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What Do You Think About Kids' Sports Trophies?

These days children are getting awards for merely participating in sports and other activities.

Editor's Note: The Emmaus Patch editor's husband, "Coach Harry," was the coordinator of the Upper Milford Youth Association summer 2011 kickball program.

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting issues.

This week’s Moms Talk topic comes from Moms Council member Beth Sharpless and relates to sports medals, trophies and similar prizes:

Here’s what Beth has to say:

Given that my daughter just received her first medal for playing kickball (with the Upper Milford Youth Association), I realize we are now embarking on a new phase in her life-that of sports, medals, trophies and the like. Watching all of the kids grab and ‘gimme’ at the medals made me ask myself questions surrounding such issues. I thought it would be nice to gain others' perspectives on the whole thing…” 

So here’s what Beth wants to know: 

What are your thoughts on participation medals, trophies and all that jazz? 

Join the conversation. Each week our Moms Council members discuss these and other issues. 

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mom to an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Megan Patruno of Allentown is a mother of three – an 11-year-old boy, an 8-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy. Megan also works as an admission counselor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing. 

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com

Share your thoughts and stories. Tell us in the comments.

Judy Zabrecky August 22, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Maybe I am alone in this belief, but I don't see the harm in giving a participation medal for kids at an early age (5-7), especially after their first year of a new sport. Sometimes kids struggle early with sports and I have seen parents pull them from teams halfway through the season for various non-academic reasons. I think it is important for a child to learn about committing to something and giving their word, and a participation medal at the end of the season rewards them for having made it through a season - after all, two months of T-ball to a 6 year old is significantly longer than two months to an adult. Once they are beyond that age, limit trophies to significant events. And note that I am talking about a medal (you can make it a ribbon, a paper certificate, etc) that recognizes the child for having completed the season, not a big trophy.
Chris Miller August 22, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Tom You are right on the money. Can we all watch one of the best movies ever made--Denzel Washington and Remember the Titans. Shirts, ties, sportcoats is how you dressed for an away game. If you won you got the trophy. It you lost you got a pat on the back and a well done by the winning coach and his team and from your own coach who told you he was proud of the team. Watch the movie. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex you will need it. This is what we should be instilling in our kids. You learn to read, to do math, understand history, science, English, and play sports and I guarantee you know one will have to teach you how to have self esteem
Chris Miller August 22, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Judy Trophies, ribbons, and medals are for winners. Handed out to one and all whatever the age, makes them worthless. Your child and every child knows their own abilities and the abilities of others on the team. They all know who is good and who stinks. Those who stink know they do not deserve their medal, trophy or ribbon. What you are suggesting is entitlement. I showed up for practice and the games. I spent most of my time on the bench because I stink at this sport. I still deserve and award. They know that if they want to excel they will need to practice and work hard at whatever sport they are interested in. If they do what they need to do all of us will benefit from their hard work.
Salisbury Resident August 22, 2011 at 07:55 PM
There is now another problem that is a result of all of this. Many children, and their families/parents, now EXPECT for something to be awarded at the end of each season to each player, regardless of skill level. My response to the question to this same group of Mom's Talk members - how can that mindset be changed Who is willing to stand up to the families/players expecting a trinket (where 90% of them will be in a landfill in 10 years) that the gifts have been discontinued? Who is willing to now suffer the declining enrollment in our youth associations "because they don't give end of year awards to every player." Or is it just easier to raise the price of the registration fee by $10 to cover the costs so the psycho-babble of unfairness to all of our special children who deserve a trophy/medal at the end of the season becasue they participated and is a good kid and deserves more clutter that needs to be dusted off periodically and then winds up in the trash because they need space for more of the trinkets is not heard? That is the real question.
