When Everyone Gets a Trophy, Nobody Wins

When Everyone Gets a Trophy, Nobody Wins

As many of you know, I am a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan, mainly due to my love for the game of baseball. I remember back in Little League, our league commissioner came up with a "fantastic" idea: To give everyone a trophy, regardless of anything else. Regardless if the team or athlete was any good, or worth any value, the kid still got a trophy. A participation trophy.

I'm not going to lie, back when I was twelve years old, I thought this was awesome! My team that year finished with a losing record(I can't remember our exact record, but we played roughly 15 games) and I thought it was awesome that we got a trophy! It was awesome, because....another team that season finished undefeated and we got the SAME trophy they did!

Now, as an adult, I see the danger here. I see how this was a terrible idea. Why is that? Because it ruins any incentive to do better. It didn't surprise me that the following season(after this new idea was implemented), kids would skip practices, "lollygag" during games and not try that hard. There wasn't any undefeated teams and many of the kids noticeably did worse during their games. Why? Because those kids realized they didn't need to try hard to get a "reward." They knew they were getting a trophy and they didn't need to do better. Sure, you have those competitive kids(like me) who would try hard, just because of bragging "rights" and because competitiveness is instilled in me. But most kids don't fall into this category.

Now, as an adult....I realize that nobody won that season. Nobody won because everyone got a trophy. I remember there was a kid that year who batted over .400(which is outstanding), and I was ranked the best pitcher in my league. But none of that mattered.

When I say trohpy, I not only mean literally but metaphorically as well. I'll use a college class I had last year.

This class I had was a class which every English Education teacher was required to take. It was a class which dealt with the pedagogy and theories of how to teach English and how we can meld content. It sounded soooo interesting and I was excited for it. My professor that semester was in his first year at teaching at Miami University(the college I attend.) He told us right off the bat the class was an easy A.

And...he told the truth! It wasn't just an easy class, it was actually pathetic. His class average that semester was a 98% and the semester before that, it was over a 100%(because he offered extra credit.) 104% to be exact. That literally blew my mind. Keep in mind, these are classes with roughly 30-35 students, all studying to be English teachers.

Why was his class so easy? Because the class was a joke. He had to cancel ten classes that semester(out of the possible 24 classes total.) Granted, they were due to his wife's poor health(which was sad) but due to this, we didn't get graded on class participation or attendance. No biggie, right? Ok fine, this wasn't. His class was composed of Four two-page reading responses, which were graded on completion only. I remember writing one of them, which was not on the subject OR the reading, and he still gave me full credit for it.

He also had a mid-term exam but it was online and we did it at home. All we had to do was give our opinion on each prompt. I got a 100% and I "BS'd" the entire Exam. We did something called an "Ignite Talk", which is basically a speech in font of the class on a learning application. I got full credit, and I prepared this speech for about a half an hour.

He did have a final teaching portfolio we had to do. He warned us he would grade this one "harder", which isn't saying much. I ended up getting an A but it wasn't an A+ like every other assignment. I ended up with a 96% in the class, and sadly, I finished BELOW the class average(98%.) Do you know how devestating it is to get an "A" in a class and STILL finish below the class average?

Don't get me wrong, I didn't and will NEVER complain about a class which is an easy A. It was a great stress reliever and I was just happy to have one class I didn't have to worry about. But to be fair, I feel like I was cheated. I didn't learn much at all(I didn't have a reason to), and he was a completely ineffective lecturer. It also made me feel a little guilty that my grade was the same as someone else who actually did try hard and take the class seriously. But the worst part is, when some students(not me included) do have to take a class which is challenging or they may struggle in, they will crumble.

This is an ongoing problem on college campuses(and for some high schools.) Professors purposely inflate grades, to endure their tenure AND to make students happy. So let's assume(just an estimation) that 70% of college professors on a college campus practice grade inflation. When a student does end up taking a class with the 30%, they crumble. They cry, panic, call their parents, threaten the dean. Thanks to giving students an A for participating, they don't know the reality. Who cares who's on the President's List anymore? Random fact: In the 2013-14 school year at my college, there were a record number of students who made the Dean's AND President's list. While this was celebrated, it's actually quite sickening.

I remember reading a story a few months back where a middle school in Maryland was going to quit doing the honor roll because the students who didn't make the honor roll felt "left out." This enraged me, because it creates a generation of students who are entitled. It will obviously cause honor students to quit working hard, since they know there isn't an honor roll anyway.

