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Should All Children Who Participate in Sports Receive an Award?

Updated on January 3, 2015
The Olympics recognizes only the top three finishers.
The Olympics recognizes only the top three finishers.

Should all Participants in Sports Receive an Award?

If the accomplishment is something unique, yes! Even all adults at certain marathons receive a certificate or even a medal- just for finishing. However, in a competition involving children who have already played many baseball games, many soccer matches, or run many 1- milers, etcetera... the awards mean nothing and add expense for organizers.

Recognition should mark significant events like "firsts", victories, and accomplishments. Some successes like "most take downs" in a wrestling tournament; most inspirational in the volleyball season; and "most yards receiving" in football are traditional awards given seasonally or periodically to recognize important feats and to motivate future achievement. "Most improved" is also an important award to give out. In all of these, coaches and leaders inspire and motivate youth to work hard, listen to the voice of experience, to and understand life values. A variety of awards are selected to reward and encourage all skill levels and qualities.

Sports teach us valuable life and interpersonal skills. We learn personal sacrifice, teamwork, leadership, and self-worth. Life does not reward losing. Neither should sports reward mediocrity.

The Most Improved player is traditionally recognized at post-season awards ceremonies.
The Most Improved player is traditionally recognized at post-season awards ceremonies.

Some Awards that Should be Given in Team Sports

Most Awards recognize accomplishment in performance and leadership.

Team Captain or team co-captain recognizes the effort of leadership and motivating a team through challenge. Victory on the gridiron and victory on the court happen under good leadership. Both the coach and the team captain must work together to accomplish their goal: wins.

"Most Improved" motivates new participants in sports. A rookie grappler may not earn the most take downs or reversals on the mats, but, he can become the most improved by working hard and learning to take advice.

"Most Inspirational" or Team Spirit award: Often, just working beside a dedicated athlete or co-worker inspires others in the team environment to also work hard and pursue success. This award fairly reflects real life and the working world. It should be given.

"Most Yards" or most spikes or most points scored are also important. These awards recognize the ability to transform teaching and practice into results. In business and in the military, it is results that pay off. A good salesman knows how to train and motivate himself or herself. He or she knows how to get the sale and create new business. This is something athletics teaches, and something which should be rewarded. After all, life rewards success.

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Personal Experience

I captained my junior college cross-country team under Merv Smith at San Joaquin Delta Community College in Stockton. Coach Smith worked with me extensively to understand the psychology and motivation of the other runners on the team. He took extra time to develop my leadership skills. And, I learned to work together with higher leadership in pursuit of goals.

That year, I received both the "Team Captain" and "Most Improved" awards.

More than this, I took those skills with me into the Marine Corps. I used my leadership team skills to work with a platoon sergeant as the platoon leader at Radio Operator's school in 29 Palms, California. We broke the record for the highest graduation percentage in the history of the school.

If I had just showed up to practice, would I have acquired the skills to lead and train Marines? The easy answer is "no".

Today, I am a businessman. I compete with other engineers, architects, and draftsmen for contracts to design and draft buildings. It is all competitive. When a building is built, the design work is completed by the firm with the superior bid package and design. When the checks go into the mail, not everyone gets one.

So, should every child who participates in sports receive a medal? No, they should not. It sets them up for disappointment in life. When they are disappointed on the school yard track, there is little penalty. When they lose bid after bid after bid and never sign a contract, they will lose their company and their investment.

Awarding common skills sets children up for disappointment when they compete in the real world. Honoring hard work, team work, attitude, and achievement train the youth to succeed as adults.


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    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)


      I had not considered the effect of this move to remove competitiveness on the entitlement culture. Now that you mention it, I believe you are correct.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      A reward should be earned. I think competition is healthy as it promotes excellence. It may not be p.c. but that's how I feel. I'm a bit tired of seeing awards for mediocrity. What that leads to is entitled adults who think they should be rewarded for just showing up. We all need a goal to strive for. We don't always reach our goal but it's good to have it there all the same. Most improved? Great for someone who has worked hard. Team captain? Leadership! Most yards, points, tackles are pinnacles of excellence and should be recognized. Everyone else should congratulate the recipiant and strive to get there next time.

      This is a fantastic topic and one that should be discussed more. I'm sharing!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I agree with Marcy Goodfleisch. Maybe a certificate for trying, but awards should be a recognotion of an achievement. If they are going to get one every time than they are not going to be motivated to try harder. Plus they will grow up expecting things to be handed to them on a plate. They must learn that everything in life has to be earned

      Good topic

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      I totally agree with stephanie.

      Awards should be earned or it has no value, if in life, we all got paid the same regardless, not many people would be motivated to excel.

      Children should be raise in a way that prepares them to cope with the big world out there.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      My husband and I talk about this all the time, especially since we have two young ones now. We basically dread the day that they receive an award just for going to the game or being a part of the team. Awards are special, and that is why not everyone gets them, or else there is no point.

      However, I do agree with the opening example of getting award for doing/completing something extraordinary. But for the most part, kids especially, need to learn that you don't always win and you do not always get an award for just showing up.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a very interesting hub and you ask an interesting question. I think that all kids who participate in organized sports should receive some recognition, but awards should only be given to the ones who perform the best. When I played high school football in the late 50s and early 60s all members of the junior varsity team received numerals of the year they were graduating. Everyone who was on the varsity team received a school letter, mine was "B" for Burlington, which we all proudly wore on a school jacket or a sweater. The only players who really won awards were those who were selected to the all-conference team or who received scholarships to play football in college. Voted up and sharing.

    • hockeylady profile image

      hockeylady 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I don't have a problems with the Most Improved Player award. I won that award my first year in girls softball.

    • profile image

      MV Rowden 5 years ago from Tyler, TX

      If you are hired to do a job, and you do that job precisely as the description states, no more & no less, then the pay is equal to the job done. If you are hired to do a job, but you work a few extra hours and you perform better and do a little more than the basic job description implies, which employee is qualified for and should be considered for a raise or a promotion ? (medal)...

    • wavegirl22 profile image

      Shari 5 years ago from New York, NY

      To quote a friend of mine. . there are no medals for trying.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I can see giving a child a certificate of participation as a way to recognize their efforts, but medals and placing should be limited to those who excel.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

      I think they should be given something, but the ones who come in first, should be given a larger award.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Hi Man from Modesto, I appreciate you answering this question I posted! Everyone seems to have differing ideas on whether awards should be given for participation in a sport or event. I'm sharing this one! Take care, Kelley

    • petenali profile image

      Pete 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Showing up and trying your best should be the expected norm in any area of life. Quantifiable excellence can be rewarded, but purely being a participant, in my mind, does not warrant recognition.

      Maybe we should give every school pupil an award for going to school each day, or all office workers a prize for staying between 9 and 5???

      Good hub.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I don't agree that awards should be given out in such a whimsical manner. I think children should be encouraged to be involved in sport for the health and social reasions, as well as their development as a person. Not for achievement.

      If you give a child a trophy every time they do something what are they going to expect out of life- lots of trophies and awards!

    • profile image

      MV Rowden 5 years ago from Tyler, TX