Stop Awarding Trophies to Everyone [Let Them Lose]

No!  Your Kid Does Not Deserve a Trophy [Go Ahead, Get Mad]

This will probably piss off some parents, but it needs to be said.  You might not like me much after this.  You may not have even liked me before.

I don’t really care.  Well, I do a little.

A recent poll was taken in a dad only Facebook group. It revealed that an overwhelming 87% of dads are not in favor of awarding trophies to everyone participating in a team or individual sport.

It’s not exactly a Quinnipiac poll but I believe it might be more honest.  Some of the comments were a lot more colorful than my blog post will be.

Let’s Start with an Example

Stop Awarding Trophies to Everyone

I have been coaching my son in baseball for 4 years.  He is now 8.  We started in t-ball.  He is now ready to move up to kid pitch.  In fact, he’s more than ready.

He’s had extra training thanks to Ultimate Sports and the Hartford Yard Goats, and he almost always excels at the game.  He tends to play middle infield and is pretty good at it.  He’s an even better hitter.

When He Focuses!  Now pay attention…

I usually have 12-13 kids on a team.  At this age, they all play.  They all get to hit.  They all play in the field.

After every game, I award a game ball.  The game ball is not necessarily the best player that day.  It might be the one who played the hardest, had the best attitude, improved the most or made a key play.  These things usually tie together so it’s usually not hard to determine who will get the game ball by the end of the game.

I confer with my coaches and we decide.  We are almost always in agreement.

My son tends to lack focus.  I get it.  He’s 8 and he’s a boy.  I completely understand. That does not mean he’s going to be awarded a game ball just because he’s 8 and he’s a boy.  He must earn it like anyone else does.

Side note:  This is from experience.  Girls at this age are much more focused when playing baseball.

This past season he was skipped over for almost 2/3 of the season before he finally earned it.  Unlike a lot of other coaches who have their kids on their team I tend to be tougher on him.  He earned it because he played his best game as far as focus and effort.

What’s the Lesson?

He knows how my mind works.  Most games he will tell me ahead of time he did not earn the game ball.  He gets it.

Most of the time he knows who earned it.  He’s also very observant.

I don’t want to brag but my son is really a great kid.  He has his moments but overall, he’s a great kid.

I know a lot of parents probably say that, and I am probably a little biased but let me give you a few examples.

He does not get upset when he does not get the game ball.  Other kids do (not all of them).

He knows what he did wrong in most cases.

He is a great teammate and tries to pick up others when they need it.  He also sticks up for other kids, and he’s far from the biggest kid on the field.

He knows if he didn’t earn it he doesn’t get it.

Isaiah at Yard Goat Stadium

Here’s what I want him to learn from not getting an award for mediocrity, or even losing.

  • It’s OK to lose sometimes. Everyone loses.  Michael Jordan was cut from his High School Basketball team.  The best baseball players in the world do not get a hit 70% of the time.  Everyone loses.  If you reward loss with a trophy then you are saying it’s OK to be mediocre.
  • Losing builds character. It makes you a tougher person in life.  Adversity will come.  Giving everyone a trophy does not prepare them for adversity.
  • Losing the right way (meaning not throwing a tantrum or being a poor sport) teaches children how to be better adults. They learn how to interact with their peers even when things are not going their way.
  • By not allowing children to learn how to lose you are teaching them that they should get every job and promotion they want, even if they’re not qualified, or didn’t earn it. You’re teaching them that they don’t have to put the effort into their school work because everyone should get an A.  You’re teaching them that mediocrity is OK when they should be taught to find their strengths and excel.
  • Awarding a trophy to everyone diminishes the accomplishments of the children who earned the trophy.
  • The children know that they did not earn the trophy. By awarding a trophy to everyone you may inadvertently create a rift between children.  Children are far more observant than most believe.

I do not want my children growing up with that sense of entitlement.  I want them to EARN everything they get.

