The Great Debate: Participation Trophies
This is the first in a series of posts on issues that are "up for debate" in youth and high school sports. We invite you to read and then post your own thoughts in the comments. By engaging in discussion, we can learn from each other and work to provide the best experience possible for our kids.
At Play Like a Champion, we believe that participation in youth sports has tremendous benefits. A core part of our mission is to research and provide educational programs that help provide safe and fun opportunities for all children to participate in youth sport; regardless of who a child is, where they live, or their athletic skill or ability. While there's still plenty of work that needs to be done in many communities to actually provide these opportunities, it's safe to say that this main premise is not controversial: if you're reading this you likely agree.
It's after children start participating that the differences of opinion begin to emerge. There are countless opinions on how sports should be structured or taught to provide the best experience for the children involved. Play Like a Champion has shown that research and education demonstrate certain "truths" in regards to maximizing the experience and benefit, but there are also still plenty of areas with room for debate.
In many ways, the debate over whether or not to provide participation trophies offers a fascinating expression of several issues facing youth sports in today's culture. Once a simple decision by a league or coach, it has now become fodder for national debate. For better or worse, the decision of whether or not to provide participation trophies in a league seems now less a matter of practical preference and more a statement on one's philosophy regarding youth sports competition.
On the one side, participation trophies are seen to promote positive self-esteem among young athletes and encourage their continued participation. They are viewed as an opportunity to show that youth sports are about more than winning and losing while celebrating the contributions of everyone involved. On the other side, opponents of these awards often share concerns that creating a culture where "everyone wins" fails to properly develop children. While still recognizing that the child's participation is good, those against participation trophies suggest that this practice undercuts several valuable lessons: among them dealing with failure and learning the value of hard work. They argue that giving awards without merit does more harm than good.
Now we want to know what you think! Do you provide participation trophies for your league or team? Why or why not? What has been your experience with this issue? Share your thoughts in the comments here and join the conversation on this issue!
We're look forward to your insight and thoughts. We'll be sure to follow-up on this debate in future posts as new thoughts and information helps inform the conversation.