Science Says Participation Trophies Are a Big Win for the Little Ones

The pee-wee soccer season has come to an end and the Red Dragons squad of 5-year-olds has gathered with their parents for the team party. Just a couple of hours earlier, they were locked in combat with the Incredible Hulks, swarming the YMCA field like crimson and forest green bumblebees, chasing a ball that sometimes, by sheer chance, found its way into an unguarded goal. And not always the right one, but no matter … no one was keeping score.

A few of the Dragons were budding stars, stealing the ball from opponents, dribbling up field and repeatedly depositing it in the goal. Some tried, but were either overpowered or not ready for prime time, opting to pass to a more competitive teammate and get out of harm’s way. Still others picked flowers or chased butterflies, clearly not battle ready.

But one by one, between the cheese pizza and sheet cake, each Red Dragon came forward, hearing kind words from their coach about hard work and potential and love for the game.

And each of them — the stars, the kids who tried and failed, and those who chased butterflies — got a trophy.

Who knew that awarding a four-inch plastic figurine with a soccer ball for a head would generate controversy? But lately, the time-honored practice of handing out “participation trophies” to children who have played youth sports has come under fire in the media as one of the ways America’s children are being coddled. Rewarding our kids for showing up, practicing, even trying, regardless of whether they win or lose, sends the message that losing is acceptable. It is not about trying your best, goes the argument. It’s about winning. Period.

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