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  1. #1
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    Should Kids Get A Trophy For Showing Up?

    Should Kids Get A Trophy For Showing Up?
    by Cory Turner
    August 09, 2014





    Talk about a spirited debate ...

    Just Google the question, "Should kids get trophies for participation?", and the first page yields headlines like "Losing Is Good For You" and "Hell YES all the little league kids should get trophies!"
    I remember collecting a shelf full of participation trophies from years of playing YMCA soccer. Did they make me who I am ... or spoil me rotten?

    On the 'No' Side

    "No," says Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck. Kids should not be given trophies simply for participating, she says. Dweck explains her answer with an anecdote from a mother she'd recently spoken to.

    "Her daughter rarely showed up for her soccer team. She had a terrible attitude," Dweck says. In spite of that, "at the end she got a giant trophy and would have been devastated had she not."

    Dweck concedes a child shouldn't have to be the best player on the field to get a trophy, but it should reward something, like improvement or team spirit.

    Next up: Susan Harter, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Denver.
    "What do I think about that? I think it's a little bit excessive," Harter says, leaning toward No. Instead of a firm No, though, she re-frames my question: "At what time of [a child's] life do we want to bring home the cruel reality that somebody's better than somebody else?"

    "At what time of [a child's] life do we want to bring home the cruel reality that somebody's better than somebody else?"

    I got a lot of questions-as-answers to my unanswerable question. Like this one from Tovah Klein, author of the book, How Toddlers Thrive: "You know, I'm always thinking about, 'What is that debate really about?' Do you really care if everybody gets a trophy?"

    Klein says kids should play because they enjoy playing. She argues, play should be intrinsically rewarding and that "[kids] don't need an adult saying, 'You get a trophy because you played well today.' "

    So far, the score is roughly 3-0. Is there no one out there willing to argue on behalf of the humble participation trophy?

    The 'Yes' Votes

    Kenneth Barish, a clinical associate professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College, isn't afraid to say it: He thinks kids should get trophies for participation. "This is a minority view now," he says with a laugh, admitting that he's had to defend the idea even within his own family.

    Barish says he sees no harm in adults encouraging participation with a trophy and that he's found no evidence the practice leads to entitlement among kids.

    "It may be all they get," says Jorge Perez, vice president of youth development and social responsibility for the YMCA, another Yes vote. The Y has made a habit of giving participation trophies, he explains, "because we want to anchor the experience."

    A few years back, Perez says, several young men visited him with YMCA baseball trophies they'd received as kids. And these weren't fancy, first place trophies. They were "tiny," given simply for participating. But the men had kept them and clearly valued them. Perez argues these trophies act as an important marker, to say 'I did this, I finished this.' "

    "That's why those kids hold onto those trophies," Perez says. "That's why Mom doesn't throw them away."

    Wait. She doesn't?

    The Basement

    And that's when it occurred to me: I don't know what happened to my shelf-full of participation trophies. If they'd been important to me or my mom ? markers, as Perez says ? I would presumably know where they are.

    "I went down in the basement," my mother tells me after I call and ask if she knows what happened to the trophies. "I was appalled at the number of boxes that have your name on them. And none of them said 'Trophies.' "

    She insists I threw the awards away years ago ? because they didn't mean anything to me. But then she surprises me by telling me she did find one ... not a trophy at all.

    "A dark, plum-colored ribbon with gold print on it that says 'Decatur YMCA Soccer, Participant, 1983.' "

    I would have been 7 years old, and this is likely my very first award for participation. I have no idea how it survived for three decades ? whether I saved it or my mother scooped it out of the dust bin years ago ? but it did, this fragile little ribbon. And so I'm inclined to make that another Yes vote in the participation debate.

    Which means ... we have a tie. No winner, no loser.

    Trophies for everyone.

    Or not.

  2. #2
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    Re: Should Kids Get A Trophy For Showing Up?

    No, I do not think kids should get a trophy for showing up although I do think they should get some form of recognition. I have worked with children and teens in sports mainly as a volunteer but also as a parent rep, an assistant coach, and as a manager. I am not even sure if I am in favour of competitive sports although my boys practiced hard and played hard because they enjoyed it. I always stressed cooperative competition which seems like a contradiction and certainly went against the norm. There is also the practicality and the expense - with the leagues I worked with if every player had received a trophy that would have been thousands of trophies every year. I am sure some trophies are treasured but eventually they gather dust somewhere and disappear. I hope the fun and the good memories are never forgotten. I could write some very interesting stories from my experience with minor sports and trophies would play only a small role.

  3. #3
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    Re: Should Kids Get A Trophy For Showing Up?

    If everyone gets a trophy, what is the point of having trophies at all?

  4. #4
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    Re: Should Kids Get A Trophy For Showing Up?

    I too think that the emphasis should be on having fun and enjoying the game

    My kids joined sports when they were very young that had NO trophies it was set up for all to come to enjoy not to worry about who won or failed just to have the experiance of being on a team.

    That is how a child gets to know i think what sports interest them.

    There were no fees for joining just neighborhood children set up in different groups of ages and children played just played no stress involved.
    NO trophies is the best way to go
    Words always stay inside ones soul

  5. #5
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    Re: Should Kids Get A Trophy For Showing Up?

    Exactly what we are killing our kid's drive with, giving where it is not deserved. Took me a long time to understand this cause I want to praise my son for every little thing and failed to see how I am breaking him down at the same time.

    Life is tuff, we need to strive to be better and know when we are not so we can work at it.

    Thank you for the article Dr. Baxter, this is one issue I am personally struggling with in my parenting.

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