In today’s youth sports culture, giving away trophies to child athletes for simply participating in a sport has caused much controversy. Everyone will agree that champions deserve a trophy, but has the practice of giving trophies to every child on the team devalued the impact of a trophy? Have we reached a point where we are giving our kids too many awards?
As that debate continues to rage, I’d like to ask a question that I haven’t heard asked much and that is this: Why are we giving away so many trophies?
Most coaches and parents say they are trying to build self-esteem in kids and that they want kids to feel appreciated. They explain that by giving away trophies to every child on the team, they are acknowledging the contributions of each one.
Kids love those trophies…for a short time. Do those awards put a smile on their face for a few minutes? Of course they do!
Do they get put on display at home for all to see? Undoubtably! Until something else takes their place or there’s just no more room.
The sports trophy business is booming. Trophy and award sales are now an estimated $3 billion-a-year industry in the United States and Canada. But are we as a youth sports culture asking too much of a $12 trophy?
What a trophy should not do for your child
A trophy can and should be given to recognize specific achievements or events.
But if we are expecting a simple $12 piece of glass, metal or plastic to build self-esteem in children, making them feel worthwhile, and if we are relying on awards to motivate our kids to work hard, then I fear we are giving those purchased prizes way too much responsibility.
Building self esteem in children, making them feel worthwhile, and motivating them to work hard is a job for parents and coaches, not trophies. We do that when we encourage, coach positively, and model values to our children.
There is no doubt that youth sports is a great place for a child to build self esteem, but this is not a job that should be left to trophies. It is a job for parents and coaches.
Trophies are easy. Being a positive role model and leader is not. Trophies should not be the main motivators and encouragers for our kids. Our love and support as parents and coaches should be.