Everybody Gets a Trophy? Good!

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

I don't think I can get more tired of hearing people use the phrase, "Everybody gets a trophy" as a put-down. The youth sports trophy has become a symbol of weakness. Of "wokeness". It's not. And, ironically, some of us need to wake up.

At what age group is it appropriate to begin keeping score, having standings, playoffs and championships? We can debate that number, but we all agree, I hope, that with our youngest children, we don't pay attention to winning and losing. The kids come out to play. They get to wear a uniform. Learn how to sit on a bench together. Learn to play as a team. Start picking up the nuances of the game, understand the rules. They just have fun and eat a snack after. 

If we give kids at this level an award for participation, what have we harmed? When my kids were in their earliest recreational sports years, the league handed each player a trophy after the season. We weren't telling every kid they won the championship. It was a souvenir. A memento with their team name on it. For years, those little trophies adorned their bedrooms and every time they looked at them, they remembered the fun they had playing for that team. Never did they believe they had achieved something unearned. They understood every kid got one and they knew it was just a nice keepsake. 

Then, they moved up to higher levels where score was kept and championships were won and there, our league still gave every kid a trophy. But, (before your blood pressure spikes), not the same ones. The kids on the winning team received big, championship trophies, the others got the souvenir. Everyone knew the difference. No one had a false sense of accomplishment. In fact, a lot of the older kids probably just tossed those trophies away, frankly. They didn't run home and say, "Look mom and dad! Look what I won!" 

Maybe those who rail against the participation trophy would suggest we just do away with recreational sports altogether. Think about it. If your six year-old is not as talented as another six year-old, is it fair that they both get to wear the same uniform? Play on the same team? Shouldn't we be having tryouts and cuts at three, four, five years-old so that only those who are deserving get to play? Otherwise, what are we teaching our youth? That everybody makes the team? No wonder our society is in the shape it's in. 

I hope you detect my sarcasm.

If you can find me an organization this is handing out League Championship trophies to every player, even if their team never won a game, let me know. If you are aware of a league giving every kid on every team an MVP trophy and trying to convince them all, secretly, that they were the most valuable player, bring it to my attention. 

Because the participation trophy is just that. It's a symbol of appreciation for coming out and being part of the fun. "Here, youngster. Thank you for participating. We hope you had a wonderful experience and that when you look at this little figure in the future, it will bring you fond memories and make you want to play again." Isn't that a terrible message to be sending to our youth? 

I hope you detect my sarcasm.

Brian Gotta is a former professional recreational youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is President of Help Kids Play, a collection of companies whose mission is to further the development and enjoyment of youth sports.


Apr 25, 2023 • Posted by Roger Snyder

Very good point.

This is another symptom of how adults are trying to ruin youth sports.

Apr 25, 2023 • Posted by Ted Lockamon

Excellent article, Brian. I appreciate the perspective and wholeheartedly agree.

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