As a kid, I played sports. I was involved in soccer and softball. Every year, I was so excited to get out on that field and show everyone what I was made of. I worked hard all season in both sports to come away with a recognition of my hard work.
When it came time for awards at the end of the season, I was always so disappointed when I was handed yet another generic trophy that the entire team got. I would go home and stuff it in a drawer. Even at that age, I knew that the trophy didn’t reflect the hard work I had put in, but only the fact that I had showed up.
This is the problem with participation trophies. I think that they're an early start to a lousy work ethic. While it's good to be proud of children for everything they take part in, not everything deserves a trophy.
Even top athletes feel they're a joke. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison actually took away his sons’ participation trophies. While this may seem harsh to some, he had the right idea in mind. “I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best... because sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better.”
Personally, I was always taught to try my best. I was told that not everyone is good at everything, but if you try your best, you should be satisfied. This was not comforting to me. Seeing other people walk away with awards, and not me, made me hungry for success.
I learned to push myself more than I knew possible in hopes I would come out on top. If I wasn’t on top, I tried harder. I didn’t let failure defeat me. I let it make me stronger.
This is true not only in athletics, but also in academics. I strived for greatness in my grades. If I didn't receive recognition for my work, that was a sign that I wasn’t doing well enough. While it may seem tough, it's important to keep in mind that life is tough.
No one just hands anyone a job or a nice house. It's all based on work ethic and the drive to be the best you can be. I don't think this creates cocky monsters, rather, people who know what it is to do something and give 110 percent.
Participation trophies have been debated so much that research has been done on them. In a New York Times article, it is said that Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stamford University, found that “kids respond positively to praise; they enjoy hearing that they’re talented, smart and so on. But after such praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of difficulty. Demoralized by their failure, they say they’d rather cheat than risk failing again.”
The last thing that we want to do is make kids cheat to feel like they have done well. Participation trophies are nothing but tools that are intended to do good, but ultimately, they result in entitled children who don’t know the meaning of hard work. While no one likes to fail, it's necessary. Everyone who has ever succeeded knows failure, and that is a fact. This goes to show that failure doesn’t mean defeat, it only gives more reason to strive for success.
We need to keep failure as the path to success in mind. We need to teach kids to fall down seven times and stand up eight, instead of cradling them so falling down isn’t an option.
It's time to recognize that children have amazing potential and to bring it out of them with hard work, and by awarding only those who work the hardest for it, not those who just get by. With only awarding those at the top, it will give those at the bottom something to strive for and give them the ability to become amazing.