The TRUTH About Participation Trophies

The TRUTH About Participation Trophies

Okay, this isn’t really a blog about participation trophies. This is a blog about truth. Whatever controversial topic you feel passionate about, insert that topic where it says “participation trophies” and I wrote this blog just for you. However, when the idea came to me it was about writing it for me and my High5 team. We remain the humble students of this beautiful thing called life.

I have two members of my High5 team that have different truths about participation trophies. In full transparency, I don’t believe they have ever debated it with each other. I’ve just heard each version from both of them on separate occasions. As for me, I’ve given little thought to participation trophies up until now.

In writing this, I did just enough research to find out the controversy started with a 2015 comment by a professional football player, and then took on a life of its own. I learned that in some circles whether you’re pro or con automatically links you to a specific political side. I also did my own inquiry with some folks, and while the level of passion varies, most people DO have an opinion on this subject.

What is the truth about participation trophies? Have we created an entitled generation who believes that if they simply show up for anything they deserve a trophy? Or have we created a generation focused on inclusion where these small trophies have positive effects on a child’s drive to succeed? Or is it none of the above? Or could it be all of the above?


What you believe, is your truth. It’s important that we all speak our truth. For some, this is easy. For others, it scares them to say what they feel. However, until we speak our truth, we are holding back from being our authentic selves.

Speaking our truth is only half of the equation though. The other half is encouraging everyone else to do the exact same thing – to speak their truth – without fear of judgment. Our judgment. That level of support seems to be harder for most of us. Things really go awry when we believe our job is to convince everyone else that our truth is THE truth.

When our truth doesn’t align with someone else’s truth, it’s interesting how often we dismiss the other person’s truth as merely opinion. Yet, ours remains truth. This interaction often gets to the point where we are angry that others can’t see what is so clear to us. I asked the question in a blog a few months ago, “What if everyone is right?” What is it that makes us feel like we must be right and that everyone else should agree with us? To which, many of you are likely saying right now, “Because I AM right, Barb!”

Have you ever been so sure you were right about something and later learned you were wrong? There was a time when the world was flat. When we were kids, we had to wait an hour to swim after eating so we wouldn’t drown. People once believed it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. Most of us fight so hard to be right, because if someone else is right, then that must mean we are wrong. And we have another truth that being wrong is bad.

What if that’s wrong? What if being wrong is good because now I can see what I didn’t see before? What would be possible if I looked for evidence that I am wrong so I can expand my perspective? What does all of this have to do with participation trophies?

Well, when we make someone else wrong, we are keeping ourselves from an expanded awareness that could lead to new truth. For me, when I stopped having to be right all the time, I started to realize that maybe I was missing the point. Maybe I was fighting so hard because I didn’t want to see the truth; the truth that I was causing my own angst and pain because I didn’t want to be wrong. I was worried what others would think. I believed I would lose credibility. Now, I welcome different points of view because it helps me expand and evolve my truth.

Now, onto those participation trophies? Here is my truth. If you disagree, great. If you agree, great.

Let’s teach our kids to value how they show up and play the game over any trophy, certificate, ribbon or plaque. Let’s talk about the win in every game no matter what the score. Let’s teach them to be good team players, to be kind, to be supportive, to do their best and give it their all. Let’s help them be social off of social media.

Let’s teach them to understand early that not everyone sees things the way they do and that’s OKAY! Let’s teach them that we don’t have to make someone else wrong for all of us to have our own beliefs (truths), and yes, we can still be friends.

Let’s teach them to give themselves a High Five when they have done their best, and teach them to give others a High Five no matter which team they are on. Let’s teach them how strong they are by letting them fall down so they can get back up. Let’s teach them that everyone is worthy of love.

How do we teach them ALL of that?

WE GO FIRST! As adults, we are the role models for whether the children in our lives will be positive, kind and inclusive or entitled bullies. A trophy isn’t creating that. We are! And when we accept personal responsibility for that, my truth is we will never feel the need to talk about participation trophies again.

Let me know your thoughts!

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