Beth August 22, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I agree with you on the commitment part, but I also think that it is the parents who should instill that dedication within their children. If, after a short season, a child finds out that sport isn't for them, that's fine, then they don't do it again. If a kid is "struggling early with sports" then maybe they shouldn't do them. Sports aren't for everyone, either is music or the arts. The great thing about today's world is that there are so many options for kids (especially in our area). So there are many things kids can try if one thing doesn't work. If we as parents stress the importance of dedication and following through, I don't think kids would have to be "pulled from a team" mid-way through the season. If my child is finishing a season just to get a trophy or medal, they are not playing for the right reasons.
Pamela Porter August 22, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I've managed and worked with young men and women who have been part of the generation that was awarded a medal/ribbon/trophy/plaque/whatever for every aspect of competition. A lot of them have the attitude that they deserve a medal/ribbon/trophy/plaque simply for being on time and showing up for work. It creates an expectation sometimes, I think, that carries over into other aspects of life.
CQ August 22, 2011 at 11:41 PM
I absolutely agree with Pamela. We have a generation of young men and women who want to be rewarded for everything they do. As mother of several young athletes who have been given too many ribbons and trophies, the few trophies they received when they out performed the opponent, would mean a lot more to them if they weren't mixed in with a dresser full of participation awards. We need to quit trying to make kids feel good about themselves by giving them material items. They need support, encouragement, and a realistic approach to winning and losing.
Mary Anne Looby August 23, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Chris, I think you hit the nail on the head with "Remember the Titans".
Mary Anne Looby August 23, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Kuddos to all the parents who think trophies for all are a bad idea. I hope some of you can stand behind your beliefs. It only takes one strong voice to bring awarness to an unpopular trend.
Judy Zabrecky August 23, 2011 at 02:07 PM
First of all, I was talking about small children (age 6) and I never said everyone deserved a medal. I said that for the first effort a certificate, award, etc (NOT a trophy) shows a child that they participated and finished the season. Some kids may never have a dresser of awards and this may be their only one. And a child at age 6 is way to young to know whether they "stink:" at something. Please take my comment in the context it was placed. I have seen the faces of kids who finished a season and got a ribbon or medal from their coach. At a young age, these have a lot of meaning. If we do it season after season of course they become meaningless and that was not what I was suggesting.
Judy Zabrecky August 23, 2011 at 02:11 PM
I don't think we can link this attitude with whether they received an award at the end of the season. Parents are responsible to instill these values in children. Parents who have raise their children with an attitude that they are entitled to things and are not responsible for their actions will produce adults that believe they are entitled and who believe they are not responsible for their actions.
Chris Miller August 23, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Judy I hate to tell you this but more and more kids believe that the world owes them a living just because they exist. I blame parents and schools for this as well as awards for showing up of a sport..I watched this happen as a teacher and a coach. We need to stop the awards to those who are not deserving.
Mary Anne Looby August 23, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Judy, I think a certificate for "completing the season" is a great idea. It does not imply winning, just participation. Trophies, medals etc. are almost always associated with winning which sends the wrong message.
Mary Anne Looby August 23, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Judy I agree with your take on behavior. Good, bad or indifferent, it all starts in the home.
susan deyoung August 24, 2011 at 10:42 PM
When my five year old son won his soccer participation trophtly, he decided he would try each sport so he could have a collection. He stopped after his first season of soccer, basketball, and football. Then we took him to a 5k race and we thought he would get a ribbon, and we would check another sport off his list. Instead, he found his sport. He is now thirteen years old, a member of his school track team, a recreational running club, and a dedicated 5k runner. He says this is a sport he can do his whole life, so he can stay healthy. Thanks to those trophies, he was willing to try a variety of sports until he found his passion.
voice of reason August 25, 2011 at 03:19 AM
gonna be fun watching him jump from job to job and career to career until he finds his passion.
Judy Zabrecky August 25, 2011 at 11:52 AM
OUCH Robin, Really not a fair comment about a child you don't know.
Mom of DnNnD August 25, 2011 at 04:25 PM
You are not alone in this belief Judy. I agree with you - you sound very level headed. Children/adults don’t have entitlement issues because they received a participation trophy, they have issues because their parents didn’t instill the proper values. Let’s not blame our failings on a little trophy that most of you say your wonderful kids have packed away and forgotten about. How about all the kids that didn't get a participation trophy and still have entitlement issues.
