Participation Trophies – Yes Or No?

I began looking at some numbers before writing this post.  In 2018/19, approximately 10 % of the 76 million high school students in the US played high school sports.   During the 2018/19 Baseball Season, nearly 483,000 boys played high school baseball.  The chances of a high school player making it to the Big Leagues is one in 6,100 or 0.015 percent.  Now think to yourself how many kids play team spots while they are elementary school and middle school but don’t continue into high school?

No doubt, participating in sports is a healthy activity for children. I will discuss this in an upcoming post, but for now, let’s focus on the question of participation trophies.  The number of children playing competitive team sports is similar to an upside-down triangle — lots of kids playing at younger ages and much fewer participating as they get older. I believe that receiving a trophy for participating means the most to children who are not those that will continue playing sports as they grow older. Children derive satisfaction from playing team sports from many different sources, and the better the player, the more happiness and good feeling he or she obtains from participating.

Think of it this way.  Giving out trophies for participating does not harm and can do a lot of good. A competitive child is a competitive child. You will not diminish his or her competitive spirit by awarding a trophy for participating. On the other hand, you may significantly increase the self of esteem of a child who was an average player. Sports leagues also have the option of awarding more significant trophies for winning championships etc.

This issue has come up in my office over the past 31 years. When it does, I always ask the parents to think about their experiences playing sports as children and how they believe it affects their experiences as parents watching their children compete. If you are a parent reading this post, and you have children playing team sports, I urge you to take some time to consider how you are enjoying, handling, dealing with this experience. You may not only learn a lot about yourself but may also make some positive changes in your behavior that will help your child more fully enjoy their sports participation.

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  • Dr. Joseph Rabinovitz, Ed.D., P.A.
  • 2295 NW Corporate Blvd., Suite 231
    Boca Raton, FL 33431
  • Phone: 561.241.8822
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