A reader sends the above video:
I’m firmly with those who feel that “trophies for everyone” devalues achievement. It also lessens the drive that comes from a “Just Wait ‘Til Next Year” mentality. But don’t take my word. Tanner and Timmy Lupus can demonstrate.
Another argues that the evidence supports the opposite approach:
We probably should be awarding trophies based on effort, not performance. The well-established psychological research of Carol Dweck and others says that kids will continue to work hard if they believe that hard work pays off, but they will give up easily if they have a fixed theory of ability, meaning they think they are either innately good or bad at something. Kids with an fixed theory of ability give up when they encounter obstacles because they assume that they are just innately bad at that particular task. These mentalities persist into adulthood. This is why we should reward kids for their efforts and praise them for trying hard: it will encourage them and helps build resilience.
That doesn’t mean that showing up is trying and therefore trophy-worthy. But it’s unclear to me why the anti-trophy crowd wants to reinforce awards in a manner that we know is bad for kids’ development.
More readers continue the popular discussion:
I find it odd that many of the parents writing in want to celebrate their kids success by taking away the other kids’ trophies.
My kid is introverted and isn’t super talented, so just getting him to participate is a struggle sometimes. Having some of his teammates get trophies and leaving him out will just discourage him even more. And for what, some life lesson? Give me a break. He’ll learn soon enough that life is hard and unfair. I didn’t sign him up for that purpose; I signed him up so he could get some exercise and develop his social skills. So please leave him and his trophy alone. Taking it away won’t somehow make it easier for your kid to be an Olympian.
Another makes an important point:
There’s a huge difference between giving trophies to everyone on a high-school team and on a team of six-year-olds. For younger children, athletic prowess is difficult to measure. Dribbling a few feet down the soccer field is beyond most of the kids. Most of the goals I’ve seen have been scored by fluke. For very young children, showing up to every practice, participating in the drills and not running off the field crying truly is something that deserves a trophy. There’s plenty of time to introduce them to the Darwinian world of sports when they’re older.
Another sighs, “The whining about giving participation trophies drives me nuts”:
I generally hear it from people who have never coached kids – and sometimes from those who don’t even have kids. I’d like to add a few points to the discussion. First, in my experience, participation trophies are only given out at a very young age. By the time my kids were nine, they had stopped receiving participation trophies for swimming and soccer (their two primary sports). They’ve got plenty of time left to figure out – as if they haven’t already – that most rewards are earned.
Second, as someone who has (briefly) coached youth sports, I can tell you that “thanks for showing up” is a sincere sentiment. In the context of team sports, you need all the kids you can get. No one can field a team of only the superstar eight-year-olds, let alone a whole league. There aren’t that many of them. You need the mediocre (and worse) kids to show up, or little Jimmy superstar is going to be sitting around without a league to play in. In that sense, every kid on the team is valuable. And you want as many of these kids to stick with these sports for as long as you can. The kid who looked like a future superstar at six may have stopped improving (or growing) by 10. Or he’s lost interest. And the kid who sucked at six may be a superstar at 12 or 14 or 16. Trying to weed these kids out early is a terrible idea.
Third, in an age when childhood obesity is an increasing problem, showing up and playing, even if not particularly well, should be encouraged in any way possible. Very young kids frequently need motivation. Parenting young children is all about motivating beneficial behavior. What’s wrong with using a cheap trophy to (ideally) spark an interest in sports? If a trophy (or a ball personalized by the coaching staff, which is an excellent idea some of my kids coaches have also used) keeps these kids coming out to play, it’s well worth it.
Many readers jumped on the last one in the previous post. One of the kinder emails:
What this dad doesn’t get is that a talent show is a show, not a competition, despite what years of American Idol may make people believe. While the applause is the extrinsic reward for the young artists’ performance (hopefully on top of the intrinsic reward of art for art’s sake), it is your applause that matters, not who got applause louder than yours at curtain call. Any real performer would feel revulsion at the very suggestion.
And since this is about young people, remember that the teacher had students on stage AND in the audience. Just artists need to learn how to be good artists, young audience members need to learn how to be good audience members, so I have no qualms about the teacher instructing the kids on applause.
Finally, a dad who is upset not even that his daughter’s applause wasn’t sufficient, but that applause for other acts was too generous and devaluing his daughter’s performance? And who is teaching his daughter that lesson? Well, I’ve got a trophy for him, and I know exactly where he can put it. To thunderous applause.