Did the “Participation Trophy” Really Ruin the World? Did it? Really?

I reject the notion that the rise of “participation” trophy directly contributed to the demise of the millennial generation. Sure, they have their issues, which is topic for another day, but I don’t believe it’s because they were coddled by way of all receiving trophies while growing up.

Simon Sinek did a talk about millennials in the marketplace and said (to nutshell it in a sentence) they lack the patience to see out goals. That may very well be, but I don’t believe being rewarded for participation is one of the causes.

I’ve coached five total seasons of my sons’ sports during which time they ranged in age from 4-6. If I had to guess a number, I saw an attrition rate of about 20% of the kids on those teams who didn’t last from the beginning of the season through to the end. So on the last day, when the kids who did finish the season light up when they get their “participation” award, I don’t see an act of instilling a false sense of accomplishment or coddling in any way (besides, the kids who stopped coming didn’t get one). I see the satisfaction and pride they feel for sticking it thru to the end – often when their friends stopped coming – and a burned-in desire to want more. (I fully admit, my one son signed up again the next year “for the medal.” I ain’t going to argue with that if it gets him motivated to be involved with something.)

Isn’t that what we want to instill in them at that age? Rather than 95% of them feeling let down that they didn’t “win”? You want to reward the “winners” with something additional? Fine. I take no issue with that. But I see no harm whatsoever in rewarding everyone else’s effort too.

Now here’s my biggest issue with this criticism- the very people among those older generations who like to trash millennials and their “participation” trophies, are the same people I see out at Sunday brunch wearing the medal around their neck from the 5k/10k/whatever run they just FINISHED earlier that morning. Statistically speaking, I’m fairly certain most did not place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd to earn such an award. So wouldn’t this technically classify as a participation award? Shouldn’t they denounce receiving a medal for just finishing a race they didn’t win? Or are they perhaps celebrating a different sense of personal satisfaction?

But hey, you know what? I don’t mind that either. Whatever motivates people to keep going is fine with me. See out your goals. Learn. Grow. I say let’s each set out to be OUR own best. Not only THE best. There’s nothing wrong with that. So get over it and let’s go grab a grande latte macchiato with skim milk (I honestly don’t even know if that’s a thing).

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