The Great Participation Trophy Debate

Smarter and Harder

Participation trophies, the small awards usually given to kids after finishing a seasonal sport, are a matter of some debate.

The biggest objection to giving out these awards is that they encourage entitlement and laziness, and reduce kids' motivation to succeed.

This argument has become a common rallying symbol in many matters of discontentment toward younger age groups.

As a result, the phrase "participation trophy generation" is now a common pejorative for accusing kids and young adults of lazy, entitled behavior.

But a closer look at the participation trophy debacle tells a wholly different story.

Kids are smart. They can tell the difference between winning a championship and finishing a season. There is no evidence that participation awards discourage competition.

On the other hand, there are several clear, measurable benefits to the practice. And they don't get nearly as much attention as the objections.

Rewarding effort and participation creates a positive association with putting in the work of being on a team, and encourages kids to keep trying.

Children who find the experience of practicing and showing up more rewarding are more likely to keep going and deepen their skills over time.

At the same time, it is possible to go too far in coddling kids and protecting them from discomforts such as losing, which can stifle their growth.

All in all, it's great to celebrate children for their participation, effort, and growth, as long as it doesn't prohibit them from experiencing the ups and downs of life.

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