Does the “Everyone’s a winner” culture mean our kids are losing out?

Does the “Everyone’s a winner” culture mean our kids are losing out?

 In sports camps around the UK attended by many youngsters, the practice is to award every child a little trophy or medal either for taking part or for a specific achievement. These awards are included as part of the course – it’s the same for the huge number of fun runs, charity events and gatherings which take place now around the country. There is a school of thought (mainly in the USA) that too many trophies and awards are given out, particularly to children, and that the motivational effect is diluted as a consequence.

Losing is a good lesson to be learnt for a successful life

 What is the point of such an award if it becomes an expectation rather than a surprise presentation? Could there even be a negative effect of doling out awards with no sign of achievement or winning to match? Some argue that youngsters find it more difficult to face failure or losing if they always receive a trophy. In Losing is Good for You, author Ashley Merryman says, “Giving everyone awards instead of an exceptional few leads to underperformance in the long run.”

 Pittsburgh Steeler, James Harrison would agree with this view – on Instagram recently he expressed his dislike of trophies for his sons’ (aged 6 and 8) participation, believing that “everything in life should be earned”.

However. many parents believe that awards encourage participation.

  “Participation trophies remind young kids that they are part of something, and may help build enthusiasm to return for another season”, says Tom Farrey. executive director of The Sports and Society Program at the Aspen Institute. “From ages 0 to 12, the goal is to help kids to fall in love with sports, to want to come back the next year, to want to go into the backyardand improve their technique”, Farrey said. He cautions against focusing on winning and losing in the pre-tween years. “There is a time and a place to sort the weak from the strong, but it is not before they grow into their bodies and their minds and their interests.” Lisa Heffernan, author, also comments, “another reason to defend trophies for everyone is that, at a time when parents complain of the escalating competition in youth sports, they remind kids that we value their effort, regardless of ability or results. Participation trophies tell them that what matters is showing up for practice, learning the rules and rituals of the game and working hard. Indeed everyone is now aware of the need for children and young people to be engaging in regular physical activity to benefit their bodies and minds.

Competition isn’t everything.

 Learning a new skill or working co-operatively with a team or group can be very rewarding in itself – winning first place needn’t always be the main objective. Personalised Awards are a wonderful way to commend a child for participating in an event that furthers their learning and development. Kids who don’t make first place are still deserving of a token to mark the experience and receiving a trophy or medal can encourage them to continue to apply themselves in this way. Seeing your name engraved adjacent to an identifiable achievement or skill from an organisation you love, admire or work hard for, can be life-changing or life-affirming.

 The key to this debate may be the age and experience of the child or children concerned. The very young or those starting out on their sporting journey may find the first participation trophy inspirational enough to keep bringing them back to the activity especially if it was enjoyable and fun!

 Is the”everyone’s a winner” culture encouraging participation in children or keeping them from learning an important lesson in life – that losing is part of the human experience? What do you think?

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