Mom of DnNnD August 25, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Robin, inappropriate comment! I hope we are all teaching our children ... 'If you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all.'
Salisbury Resident August 25, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Robin - that is a FANTASTIC comment!
Chris Miller August 25, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Mom od DnNnDYou Unless something changed over night I think your comment is out of line. Robin made a statement that others will agree with and some will disagree. As to kids and rewards going to all, that is not the thing to do under any circumstance. There are kids who will and do think that as long as they show up they will be rewared with something. That is not a good thing to do because kids believe they are entitled to something. While lots of parents are working hard to instill values in the kids there are those who don't and there will be repercusions for that.
Mom of DnNnD August 25, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Unfortunately, my comment didn't attach as a reply to her most recent comment where she insulted a child for searching for his passion. (Look at her reply comment at 11:19 PM on 8/24.. it is 2 comments above my last post.)
CQ August 25, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Absolutely hit the nail on the head with "Remember the Titans". I have seen it more times than I will admit, and cry every time. This conversation about trophies has gone in several directions, but the bottom line is kids need to be taught how to work hard for their rewards. Kids should try many different things, individual sports, team sports, a musical instrument, drawing, painting, singing,....the list goes on and on. They will eventually find their passion. But along the way they don't have to be rewarded for every thing they do. I will say again, trophies should be given for hard work and accomplishments the child will remember and cherish. And he/she will learn that when you work hard, and successfully reach a goal, you will be rewarded.
Chris Miller August 25, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Understand that I was critical of your remark because of the matter of free speech not the content. People will be people and will say stupid and inappropritate things. We don't imply that they should not have said something because that puts us on that slippery slope. We all need to be careful when it comes to speech particularly when it is written messages in forums like this or writing e-mails. Like others I would not be the person able to throw the first stone. What we are talking about here are kids being rewarded for everything they do and that needs to stop. That is why I referred to Remember the Titans. All of us should watch that movie at least once a year.
Beth August 26, 2011 at 12:08 AM
I have to say, it is very refreshing to hear all of these thoughts. My final question is-do people speak up when put in this situation-do you get involved to try to help change things? I hope so-I plan on it.
Mary Anne Looby August 26, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Good for you Beth. It only takes one voice.
Bill Lycett August 26, 2011 at 02:36 AM
As a coach for youth sports over the years and a parent of four children I think the memories and the pizza or ice cream party at the end of the season is enough. Yes the hardware is nice but do the kids really care after the end of the season, the next year? Most don't care if they won or lost 5 minutes after the game ended at a young age. I think we has parents need to set expectaions for our youth that you do not get a reward for just showing up. You need to work hard give every effort and help your team at all times. You don't do this for a award, it's part of learning to be an adult. After seeing young adults who were given awards for showing up come into the business world with expectations of the same, we need to change something.
Chris Miller August 26, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Beth You are spot on with your comment. People need to stand up and stop the nonsense. Reward the kids appropriately with awards for the best or take all of them out for ice cream or a backyard picnic. Then make sure you point our true success to the kids and that is mom and dad getting up on a daily basis, going to work and doing their job. Kids have no idea as to what will be expected of them in the very near future. They aslo do not understand the it is work that gives one worth, something that is very important. It is these things that we must teach our kids and stand for those values
Salisbury Resident August 26, 2011 at 06:51 PM
All of you who made these comments need to make an effort to go to your local youth organizations and make the case. Without doing so, the trophies and trinkets are going to be continually purchased. Merely typing your opinion and attaching your name is not enough. Reach out to the leaders of those leagues. Trinkets = money = savings.
LENNY KRISPINSKY May 16, 2013 at 02:31 PM
I have both coached and officiated soccer from 8 year old to college for over 35 years. I was pleasantly surprised to read the insightful comments regarding the awarding of "meaningless" participation trophies to their "young athletes" for just showing up to play the game. Today's parents must learn to "wake up and smell the coffee" and realize that there should be the "effort / reward" scenario regarding the awarding of any type of award!

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