Are We a Trophy Saturated Society?

Christina Cannady, Staff Writer

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Do we give kids too many trophies? The answer is not simply “yes” or “no.” There is actually quite a bit of psychology and studies around this topic. Today, kids are given trophies and awards for showing up to already mandatory school functions, club meetings, and sports events. They are being praised for just simply arriving and are given participation awards for doing seemingly nothing.

My brother and I played many different sports growing up. Between the two of us, we have collected about 30 trophies in total, over half of those were participation trophies.That is an absurd amount of trophies for just two people, but that is the reality of how often kids are praised just for completing the minimum.  Even when we won competitions, we would receive both the winning trophy and a participation trophy.

When kids are given participation trophies, they know that they did not do well enough to get a winner’s trophy, which lowers their confidence. Jonathan Fader wrote in an article in Psychology Today, “Kids are smart, and they know that being handed a participation trophy isn’t the same as winning.” They know the difference between being given a trophy for showing up and receiving a trophy for winning.

When children are given participation trophies, we are giving them false confidence and are showing them that they don’t have to try for an award. They know that if they give a small amount of effort, they won’t have to work for a win because they will always be rewarded with a trophy. This mindset will not help them in the long run. Teaching little kids that they will be rewarded for minimal effort is ineffective and will hurt their future if they continue to think that way.

“Trophies used to be awarded only to winners, but are now little more than party favors,” says Betty Berdan in The New York Times. When I was younger, my sports teams would have small parties at the end of the season. We would all receive the same small plastic trophy, the same cheap certificate with our names on it, and a metal every year.

Do we give kids too many trophies? Yes,  specifically, we give kids to many participation trophies. There is nothing wrong with rewarding a winning team with a nice trophy, but when everyone, the winners and losers, are receiving the same trophy, it takes away the feeling of accomplishment from those who won. One person said on this topic when a youth football team announced they were getting rid of participation trophies, “If everyone is special, then no one is.”