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Hugh Kennedy

Mrs. Cramer

Comp Pd. 8

16 Nov. 2018

Should Participation Trophies Exist

One can almost guarantee that some time throughout someone’s childhood they were

awarded a participation trophy. These kinds of awards are in every sort of competition in modern

times. People would most often see them in sports such as little league, youth soccer, and youth

basketball programs; but they can also find them in new technology and modern competitions

such as school robotics and education events for example, a spelling bee. Whether one would

believe this statement or not, that trophy could have somehow, some way influenced a part of

that person’s life. Read further to understand what exactly a participation trophy is, the negative

impacts of them, and overall mental impact of why they should not be awarded in youth sports or

other activities.

First of all, what is a participation trophy? According to “Trophy Overload” and Ashely

Merryman a participation trophy is an award given to every participant in an event just for the

fact of showing up and being there. These awards are mainly given in competitions focused

around kids but have begun to be used in more mature leagues as well. Previously in history,

trophies were only awarded to the highest ranked and most talented athletes in competitions for

instance, in the Olympics (early on and now), medals are only awarded to the top three placing

athletes; first place receives a gold medal, second gets a silver medal, and a bronze medal is

given to the third-place participant. At no point does any competitor in any on the Olympic

events receive a participation award. But starting in the 1960s, trophies became mass produced
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and the mindset of “everyone’s a winner!” began and with it, the custom of participation

trophies. Awards for participation did not always have to be physical trophies either. Kids could

be provided with just a common award like a high five at the end of a game could be considered

a participation trophy. That is what a participation trophy is.

Next, there are negative effects to these awards. Youth sports leagues have been

beginning to see the negative effects of providing every participant with their own participation

trophies according to Merryman’s, “Losing is Good for You”. An example of a negative effects

could include people who were awarded these having false hope of accomplishment in their lives

after receiving awards for the mere action of being on a team. This would lead the recipient of

the award to view the world as an easy place to get what they want when they want, when in

reality, that expectation is not realistic. Another example includes how people who have grown

up with being awarded participation trophies have a sense of being better than others because of

the illusion of accomplishment when being awarded participation trophies. This makes

cooperation with these people more difficult because of growing stubbornness and ignorance

toward others. A study by Emylee Anderson and Aaron Buchko showed that constant and

consistent negative feedback has shown to motivate and sometimes benefit current generations in

sports and activities. The providing of participation trophies limits this negative feedback and

doesn’t allow the personal growth children needed. These are the negative effects of participation


Now, how does this have an impact on people mentally. A study conducted by Sarah

Donaldson and Kevin Ronan shows that children’s motives throughout youth sports and even in

their daily lives are manipulated by the awarding of participation trophies. It showed that a kid is

less likely to perform tasks and chores such as taking out the garbage and cleaning dishes when

he/she know that he/she will only be mildly awarded. The children believed they would be
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mildly awarded due to them receiving participation trophies in sports and them realizing that

those trophies truly don’t have a large meaning of accomplishment. Children’s motives were

dependent on how often they were awarded something with meaning. This also directly

influenced their competence according to Klint Kimberley and Maureen Weiss. A similar study

made apparent that when children’s motives were not supported they seemed to be less

cooperative and more stubborn. Youth sports participation directly relates to the well-being and

emotional support of children. It was shown that the more children participated in their youth

sports, the more confident they became, and they were found to be better at socializing. Their

participation should not be awarded as an incredible achievement with a trophy but more

appreciated with a simple “Good job!” and other phrases like that (Penny McCullagh, Karen

Matzkanin, Susan Shaw, Marcela Maldonado). That’s the mental impact of the awards.

In conclusion, the previous paragraphs have gone in depth into why participation trophies

should not be awarded in youth sports and activities. It has explained what exactly a participation

trophy is, the negative effects of participation trophies in competitions, and the mental impact the

awards have on children and adults alike. After reading through, one could think back to a

participation trophy they were awarded in their life and think how it could have influenced

decisions in their life and how it may have shaped their personality.
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Works Cited

Merryman, Ashely. “Losing Is Good for You.” Top Dog 24 Sept. 2013 1-2. Print.

Emylee Anderson, Aaron A. Buchko, Kathleen J. Buchko, (2016) "Giving negative feedback to

Millennials: How can managers criticize the “most praised” generation" Abstract.

Management Research Review, Vol. 39 Issue: 6, pp.692-705, Print.

"Trophy overload." Pediatrics, May 2005, p. 1298. Academic OneFile, Print.

Penny McCullagh, Karen T. Matzkanin, Susan D. Shaw, Marcela Maldonado. “Motivation for

Participation in Physical Activity: A Comparison of Parent–Child Perceived

Competencies and Participation Motives.” Abstract. Human Kinetics Journal (1993)


Kimberley A. Klint, Maureen R. Weiss. “Perceived Competence and Motives for Participating in

Youth Sports: A Test of Harter's Competence Motivation Theory.” Abstract. Human

Kinetics Journal (1987) Print.

Donaldson, Sarah J., and Kevin R. Ronan. "The Effects of Sports Participation on

Young Adolescents Emotional Well-Being." Adolescence, vol. 41, no. 162, pp.

369-89. Adolescence, vol. 41, no. 162, pp. 369-89. Abstract. Print.