When I was no more than four or five years years old, my father and I played football together on the living room carpet. I would try and score, and time after time I would be stopped. I would cry, scream and throw myself on the floor in tantrums of frustration. My mother would sigh. “Why can’t you just let him win?” My mom would ask. “Because,” he’d say. “He has to learn how to lose.” If I ever wanted to win, I was going to have to earn it.
In life, losing is inevitable. Everyone loses from time to time. Whether it’s not getting into a certain college, striking out with girl or guy you liked or anything in between, we all take losses. In both life and sports, you learn, not from winning, but from losing. If nobody ever failed, there would be no motivation to succeed. So how can kids learn from losing when they’re being made to believe that they’ve won all the time?
Participation trophies in youth sports are like a cancer, spreading throughout our society and ruining the beauty of competition. It’s a joke and quite frankly an embarrassment that the baseball team who won the championship game and the team that went 0-15 receive the exact same award at the end of the season. People argue that awards such as these build a kid’s confidence, but it’s a false sense of confidence. Participation trophies are helping mold a generation into an entitled and, unmotivated group of young people.
Participation trophies eliminate all sense of competition. If “everyone always wins,” then there’s no motivation to get better. Throughout life, competition lives at every doorstep. When applying for a job, not everyone is hired because “everyone’s a winner,” there’s one winner, and that’s it. Kids who grow up receiving participation trophies feel a sense of entitlement towards that job position when, in reality, they don’t deserve it.
More than anything, winning is a feeling all kids should experience at one time or another. However, if you never lose, then you really never win either. Had I never felt the pain of losing the championship game for my team after botching a ground ball, then I never would’ve been able to feel the joy of hoisting the championship trophy with my baseball team the next year. In both life and in sports, there’s always sunshine after the storm. You learn from failures and losses and build upon them to get better and eventually succeed. But if you’re taught that you can never fail, then you never feel the joy of truly succeeding.
Participation trophies also send a message to the kids that do win. Seeing that their hard work didn’t pay off and earn them anything more than the kids who did not, those kids will then lose motivation to work hard and succeed in life.
At the end of the day, “trying your best” isn’t always good enough. Kids shouldn’t be rewarded for simply showing up and trying. The concept is simple. Winners get trophies, losers don’t. As the great Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything…it’s the only thing.”