Are Participation Trophies Making Us Entitled? | Teen Ink

Are Participation Trophies Making Us Entitled?

May 27, 2021
By Kiley-Siedelberg BRONZE, Wauconda, Illinois
Kiley-Siedelberg BRONZE, Wauconda, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

~Inspired by “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr

“These are just some of the 263 trophies and medals my Violet has won” Mrs. Beauregarde declared to the new competition. Asserting her presumed role of superiority, Violet Beauregard remarked,

         “So it says that one kid's gonna get this special prize, better than all the rest. I don't care who those other four are. That kid, it's gonna be me”.

          “Tell them why Violet” Mrs. Beauregarde suggested,

          “Because I'm a winner!” boasted young Violet (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory).

         I remember being the kid who never won the BINGO game competitions, I never got the star sticker of approval that says “hey you just won a game of sheer luck” or “congrats you tried!”, instead I got nothing. After defeat in an elementary school game, we moved on with our lives, and learned the lesson that “life isn’t fair” and “you win some you lose some”.  Now seeing a change in times between my younger self and younger siblings now, I can see the shift of entitlement. After spelling bees, coloring contest, soccer games, you name it-- a participation trophy can be seen at the end of a table, one for each and every participant, no matter the effort put in nor the outcome of the challenge--everyone is celebrated, praised, and congratulated, and  for just being there.  

         I think I have picked up on a rising trend. For years now I have observed youth baseball games, cheer competitions, art shows, lacrosse tournaments, football games, dance competitions, and many more. I can see the excitement on youngsters' faces when they catch a glimpse of the trophy table, and  how they converse about it with their friends and family; it gets them hyped up.  Mental health, in recent years, has become a pressing issue in adolescents, and has been spoken about more & more as advocates press for changes in society. This has caused more parents to become increasingly more concerned for their child's feelings towards losing a game, and are worried that if a child is too sensitive they will get emotionally hurt. (Obviously because too many of us pre-participation trophy generations are still thinking about how upset we were from losing a dodgeball in the fifth grade)

        For my family and others, participation trophies are an expanding concept, which excites the kiddos; however it may not be preparing them for the real world. Participation trophies inevitably do get kids more excited to participate, knowing they will be indefinitely rewarded; as Woody Allen once said “ If 80 Percent of Success Is Showing Up Then 20 Percent Is Following up. The excuses are many, but the solution is surprisingly simple”, so essentially the trophies are giving something.  Kids’ are pure, they haven’t yet learned the ways of the world, and how things work; as parents, they want to shelter their children away from the big dark scary world; however by grooming and sheltering them, it is only hurting them. By waltzing into any competition--and by adulthood almost everything is-- winning and being congratulated is not a destined part of the experience for everyone. By training a child to expect to receive an award for just showing up or being present, it follows them later in life; which can lead to increased entitlement in an individual. These kids grow to think that they deserve something from someone for doing a favor, yet that is not how the world works, which in turn hurts them in adulthood. Sports psychologist Dan Gould has found that “If the trophy is not earned, you’re probably going to hurt their motivation. For rewards to work they need to be earned. If you’re trying to increase a kid’s motivation, emphasize health or emphasize how fun it is to move or play ball”. Participation awards form developed designated outlooks in life, which drives kids (who become adult members of society) to expect rewards for doing simple tasks. As the generations pass and more and more participation trophies are given, we shift from being the honey bees to hungry bear.

The author's comments:

I am a junior in highschool and one of nine siblings; we have all grown to be very active in sports. Over the yeras I've noticed a shift in the model of youth sports and wrote this immitation as a apart of class. 

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