My son gets it at 8 years old.  I don’t understand why that’s a hard concept for adults to comprehend.

My son has also played basketball and soccer.  He was terrible at basketball and was average at soccer.  He’s going back to basketball this winter after not playing for 2 years.

They awarded participation medals to everyone that participated in both leagues.  I understand the concept and was proud that he went out there and tried his best.  I get that the medal was for participation only.  I don’t want the wrong message sent.

When he was playing basketball we always went a little early (we do this for baseball too) because he knew there were things he needed to work on.  Arriving early meant extra practice time.

That’s what awarding a trophy to everyone goes against.  Most pro athletes will tell you incredible stories of how they worked to get where they are.  Some have stories of being told they were not good enough or would not succeed.

Most pro athletes will tell you that they have lost or failed and that the loss or failure motivated them even more.

When Isaiah loses or fails at most things he is extra motivated to get better at it.  He took it upon himself to learn how to swing from the left side because he recognized there is more value to a switch hitter.

He wants to show up earlier to get extra practice.

He now has a goal of being one of the two best players on the field during any given game.  That’s his goal after I told him the statistics of someone making it to Major League Baseball.

No! Your Kid Does Not Deserve a Trophy [Go Ahead, Get Mad]

Stop Giving Trophies to Everyone

I know not everyone will agree with my sentiment.  I am by no means a high-level coach.  Ultimately my goal is to develop the kids into better players and teach them to have fun while doing it.

My 4 years of experience have taught me that kids know when they earn something and when they don’t.  My many more years of experience as a dad have taught me that kids will take what they can get and develop from that.

When I was in school I knew what I had to do to get by.  In most cases that’s exactly what I did.  I was a decent football and baseball player.  I did enough to get decent grades and make honors most of the time.  I did not try to excel.

As I look back at my formidable years I wish someone had taught me to not be average.  I wish someone would have said be one of the two best players on the field every game.  I wish someone would have said be one of the top 5 students in my class.

It would have made a difference in my early 20s, and it would have probably made a difference for the rest of my life.

The give everyone a trophy philosophy was not even prevalent during my High School and College years.  It’s just that no one told me to strive for excellence.

We’ve created a generation of now adults who think everyone deserves a trophy for everything.  We’re working on a second generation now.

At the end of the day, we cannot be good at everything.  Find what you’re good at and/or enjoy and excel.

Today, I strive for excellence in a few areas including preparing my children to be productive and successful members of society.

I don’t think I am a great coach, but I do think I am making a difference in some children’s lives.  When a child gets excited because I am their coach again, it means the world to me.  It means that the child understands they need to earn their trophy (among other things).

Do you want your children to put the effort into being successful?  Or do you want them to wait for everything to be handed to them?



stop awarding trophies to everyone on the dad tax



24 replies
  1. Arnab Majumdar
    Arnab Majumdar says:

    i would say, they should be taught, to do what they feel like, and not what other likes. so, even if they win a trophy or not, they will be happy in what they do.

  2. Monidipa Dutta
    Monidipa Dutta says:

    Amazing post, I totally agree with you, giving awards and trophies to kids is really weird. I always used to think that there has to be a better way to award the person who played well. I love your idea of awarding game balls.

  3. James Thomas
    James Thomas says:

    This is one of those times when I really wish they taught emotional intelligence in school. Losing isn’t the end of the world but some parents act as if you punched their kid and kicked their dog if they lose. How will they ever learn to deal with adversity if they are never allowed to lose?

    • sgombar
      sgombar says:

      There’s a lot that needs to happen in school Unfortunately it seems we are taking steps backwards with public education.

  4. alison netzer
    alison netzer says:

    Amen! I hate this mentality that all are winners. Nope does not help kids to learn that sometimes you lose, that’s ok get up and try harder. My daughter did gymnastics team forever and she was great to the point where she won state champ, but there were times when she didn’t even place and you could see what motivation that gave her for the next time. I cannot stand the trophies for all.

