Not Everyone Deserves a Medal


Joseph Heisler, Features Editor

The score was 8-7, the 8th grade wrestling championships. Both wrestlers had worked their tails off all season. On a last second takedown, the kid who was losing scored a two! He won the championship!
They are standing on the podium. The winners are about to get their medals. The kid is super excited, you can feel it radiating of him. The head of the league hands him his medal, and he is exhilarated. He looks around, and sees that everyone has the same medal as him. He is not at the top of the podium, everyone is level with him. Even the kid who came in last is there. The large smile he had suddenly turned into a frown.
Should people be rewarded as if they won, even if they came in last? Or should they get nothing, because they won nothing? “Participation trophies” has some people believing that awards are necessary, while other people believe that “participation awards” give kids a false sense of achievement.
To give out a participation trophy is like a teacher giving every student the A+ grade on a test. The kids who did well on the test don’t feel a sense of achievement because they worked hard and got no reward for their hard work. On the other hand, the kids who did poorly don’t feel the need to work harder because they got the same grade as the kids who studied for a good grade.
An example of this is in pretty much any youth sport. At the end of most sports seasons, a team has an awards dinner. Most of the time, the kid that had the best season and the kid that had the worst season are treated exactly the same. They all tried their best, so everyone gets to win “Team MVP”.
This could lead to many possible outcomes. The kid who came in last will most likely not push himself to his fullest potential. All of his life, he was told that losing was okay and he was still treated as a winner. Yes, he may have tried his best, but trying one’s best on the SAT and scoring a 730 won’t get that person into Harvard.
For the winner, it could lead to something else. He worked his tail off to become the very best, and it was clear that he was the best. However, he sees the kid he beat easily walking around with the same medal he got for coming in first. All of the sudden, all of the work that was put in does not seem to matter, leading him not to care and become a “loser” himself.
When there are no participation trophies handed out, it gives kids a much more real-world experience. In life, a person is not given a promotion because someone else who was hired at the same time got one. One has to work to show one’s worth to gain the promotion.
This could easily be taught at an early age. When a kid comes in last, don’t hand him a big trophy. Give him nothing and only give the winner an award. Then the kids are more prepared for life as it will come at them.
In the end, not winning will be more beneficial to the child. Maybe seeing the person who came in first with a medal will motivate the kid who came in last to work harder and to improve. Maybe he will be the one who earns the medal next time, rather than being the one who is given a medal in pity. It will also help the kid who came in first remain determined. He will see himself and only himself with the gold medal. He will feel accomplished and want to feel like that more, keeping his good work ethic intact.
Now, for the kids who came in second or third, they should be awarded as well. It should not be as grand as a kid who came in first, but it should still be a decent award. They worked hard and tried, they were just not as good as the kid who came in first, but still better than all of the other kids. On top of that, it will motivate them. They will look at their medals and see that they are not the equal to the medal of the kid who came in first, and that will probably motivate them to do better. Maybe they will come in first next time.
If adults keep giving out these half-hearted “good jobs” and “pity” trophies, once the kids become adults, they are in for a true slap in the face. Rather than getting a first place trophy, they are getting their contracts terminated.
For example, say someone is a police officer. He is called out for a car accident, but is told that it does not seem that bad, so he elects to wait ten minutes rather than going straight out. Once he arrives, he learns the situation is much worse than described.
The person in the car is seriously injured due to the cop’s negligence. Now the cop is being fined as well as fired. But when he was a kid, being mediocre was rewarded, so why is it not now? He was not prepared properly for life when he was a child, and as an adult he is finally facing consequences for his actions.
There should not be participation trophies. They give a false sense of achievement and teach kids that no work ethic or dedication will still get you rewarded. Kids need failure to have a sense of motivation to get better.