, often they develop a sense of
entitlement. The participation trophies may actually be part of a larger
societal issue. The living room full of trophies lets the kids know its ok
to show up. This type of behavior stays with them through college and
into the work force (Merryman, A29).
Entitlement is generally not looked upon as a good quality to
have in the workforce. Employers look for young dedicated individuals.
They look for leaders and for employees that are able to face
challenges and conquer them. Although children will not enter the
workforce for years to come, getting them in the habit early on can
only benefit them.
There are many studies on entitlement and the effects these
trophies have had on the millennial generation. We need to guide
our children away from any harmful practices that could lead to

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character traits such as entitlement. If we let our children believe at
an early age that they are entitled to rewards for showing up, they will
expect to be rewarded all the time thus leading to disappointments
later in life. When children are taught at an early age to be motivated
and that they are not always winners, they will be better prepared for
obstacles later on. They will not feel entitled to a reward or promotion
for showing up. Kids need motivation not constant praising.
Some parents argue that these participation trophies are not that
serious. They say the trophies are pretty much a reminder of some
good times shared with friends. Some parents believe that the
trophies get lost after a while and hold no real value. Donnie Collins
speaks from personal experience, They were something to smile at in
the dead of winter. My kids never treated their trophies like the Vince
Lombardi Trophy. Ive never met one kid, as a writer, as a parent or as
a youth coach, who bragged about his or her participation trophy.
Donnie makes a valid point here, however, every parent is
different. Some see the participation trophies as a reminder of fun and
friends, like Donnie. While others see it as a way to remind their child
how great they are. There is a difference between being a parent who
is proud of their childs accomplishments and a parent who has a child
that can do no wrong. These parents believe their child is the closest
thing to perfect. They completely miss the purpose of the game.

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There may be a compromise when it comes to participation
trophies. These trophies are not entirely a bad idea. Every child
deserves some motivation in life as well as adults. Merryman gives an
example of a solution as if she were a coach. She suggested giving a
few specific trophies in areas of overall performance, improvement and
sportsmanship. She states, They would know from the get-go that
excellence, improvement, character and persistence were valued
(Merryman, A29). The key is to motivate while recognizing and
improving weak areas. Parents need to be aware of what it is they are
rewarding their children for. It is okay to reward children but they must
also be made aware of their faults. Children should have fun with the
sports they play but learn discipline, motivation and eventually, when
age permits, the difference between winning and losing.
Children are undoubtedly our future and they deserve the best
preparation possible. Positive feedback is good but too much can be
harmful. We want to teach children from an early age how important
character, dedication and improvement are in todays society. It is
important to recognize completed activities and to teach kids to follow
through on the things they do in order to reach their goals. They
should, however, learn the difference between participating in an
activity and excelling at it. Children may lack the desire to win
because in their eyes, whether they win or just show up, the same
result will be achieved. Parents ultimately need to step up and guide

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their children in the right direction and stop over-praising them. They
need to let the mistakes happen and help their children learn from
them. Better preparation in our youth can only benefit our society.
There are too many organizations and not enough supporters to
put an end to participation trophies completely and I do not believe
that is the best answer at this point.

I do believe that young children

can be given these trophies without causing them harm and that there
is no reason to rid of them completely. It is up to the organizations and
parents of the children involved to be more aware of sending the
wrong message to their kids. If these trophies werent given as often
or limited to specific accomplishments as Merryman suggested earlier,
children would learn to appreciate valuable character traits such as
motivation and determination. Ultimately, when children possess
these qualities, they tend to face challenges with more confidence and
carry that with them into adulthood.

Works Cited

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Merryman, Ashley. Losing Is Good for You. The New York Times 24,
Sept 2015:
A29. Print.
Armour, Nancy. Participation Awards Do Disservice. USA Today 18
Sept 2015: Sports 2. Print.
Collins, Donnie. Participation Trophies Hardly a Societal Scourge. The
Tribune 19 Aug 2015: Print.