Unpopular Opinion :: Every Kid SHOULD Get a Trophy


Unpopular opinions are just that . . . opinions. They are ideas that contradict the status quo. And this week, ABQ Moms Blog has a few unpopular opinions that we need to get off our chest. And we want to know if you agree or disagree and WHY. Do you have any unpopular opinions? We wanna know those too! 

Here’s my unpopular opinion . . . I think every kid SHOULD get a trophy! (Please don’t throw things at me.)

That’s right. I said it. Toss those trophies out like confetti. The one in last place . . . put a trophy in his hand. The one who fell . . . she needs a trophy too! She missed the basket? He struck out? Give ’em all a trophy!

Give every kid a trophy, Albuquerque Moms Blog

Here are four reasons why every kid should get a trophy.

1) Any time I see the downfall of our society attributed to one thing, red flags go up.

Much has been said about the degradation of society because of participation trophies. Critics believe that people have grown soft because they’ve been rewarded just for showing up. Kids have been praised for doing poorly, which has resulted in their feeling entitled. Critics also argue that a participation trophy causes high-performing children not to try as hard because “everybody wins.”

I am not completely discounting the above points; however, these arguments are overly simplistic.

This mistake is a logical fallacy called straw man. We cannot reduce complex problems in our world to one simple factor (such as participation trophies). Our society is complex. People are complex. When our complex society full of complex people has a problem, we can be certain there are many complex contributing factors to the problem.

2) Competition is about much more than winning and losing.

The reason why I LOVE youth sports and put in a lot of time and effort so my kids can participate in them is not so my children will become Olympic athletes. The benefits of playing sports (or competing in any activity) are numerous. Is it so terrible to reward children for working hard, contributing to a team, and not quitting–even when things get hard? It seems to me that those qualities are way more valuable to life than kicking the winning goal or crossing the finish line first.

One year one of my kids was on a team that lost every game. Yes, every game. But those kids were so encouraging to each other. They were kind and uplifting and positive and they kept working hard DESPITE not once getting an external reward for it. Those kids did not quit. They showed up to every practice and every game every week. Could they have quit? Sure. But they didn’t. I feel confident those kids are all going great places in life because of their attitudes. (I did reward them with a sweet team party at the end of that grueling season.)

3) When we only award the winners, we might be saying that genetics (or other factors outside the child’s control) are the most important thing.

That star athlete and the straight A student may be a product of genetics or something as simple as their date of birth. The relative age effect, also known as the birth date effect, is well documented in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. It argues that a child’s age relative to his or her peers is a huge determinate in success in academics or athletics.

In addition, the child who is genetically faster or stronger may much more easily excel in sports. And that kid who wins the spelling bee is genetically pre-disposed to be able to spell and probably wasn’t born with dyslexia. 

A person may do a lot with what they’ve been given. Regardless, they’ve still been given that giftedness. They didn’t earn it. 

So when we only hand the trophy to the winners (particularly when kids are young), it could be just as arbitrary as awarding everyone. Here’s a trophy. Congratulations on your birthday being before everyone else’s. And great job with that DNA of yours.

4) I want to live in a world where people try and try and then try again because they aren’t afraid to fail.

This is possibly the most compelling reason to reward kids for participating. The freedom to fail is vital for people to be able to succeed. In my professional and personal life, the people I see getting left behind are those who are never willing to take a risk because they’re terrified of failure. Experiencing failure is an inevitable step on the way to success. 

  • A dozen publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s manuscript, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity basketball team his sophomore year.
  • Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded – Apple.
  • The film school at the University of Southern California rejected Steven Spielberg . . . twice!
  • Numerous record labels rejected The Beatles.
  • Oprah was fired from her job as a news anchor after only 7 months.

But guess what all those people have in common? They failed and then tried again because they didn’t let failure or the fear of it paralyze them.

I wonder what our world would look like if it were full of risk-takers who weren’t afraid to fail because we as a society have decided to reward courageous behavior.

I want to reward the kid that tries something he’s absolutely horrible at. He drops the ball a million times over the season. I want to say, “Great job . . . here’s your trophy! You tried something and failed. Keep it up!”

Maybe, just maybe, if we reward people for being brave we’d live in a society full of courage. A society full of people who won’t take “no” for an answer. A society that won’t accept failure as an option. I think I want to live there!

So here’s the kicker. Let’s do give trophies all around (particularly when children are young and impressionable). But let’s do it with intentionality. This is up to us as coaches and parents to attach meaning to tangible awards.

  • Here’s your trophy for being an awesome team player. You often distributed the ball instead of selfishly keeping it yourself.
  • Here’s your trophy for sticking with it, even when it wasn’t easy.
  • You get a trophy for your grit!
  • Here’s your trophy for learning something new. You attempted a goal with your left foot!
  • You get a trophy for getting back up after you fell.
  • Here’s your trophy for being brave and standing up in front of people when you didn’t want to.
  • Here’s your trophy for leading your teammates to be positive even though you were losing.

When we hand out those trophies, let’s consider the attributes the kids exhibited that we want to reinforce, that will make our world a better place to live.

Originally published November 2019.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.
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Vanessa loves her people and loves Albuquerque and has lots to say about both. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, Nate, and they have three kids (Micah, Corban, & Evangeline). Originally from Florida, she’s lived in Albuquerque since 2009 when she and her family relocated to start a new church. Even though she misses wearing flip-flops year-round, New Mexico has truly enchanted her, and the desert feels like home. When she is not chauffeuring children about town, Vanessa works as the Director of Strategy and part-owner of Truly Social Digital Marketing Agency, enjoys volunteering at church, loves watching college football, and drinks a little too much coffee. She is passionate about connecting women with each other, loving her people, and finding the good in her place. Follow her on Instagram @vanessamaebush.


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