Should Every Child Get a Trophy?


After learning from the best (the Babywise series), I’ve always been of the assumption that not every child should get a trophy. But after living with this first-hand, I’ve started to question my assumption.

I’m sure we’ve all seen or heard of it. Today’s sporting events just aren’t like they used to be. When kids are involved, either the games aren’t scored or every child is given a trophy, no matter how well they do. Yet for as long as I can remember, I’ve held the belief that this idea of every child getting a trophy isn’t good for our kids. When our kids put in great effort and work hard, they should be rewarded. I don’t believe a child should be rewarded for putting in minimal effort or for just showing up. This is how our world seems to be operating these days. It seems as if everyone is afraid to tarnish our children’s fragile egos.

I also believe that by giving every child a trophy, it completely robs the trophy of any value. It makes the trophy practically worthless. Plus, it’s possible that kids will lose all motivation to do well. Kids are smart. If they realize that the kid sitting on the sidelines will earn the same recognition as the child who works hard, then what good is it to work hard?

Now, if we are doing our job as parents, we should teach our kids that the reward is in doing a good job. In the case of sports, when you take one for the team and run harder than anybody else, your efforts will get noticed. But what about these trophies?

Let me back up a minute and explain why I bring this up. My kids have started flag football this season, and with William being more cerebral than athletic, this is our first real foray into kids’ sports. Well, today was the big kickoff event for the season. After William’s coach explained the rules of the game, he mentioned to us all that we might see other coaches handing out medals but that he wouldn’t be. The organization encourages coaches to hand out one medal after every game, which I assume would go to the kid who played his hardest. Well, our coach has decided to do it differently. Rather than handing them out after every game, he said he would hold onto them, and at the end of the season, we would have a celebration where every child would receive a medal.

After watching the kids practice and play, there’s a part of me that can see why he does this. There are some kids (like the coaches’ kids) who are clearly more experienced and talented than the rest of them. William, who was doing math problems in his head on the way there, would be outrun by one or two of those kids any day of the week. But my issue with trophies and medals has nothing to do with experience or talent. It has to do with effort.

If a child shows great determination and comes running onto the field and scores five touchdowns, then perhaps his effort should be rewarded. If a child shows great improvement in an area where he has struggled previously, then he should probably receive a medal. And I like the idea of kids getting recognized for their effort on the day of the game, and when nobody else is being recognized. Being rewarded by a coach (someone other than mom or dad) like this, on a day when only he is being recognized, would certainly bring a smile to William’s face. I’m not sure his smile would be as big when he receives the medal at the same time as all the other kids.

But then again, the mama bear in me does want to protect William’s self esteem. What if he’s staring off into space doing math problems in his head while the receiver runs right by him? What if he’s just not as capable as the other kids? What if his sensory issues get in the way of his ability to play?

What do you think? Should every child get a trophy?


  1. Interesting post. I know someone in his 20s who says he is part of the “trophy generation” where everyone gets one for everything. I too instinctually agree with your first assumption. But you do bring up valid points. I think that it is good to reward a child for large improvments or gains. I think the issue is when everyone gets it, it gets diluted. I think a better method would be each child gets something at some point during the season but when depends on their effort So not all the same time and when you notice someone made good gains, you acknowledge that point. So it’s spread out and every child knows they have the potential to earn something, it’s up to them when they earn it. So if they didn’t do well, keep trying.
    The sports caught my eye as I was having a discussion with someone who said that the school district doesn’t place as much emphasis on sports and she disagreed with it. My first thought was that is great because i know a lot of districts that put so much emphasis and money on sports and not on the academics,etc. But she was very passionate about how it was essential for their self-esteem and well-roundedness, team work, improves social skills,etc.In theory I can somewhat agree but on the other hand i In my work and many years of experience I have seen lots of young people,new grads,etc and it’s been interesting the past 15 years to see them. I can say when they are adults I’m not sure it amounts to much difference. You can have extremes that aren’t socially adept and are academic and more booksmart but you can have others that are great socially and not competent professionally. But all in all I have seen many with and without sports and at the end of the day I don’t see much difference where one has a huge advantage one way or the other. That is just my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. I said i think the young people nowadays who are raisied in a tech world and who text incessantly while out at dinner and nonstop is scary as they don’t display basic manners or basic human interactive skills. I think this will be a huge issue for the younger generation.

  2. I agree about the effort part. Perhaps that’s where the hard job of a coach comes in, praising children who have improved and shown effort while praising those with obvious and repeated talent (ie, # of goals). As in, they have to be observant! I think it’s also the parents job to affirm the children. And the coach handing them out at the end gives him an opportunity to watch each child and then, in turn, reward them for what they have done instead of possibly being discouraged after each game if you didn’t win a medal.

  3. Alan Sharp says:

    I’ve been reading the experiences and observations of parents and educators on this subject for a couple of days now. But what I find is that this seems to be an issue that always seems to split people right down the middle into for and against such a sense of entitlement. I find this to be very common in schools here in Scarborough. I agree with your point and hold that mediocrity should not be rewarded by school trophies and awards.

  4. widdle boy says:

    i am just a widdle kiddie dat likes reading wat people say and i have an email(joke(not joke(joke)))

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