Summer sports programs will soon come to an end and everyone will get a trophy. I prefer the days when an exceptional athlete earned their trophy but call me old fashioned. Today most kids do not really need to accomplish much to get a trophy. In many youth leagues around the country everyone gets a trophy for first place and last place even for kids that don’t show up at all. This shift in thinking that everyone is a champ I think is actually hurting this generation of kids. It will only leave them ill-equipped to compete in the real world.
It has become a shift in American culture that leaves the impression that we only produce winners. Brian Saunders is the President of i9 Sports in Tampa, Florida. He runs about 1,000 sports leagues across the United States. It is not unusual that as many as 650 kids will participate in a event and that all 650 kids will receive a trophy. I understand that the goal is to make each child feel special but it is inaccurate and sends a very untruthful message about a kids sports qualifications. Oh, I forgot, now there aren’t any real qualifications. This behavior is going on in youth sports leagues all around the country. Sign up and your kid is guaranteed a trophy. The parent feels good and the kid will have something to show to his grandkids.
Win or lose welcome to America’s trophy culture. Sure everyone is smiling on trophy day but has anyone even earned the honor? It isn’t even a trophy for effort or trying. Psychologists feel that this trophy culture is actually harming our kids. The real world does not work by getting accolades for just being good enough. We are sending our kids the wrong message. By making kids feel so special for no reason, it has actually failed to teach them how to succeed. So, now we have a culture of Americans who believe they deserve stuff for simply showing up. Researcher Ashly Merryman has written extensively on this subject. I am not saying that it is a felony if a 7 year old gets a trophy but they need to earn things.
Now the kid with all his trophy’s mom made sure he got by enrolling him in these programs is in college and gets a C in a subject. He immediately blames the teacher for his mediocre grade that he earned. The trophies do not lead to achievement but lead to delusion. A percentage of college students think they are smarter than they really are. I am all for great self- esteem but it must be substantiated by real substance. Ivy League schools used to be tough to be in but even there in the recent generation grades have gone up. Are our kids any smarter? Hell no! Just more demanding because that is the only lesson they learned.
A recent survey stated that college students believe they should get at least a B grade simply for attending a class regularly. The trophy business is now a full-fledged industry. Scott Slendon is the President of JDS Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where there are warehouses full of trophies to the size of multiple football fields. It is one of the biggest trophy wholesalers in the world. Recognition is an industry in the 2 Billion dollar range. Scott’s parents owned a trophy store that used to bring in about $30 thousand per year. His second generation company brings in Billions of dollars a year. Do we really need all that gold plated plastic?
Teams now don’t keep score and if your name is on the roster regardless of attendance or performance, you get a trophy even if you are 19 years old. The parents love it. With no score recorded there are no losers. There is biological evidence out there that too many rewards actually hurts us. The technical term is the Partial Reinforcement Extinction Effect. A constantly rewarded kid becomes resilient to frustration and does not show much enthusiasm. Just look at that kid!