PODCAST: Participation Trophies – How many have you got?

PODCAST: Participation Trophies – How many have you got?

You win or you lose.

It’s funny today how kids and even some adults are rewarded for things they did, but which they didn’t necessarily do well. There’s the participation reward which you get for just taking part in something, and there’s the best effort reward, the best improved player award, and there’s even an award for the tidiest locker. Well maybe the last one is a bit exaggerated, or maybe not but you certainly get my point.


Now I know not all kids like sports, and a lot of them are forced to participate in some way or another because mom and/or dad said they should, but I think that if you want to take part in any sport you probably have to have at least a slight competitive mentality, or at least be interested in some sort of competition that involves a physical effort.

There are other ways than sports to compete, like playing chess or doing mathematical puzzles or even drawing. The thing that bothers me in today’s self gratifying world is these awards we get for just being there, wherever that may be.

Now I know this sounds corny, but way back in the old days, (yeah, my days) in any competition there were only three prizes, first, second and third or gold, silver and bronze and we kids looked forward to winning one of those.

If we won, halleluiah, coming in second was good, mom could still be proud, and third was, well kinda’ like losing, but at least we had tried our best.

The rest of the competitors simply lost, or as we say just didn’t show. We actually learned to compete, in order to win. We didn’t participate to just have fun or hang out with our friends; we competed to get a medal, to feel good about ourselves, to make our parents proud and to have bragging rights.

Looking back, I only came first in one of all the things I took part in. I was awarded for it and I was damn proud.

My baseball career was a flop.  My mother wanted me to play baseball but I was afraid of the ball, so the coach pretty much left me sitting on the bench, much to my mother’s chagrin.

But I learned that baseball probably wasn’t my sport, and the more things went forward the more I realized I wasn’t much good at any sport involving a ball. I didn’t get a prize for warming the bench, or showing up, or even for wearing the uniform. I was no good, I learned to live with that and I tried something else.

Today little Johnny and little Susie get rewarded for participating, for showing up, for making an effort, or for basically achieving nothing except dressing for the occasion. I am concerned about what kind of future we are building for our youth today. Are we developing a society of sissies?

Businesses become successful because they play to win, second or third is not enough, you have to be the best at what you do to achieve results.

Hockey players and baseball players and yes even soccer players get huge salaries because they play to win, they don’t just show up for the exercise.

People become heroes for doing great things; people become winners because they don’t like losing; people achieve things because they try hard and if hard isn’t enough they’ll try even harder. That’s how you win gold, and that’s how you find confidence in yourself.

Some people like the fact that their kids get some kind of reward for just being there, but is it really enough. Think about it. Do you get rewarded for showing up at work? Do you get rewarded materially for being a parent? Do you get an award for driving the soccer team around?

And you’re sure as heck not going to cry because nobody patted you on the back for being a nice person.

We just have to learn to accept defeat, as difficult and depressing as that may be, or we can relish in a victory that we obtained, but we can’t expect to be remunerated for something very ordinary.

We either win or we lose, there is no in between. Life is like that.

So to all you soccer moms out there, if your son or daughter isn’t enjoying the game don’t wish him a badge of merit just for playing, either explain to them about winning or scoring a goal or let them do something they like, maybe they’ll win at it.

You only have to be good at one thing to win a medal.

And that’s my take on today’s reward system.

Quebec City’ Ranty Man.



Categories: Opinion, Podcast

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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