My overall point is: Participation "trophies", whether literal or metaphorically, are harming this country.

-They're creating a generation of entitled adults, which is no good.

-They're setting kids up to face no failure; when in reality, everyone will face failure at some point in their lives.

-They're treating all kids the same, regardless of work ethic.

-They're killing any incentive to work harder.


Most Helpful Girl

  • i see your point, reward is the fuel that makes us (most of us) work harder.
    but when you think about it, it shouldn't be. the sole reason to work hard should be to be the best in one's field... to be a force to reckon with, and not strive for mere acknowledgement by somebody. so winning trophies, or getting straight A's shouldn't be our ONLY aim (there are many twisted ways to get those... match fixing, sleeping with the teacher etc.)... knowing how to apply our gained knowledge, and just, working hard to be the BEST should be our aim...

    but i see your point... for most, it wouldn't work, and so the world will go on to become even more incompetent if this is continued

    • Oh, I'm not saying you have to be the highest achiever to be competent. I'm just a firm believer if you bust your butt to get a "B" in a class, while the next person busted their butt for an "A", then you still deserve to the "B". I know it's a slap in the face, I know how it feels, trust me. The hardest class I took in my life was in my life was a history course in my Freshman year of college. I showed up to class every day, did every assignment, studied for every test and finished with a "D+." Even though I felt the teacher was way too difficult, I learned something. I learned that a sense of "failure" does occur.

      School is just one example but people need to know what it's like to fail, not achieve as well as they thought and not have everything handed to them.

Most Helpful Guy

  • You hit on something that is really quite important but the methodology is off. When we talk about "Participation Trophies" the biggest problem with them isn't that they exist but that they are generic; for instance you were the best pitcher and there was a kid who was the best hitter, but none of the trophies actually acknowledge your real stats, and the lack of uniqueness is what caused the downfall not the actual acknowledgment of participation itself.

    This is huge. When we talk about Entitlement for instance we're not talking about Participation Trophies we're talking about Social Promises, and this is different as a topic altogether, but there is a link and that link lies in the Lack of Uniqueness and Differentiation between persons. "When everyone is unique no one is" comes to mind and focusing on that for a moment Participation Trophies that do not have acknowledgment of achievement attached really are worthless and do breed complacency however that is solved simply by attaching a value.

    A proof of this is the fact that you referenced an "Easy A". Taking a step back you want an "A" right? That's good. A's are great. A's differentiation you from others even if you get the same degree, now the degree itself is the "Participation Award" but people hold their degrees in different levels of esteem; while a "C" student has the same degree as an "A" student everyone is convinced that the "A" student is simply better, correct?

    If you had gotten a trophy as a child that acknowledged your accomplishment of best hitter your next season would have played better than if you got a generic acceptance, no different than people competing more for that "A" even though they all get the same degree with the same weight regardless of whether they finish with a 2.0 or a 5.0; that's not where the differentiation lies.

    • Reward systems are fascinating because while no one cares about trophies everyone cares about acknowledgement so the core lesson here is that a lack of differentiation cheapens acknowledgment and lowers human desire for success.

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What Girls Said 1

What Guys Said 4

  • Great article and its exactly true. Kids are already entitled and expect the world on a plate. Most kids go to college and think ok, i graduated college make me a CEO now and pay me 5 million a year.
    Kids aren't set up for the real world, they expect it on a plate or are content with doing the bare minimum. It creates underachievers who just expect to get everything or who could careless if they get anything. Look at that whole 1% rallys a few years ago. If you want nice things go earn them, you shouldn't be handed anything just because your a human living in America.

    You want more money to support your family dont ask Mcdonalds and the govt to raise minimum wage, go apply yourself for something better.

    • Well I'm glad to see you agreed with my Mytake, but I actually am on the side of the "99%" here. That is an entirely different thing. The problem is, the "1%" is entitled themselves AND doesn't work, they WERE handed everything on a plate.

      But that's a different argument anyway.

  • There use to be a strong focus on doing your best, sportsmanship and winning.

    Now, it is just praise for everyone all the time and the kids learn nothing except that praise doesn't need to ne earned.

  • Excellent points, we are all so afraid of hurting anyone's feelings, but overcoming failure in life is how you build resolve and become stronger.

  • Humans can't handle losing. Might as well have everyone win to avoid possible violence.