    • sgombar
      sgombar says:

      Exactly. My youngest (she’s only 4) has started gymnastics. She seems to be taking to it quite nicely.

  5. Melanie Frost
    Melanie Frost says:

    I really like this post and I agree with you. Even though my son is a sore loser – he is 7 – I want him to understand that it is important to strive for what you want. I think it’s a sign of maturity when they stop crying over losing and a valuable lesson. If we continue to coddle our children, they will have a much harder time in life when they get older.

  6. Krish
    Krish says:

    Nice write-up..yes children have to be groomed to take everything in stride…you loose done you win has to keep going..learning and moving..

  7. Christina
    Christina says:

    I completely agree! Well said! As a parent and preschool educator, I do believe in encouraging participation itself with rewards. At least in the younger ages. However, children need to learn how to process every emotion; even uncomfortable ones. If we, as adults/parents, don’t take the time to teach our children how to process through hurtful and unpleasant emotions they will figure out a way that may not be beneficial to them or others. As you said, we cannot be good at everything. We need to learn our strengths, and also our weaknesses so we can learn where to focus our energies. Disappointment will eventually come in their lives, and they need to know how it feels, so they can recognize it, and truly learn from them such experiences. The better prepared children are emotionally, mentally, physically, etc. the better equipped they will be at weathering the storms of life.

  8. vaishali
    vaishali says:

    I think this trend started for the little ones so that they may not feel bad or discouraged but I agree with the idea of knowing how to loose too.

  9. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

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  10. angie
    angie says:

    you knew there would be one and yes, its me….
    I believe that it is ok to learn and that if our children are going to play they should do their best , parents help them by like you said finding extra training, teaching them lessons as they play and simply talking to them about the game
    I do however believe that a trophy for participation is something that they should all get and deserve it.

  11. XoLivi
    XoLivi says:

    i truly believe in letting them work hard to achieve more. It always takes practice and i agree, rewarding them when they have not accomplished anything doesn’t help

  12. Gail Gauthier
    Gail Gauthier says:

    Thank you, Angie. I was feeling that I ought to make a little effort to support the trophy, but I kept thinking of all those thousands of pieces of plastic ending up in transfer stations some day, and I got distracted.

    Seriously, I’d like to see kids encouraged to enjoy and appreciate the experience of whatever they’re doing, without consideration for achieving or learning lessons about losing. No, a trophy probably won’t do that.

  13. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I’m going to have to disagree…to a degree. I think very young children need to win participation awards, most enthusiastic awards, most improved awards, best teammate, etc. Teaching them that there are more important things than just winning and losing will help them to develop character and NOT be sore losers when the time comes. Teaching them that showing up every day and supporting the team, whether you play or not, is important too. But I don’t think those kinds of awards should last forever. I just think maybe 4 and 5-year-olds long enough so they see that it’s important to be a part of a team and that they should support each other. (And a participation award should be a certificate, not a trophy or ribbon.) And just a thought, a World Series or Super Bowl ring is given to every player on the team, even the benchwarmers who only managed a few minutes in the game during the year. Does that mean the guy who is the backup quarterback to Tom Brady is only getting a participation trophy?

    • sgombar
      sgombar says:

      The top two teams in the baseball league I coached in over the spring took home trophies. I am OK with this. We finished in second place. The whole team got trophies. There are contributions from everyone in practice and in the game. I had one kid who did not get a hit until the very last game but he contributed to us winning 13-0.

      This teaches a child that you win as a team. Team participation. Doesn’t it lessen the win if the team that finished in last also gets trophies?

      If you had a co-worker who slacked off all day, did nothing, barely came to work, performed poorly when they did work, would you want them to get the same raise you did? Teaching them how to lose teaches them to work better with their peers and it also teaches them to try harder.

      I have some of those same kids on my team this fall, including the one who did not have a hit until the last game. Guess what the boy who did not have a hit until the last game did ALL SUMMER. You guessed it..worked on his game.

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