Read my take on this controversial debate below, “Should Every Kid Get a Trophy“, then vote on the fun poll by clicking on the button at the bottom of the page.
During my first year coaching 8th grade football I was blessed to have a player who embodied everything that I wanted to see in a student-athlete. This young man was always the first one to arrive to practices and he was the last one to leave. He was talented, to be sure, but he was also one of the grittiest and most passionate players I have ever seen. He respected his coaches, his parents, his teammates, members of the other team, the officials, the game of football, his teachers, and everybody he interacted with. He never complained, and was always willing to do whatever he could to make the team better. Further, he excelled in the classroom. He is the type of young man that every parent hopes their child becomes. For these reasons I created a Most Valuable Player trophy for him and presented it to him at the end-of-year party. I wanted everyone on my team, as well as the other fall sports teams, to know that this young man is the type of person they should all strive to be. Most of all, I wanted him to know that his exceptional character and efforts did not go unnoticed.
To be sure, there were other fine young man on that football team. However, I believe in the idea that the most exceptional person and/or team should be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments. After all, that is why they put in all the extra hard work to begin with. I am not exactly sure when in our society’s history that sports programs began rewarding anyone and everyone simply because they had signed up to play and participate on a team. I do know that I don’t like it.
There are two main reasons why I do not like the idea that every participant receives a trophy. First, I feel it is dishonest to the kids. The real world is simply not like that. A company may reward it’s top salesperson, for example, with “trophies” of money, prizes, or awards. However, it is extremely unlikely that the same company would provide rewards to every salesperson. It just does not work that way. Therefore it is unfair and dishonest to make kids believe that they will be rewarded for failing when they grow up and acquire jobs.
The second main reason I believe this way is that I feel this practice has promoted a sense of entitlement among the children of our nation. I see this every day as a school teacher. I realize it is a cynical perspective, but I am sadly amazed that even the most lethargic and disrespectful students expect rewards that they have made zero effort to earn. I cannot help but wonder if this is not the result of parents and coaches in our country wanting to make everyone feel like “winners” by providing every participant of every activity with trophies.
When I was growing up, the first place team that got a trophy. Usually, the team that lost in the championship game received a runner-up trophy as well(which was almost worse than receiving no trophy at all). But, that was it. Now, a team can lose every single game, but still receive a trophy. This is simply the wrong message to send to young, developing children.
I am not completely without feeling. I recently attended an 8th grade graduation for a class that had 17 students total. Part of the ceremony included the presentation of awards to students for various accomplishments that they had earned throughout their years. When at first it looked as if only the select few would be receiving awards, I started feeling bad for the ones who had not been called to receive one. I had fallen victim to the trap of wanting every kid to feel like a winner. Then, I thought about my own experiences, and felt good, in a guilty way, that this was occurring. As the same couple students kept getting called up, I thought, “Good for them, and good for the school. These kids earned it, and should not have their rewards cheapened by the reward-everyone system we have become accustomed to.”
Then, it happened. One by one, unfamiliar names were being mixed into the watered-down awards ceremony. Students who clearly had no business on the same pedestal as the others were being given cheap awards that were clearly made up so that no feelings would be hurt. I cringed. And, I actually felt worse for the students who were being given these tokens of pity. It was if they were being called up to do a walk of shame. These students were clearly not achievers, and the awards such as “Best Helper” all but said that. They might as well called the award “Biggest Loser”, because no doubt, that is what snuck into the mind of that particular recipient as he clumsily made his way up to the stage to receive his “reward”. His peers were receiving thousands of dollars and scholarship money, along with other accolades, and he received the “Best Helper” of the class.
Some day soon, a kid just like the “Best Helper” will be in my classroom. Chances are, he will be an underachieving, unappreciative, and disrespectful jerk whom I will give all of my effort and kindness to trying to help. He will refuse my help, time and again. But, when failing grades come, or when he is not able to walk at graduation because he did not do his job, he will unapologetically blame me for not simply giving him the grade, or the honor of graduating. When the reality of the world finally drops down on him, he will be confused and crushed.
Is he to blame? To a degree, of course he is. However, we have conditioned him to think that it is okay to lose. Maybe the reason that today’s children think that all they have to do is show up is because that is all they have had to do their entire life in order to receive some sort of award or trophy. Through our efforts to make every kid feel good, genuine and altruistic as these efforts may be, we have conditioned kids to feel entitled to achievements that they have not earned.
According to Jean Piaget’s child psychology, seven years old is the age where children reach the “concrete operational stage”, and are therefore able to reason. From that point on, I believe it is the responsible action for adults to allow children to experience what it means to lose. Winners should be recognized with trophies, medals, awards, etc. Those who lose, should not. By providing this experience to children as they grow up, I believe we teach them to strive to be the best they can be, which, in the end, creates more long term winners. When we live in a society that rewards every child, regardless of their efforts, we are creating major problems for them as they become adolescents and move into adulthood because they are always used to getting something, regardless of their efforts. If we take these entitlements away, we teach them that they must make their best efforts in life, and that simply showing up is not good enough.
I say take away the trophies-for-all-kids motto. Give trophies to the ones who win. Let the ones who do not get trophies figure out how to deal with the experience of losing. By doing this, we teach kids how to deal with disappointment and to work their hardest for whatever it is they want in life. Do the kids a favor, stop giving them all trophies.
What say you? Am I wrong? Is it right to give all kids trophies (awards, ect.)? Or, am I right? A simple, quick vote on this fun poll allows you to participate in a community voice. So go, vote now by clicking on the button below.
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