| 03.20.2018

Everybody wins – The problem with giving out participation trophies


Sportswriter Grantland Rice once wrote, “It is not whether you win or lose, it”s how you play the game.”

The problem with that is when everybody wins, it completely changes how the game is played.

I recently saw a Kia commercial where a father looks at his son”s football trophy, which stated “Participant” on the plaque, and he thinks to himself, “But we won every game.” So he peels off the plate that said “Participant” and writes “Champs” instead.

I couldn”t help but to think to myself, “Yes. Thank you.”

Mary Malone

My boyfriend”s three boys have spent many years playing soccer, but not this year. Last year, the oldest, who was 12 at the time, was playing the final game of the season championship with his team. It was cold, windy and rainy out. He was just kind of wandering around the field like the rest of his team, not exactly as competitive as would be expected for the final game of the season. One player even yelled out, “Just let them win,” referring to the other team.

They didn”t even try, yet they received the same trophies the other team did and went off to their pizza party. They were rewarded for doing nothing except showing up. They knew they were still going to get their trophies and party, so they gave up and didn”t care about finishing on a strong note. It was unsportsmanlike, and with the existence of participation trophies, this is a problem that will continue.

It is good to be OK with losing. No one can win everything they play, but winning and losing go hand in hand – there needs to be winners and losers in a competition, otherwise it isn”t competitive in the first place. Healthy competition is human nature, and things like participation trophies kind of go against that nature.

It is fine for younger children, but as they get older, kids need to know how it feels to win and how it feels to fail. To coddle them and protect them from this is not real life.

As they grow up, we hope they will succeed, but they are bound to feel failure at some point. They may be turned down from schools and jobs. They are less likely to give up if they know what it means to compete, because real-life competition can be much more brutal than a middle school soccer game. Doing well at something should be rewarded to give the kids a reason to excel and strive to do the best they can.

Dr. Alan Goldberg on competitivedge.com said winners may be ecstatic, confident, haughty or happy, while the loser may feel distraught, angry, sad or inadequate.

“Many athletes, parents and coaches have learned through experience how to successfully ride these strong emotional currents. As a result, their behaviors in response to them are both effective and appropriate,” Goldberg wrote.

Without the experience of these emotions, it is difficult to learn how to control them. As I stated earlier, everyone is bound to feel failure at some point in their life – isn”t it better to teach kids how to properly handle it earlier in life?

When experiencing these emotions, it is important for the parents, but also for the coaches, to help children deal with them. Children must understand that it is not nice to gloat, but losing also isn”t the end of the world and they should never give up.

Failure is the key to success. Refer to Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan or Steve Jobs, all of whom, according to Business Insider, failed, were fired or heard the word “no” countless times before succeeding in their respective fields. But they never gave up.

Mary Malone  can be reached at  arg-opinion@uidaho.edu  or on Twitter @InkSlasherEdit

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