you are likely aware, there is a battle going on right now about
recognizing participation. It’s the trophies for all debate… the
not keeping score debate… the everyone gets hugs and no lowers
here debate… and it has been going on for several years.
out this quote…
it’s been rather trendy to be negative toward participation
awards and to blame them for kids feeling entitled or not learning
to be competitive. But what’s really causing that? Is it really
a participation award or the environment they’re living in?
You know, entitlement predates participation awards.”
from this article in USA Today by Josh Peter.
an interesting question. It’s hard to blame a ribbon… a medal…
a trophy… awarded for playing a sport or competing in a contest
as, on its own, causing a shift in society’s behavior.
another quote from that same article…
there anything wrong with giving a medal or a token that says,
‘Good job. You participated. You did something good.’ I don’t
think there’s anything wrong with it.”
there you have another good point. We often see the wonderful,
proud moments found in telling competitors that they did their
best even if not victorious.
you ready for the surprise?
my opinions… more on those in a second… there is something very
funny in this article. See… Peters is discussing a recent event
where a professional athlete went off on participation awards
his children had received. And those quotes above… I know you’re
going to be stunned… they come from trophy makers. Yes, indeed,
absolutely… the groups supporting the idea of awarding all participants
a trophy are the groups that manufacture and sell the trophies.
that shouldn’t surprise us. Any debate will involve, in high and
low concentrations levels, biased participants. But there are
a few ways of handling biased participants.
-- It gets done obviously and openly.
we have a debate about foods, and the issue begins earning significant
attention… let’s say sugary beverages or healthy meals as an
example… I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see soft
drink makers approached for their opinions, Twitter and Facebook
posts from fast food outlets, and other companies that all seem
to support the freedoms of choice, applaud their product lines,
and in general debate the results of any damaging research.
it’s right there… we know exactly what these industry-types
would say, and quite honestly, in defending their brands what
they should say. No one is surprised when they come out supporting
the products they produce.
you hope for is that some changes come along from such discussion.
Fast food establishments offering apple slices instead of fries…
people drinking water and other options more often and lowering
the amount of sugary drinks… and other general ideas, where
we can find that even when a discussion takes place featuring
openly partial groups there is some way to see improvements.
-- The connections and interests are kept completely hidden
independent voices are brought in, and only if you take the
time to investigate them will you find out where funding is
raised… the personal beliefs of senior management and ownership
that is conveyed as almost a mission statement, even though
the name of the group sees fair and balanced.
back to the central idea of this essay, I simply love how the
supporting of participation awards in the linked article is left
solely to manufactures of participation awards. Seriously… go
read the article. Every person identified as a supporter of participation
awards… every person cited that says they are a great idea… is
employed in some way by the industry of producing awards.
ok… my opinion…
don’t like participation awards.
I was younger, there was a reason that a select group of kids
was wearing team jackets. They had earned them. They had won them.
I think practices such as not keeping score, or generically handing
out trophies for showing up… well… more often than not such efforts
miss the mark.
is something much more important that I think doesn’t get mentioned
at all… and that is the other ways participation and accomplishments
can be recognized.
of the leagues I joined in younger days often used uniforms as
an award of sorts… t-shirts for the players that stayed with you
at the end rather than a uniform that needed to be turned in.
few coaches of mine took the time to have team dinners… usually
pizza parties or some other relatively low cost event… at the
end of the season. And there, team awards were given for things
like most valuable, most improved, most supportive and so on.
I remember those as amazing evenings and gatherings… I don’t recall
us being disappointed if we hadn’t won the league championship…
don’t recall it as being half-hearted… I recall them as celebrations.
Our team celebrations.
I am saying is that generally the best encouragement, and most
meaningful awards, are unexpected and unsolicited. Children are
far more intelligent than we normally give them credit for being.
They observe things. They form opinions. They have emotional reactions.
Same as us. They are acutely aware of the praise and support they
receive, and I am certain they know the score of the game they
are playing and when a trophy has been handed to them for nothing.
short -- It is my opinion that these trophies far too often aren’t
for the participants… they’re for the parents. It’s a way of feeling
better because the award can be pointed out, with every-child-here-a-winner
claims made and defended. And yet, once again, it’s a defense
filled with biased participants.
you… I’m not against rewarding, recognizing, and celebrating participation.
If you want to give a participation trophy, go ahead. All I can
hope is that we find a way to make it meaningful… not something
adults celebrate while patting themselves on the back for their
thoughtfulness… not something that is automatic after paying a
of us are entitled to a trophy for anything. Hopefully though,
when they are awarded, we can find ways to give those trophies