Are Participation Trophies Really So Bad?

Are Participation Trophies Really So Bad?

Picture sourced from Ivory Mix.

Many people assume that participation awards cause a sense of entitlement and a poor work ethic – but what if this isn’t true?

The generation I belong to is constantly being criticised. We’ve been called entitled, lazy, self-absorbed – and those are the amongst the nicer terms I’ve heard. We were raised to think we were special. Whether or not we actually believed this seems to be beside the point.

Those of us who are hard-working, passionate, and stand up for what we believe in are often scathingly dismissed. These people label us “sensitive,” “precious,” or worst of all, a “snowflake.”

*Gasp.* No, not a snowflake!

I understand that this is just the way things are. Older generations make fun of the younger generations – it’s been happening since the dawn of time, I’m sure. This circumstance is not in any way special. One day when we’re all much older we’ll probably turn up our own noses at the younger generation we have to deal with.

I sincerely hope not, but I must admit it’s possible.

I’ve been thinking about the disapproval over my generation and the way were raised. One thing has really stuck with me – the flak we get for receiving participation trophies. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does.

Look, when we were growing up we had no say in how we were raised. We were children. It’s not like we could just teach ourselves how to grow up. Honestly, I still haven’t figured out how to do that. So, when some adult handed us a participation award, what should we have done? Thrown it away? We just would have been labelled ungrateful.

This isn’t to say that participation trophies are the best thing to happen to our generation. I just don’t think it’s so terrible to have received one. For instance, as a child I really loved to dance. At the end of every year we’d have a big dance concert and would receive a participation trophy at the end of the night.

Now, it is believed by *some* that receiving participation awards is what made us lazy and self-obsessed in the first place. *They* say we don’t work hard because we were rewarded as children for doing nothing.

I think this is stupid. I cannot believe that receiving or not receiving a trophy made any difference in how I “grew up.” Just because I was awarded for participating in some dance classes didn’t mean I believed I was a prima ballerina in the making. It’s just a lump of metal, really. After the concert, it would sit on my desk and collect dust. Eventually, my Mum would go through one of her cleaning frenzies and chuck it out.

I never once believed that a participation trophy meant that I was brilliant or that I didn’t need to try to better myself in any way. I considered receiving such an object to be an acknowledgement of a commitment that I had made. I wasn’t getting a trophy for nothing – I was getting it because I worked hard all year at something I loved. I don’t understand why this shouldn’t be celebrated.

So, what’s with the hatred of participation awards?

Is it because some people think it’s about making children feel better when they are perceived as not being talented enough to receive a “proper” trophy?

If this is the case, I think they’re missing the point. It should be seen as a celebration of hard work and commitment – regardless of natural talent. I mean, aren’t these values we would want children to have? How are they supposed to know this if we don’t make an example of it?

Really, I’m not saying that participations awards are great – there are less wasteful ways to achieve the same outcome. (I mean, a simple “good job” would probably suffice). However, I don’t think receiving such an award is as bad as some people in this world believe it to be.

It hasn’t made us lazy or entitled. I still work hard at the things I love, even if I don’t think I’m very good at it. After all, you’re reading this post right now, aren’t you?


  • Have you ever received a participation trophy/medal/ribbon/certificate?
  • If so, did it make you selfish and lazy?
  • Do you really think participation trophies are responsible for all the terribly behaved youths these days?
  • Do you have no opinion of participation awards either way?

6 thoughts on “Are Participation Trophies Really So Bad?

  1. I think participation certificates would be okay in sports, but trophies are a stretch! I think It gives off the wrong idea of entitlement. It isn’t about hard work, if you earned a ‘C’ on a test in school, you don’t and shouldn’t receive the same token as someone who made an ‘A’. If you can put in easy work and still get noticed, why strive for me? That’s the idea ( I thjnk ) It’s giving kids.


    1. I can definitely see where you’re coming from, though I obviously don’t agree. While there are definitely some children that might have this attitude if they got a participation award, I just don’t think most kids would take this as an opportunity to stop trying. After all, in sports the ones who work the hardest are the ones who receive the “proper” awards, such as “best and fairest” and so on. Though, perhaps you are right in saying that trophies are a bit much – I definitely don’t disagree! I was using it as a bit of a generalised term for any participation certificate/ribbon/etc, which was perhaps a mistake on my part.


  2. This is a really fascinating subject! I totally agree with the idea that we should reward hard work. I think in America we are too obsessed with being “the best” at everything, and we overlook people who don’t meet certain standards. It’s okay not to “win” at everything, as long as you have fun and try your best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! We can still enjoy and celebrate the things we aren’t good at. A lot of time and energy are still put into these hobbies/etc, so I don’t understand why they shouldn’t be acknowledged and celebrated along with those who are more naturally gifted.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that participation aren’t such a terrible thing! Why is there even a belief that going through struggle, loss, or rejection is a character builder? I understand when people say “you learn from your failures”, but it would be a disservice to our future generation and society to not be more kind to each other. Thanks for participating in this sport/hobby/science fair/equestrian event in the first place! Kids these days sit behind their computers and don’t want to participate because they are told its a dog-eat-dog world out there. Who the f*** wants to go out and complete in a world like that? Certainly not me. Participation trophies are a way of paying it forward. Maybe more people would do good when good is done to them. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s