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Participation Trophy Discussion Continues...

Uploaded: May 4, 2014
Today's NYT has on opinion piece which argues against those who argue that our kids are coddled with, among other things, participation trophies:

For some reason they cut off the online comments at less than 200, which is pretty early as those things go.

Just wanted to get a show of hands out there: how many think that participation trophies for kids who are part of a team that did not win a championship trophy or a runner-up trophy is a good idea or a bad one? Here's my take on it, please write in with yours.

I'm pretty much against them. Rewarding participation alone does not recognize whether a player gave their best effort or not. Just as I believe that in school there should be two grades, one for academic accomplishment, and the other for effort, I believe that can also be extended to the sports teams our kids play on. Thus you can earn a trophy for winning (limited to first place, second and maybe third) and you can earn a trophy for maximum effort, both at practices and during the games. The effort trophy has the potentional of being awarded to every player in the league, while of course the winners trophy is limited. The coach would explain to the players (and their parents) before the first practice about the earning and awarding of trophies for both achievement and effort. If we really wanted to get "real" about this, just because your team won the championship does not automatically reward every kid of the team with an achievement trophy. If they didn't qualify for the effort trophy they would not get the achievement one. If you are lucky enough to get on a highly achieving team, I don't think you should share in their glory if you were not giving max. effort while practicing and playing. (I don't want to get into a discussion today about those coaches who focus only on the most gifted players on their teams and bascially neglect the development of all the others. This can be greatly discouraging to those who are willing to give max. effort, aren't as good as the starters, and their efforts are not appreciated, encouraged and rewarded by their coach. These coaches are pursuing wins and trophies for themselves and do a disservice to the majority of kids they coach.)

Imagine if our public schools (and private ones for that matter) awarded two grades (if I remember back 50 years or so, our report cards did have a place to rate effort.) Our kids who are discouraged by very high academic achievers in their classes getting all the high marks, would still be motivated to work hard and do their best to achieve the best effort grade. And those kids who are "naturally" gifted and achieve high grades without barely cracking open a book, would be propelled to even higher levels of achievement knowing they were being encouraged and graded for their effort too. Perhaps a blended grading system could be considered?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

As a parent of a kid with asthma, I must say a participation trophy would have been nice. He got bullied for his condition. This winning is everything mentality has a dark side.

Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Palo Alto Mom: I am so sorry your son had such a hard time trying to be on a team and facing getting bullied. I think my blog entry was clear that I am not all about winning. In many ways I think the effort trophy I spoke about is more important than the winners trophy. And I suggested that a player on the winning team may not get the winners trophy if they didn't earn the effort trophy. If you think it would help, you could share with your child this list of star athletes who have asthma and succeeded: Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Olympian), Jerome Bettis (NFL), Paula Radcliff - world record holder in the marathon, Dennis Rodman (NBA), Justine Henin (4 time French Open tennis champ), Greg Louganis (Olympic diver). Hopefully your child does not grow up seeing himself handicapped as "that kid with asthma." If that's the way he/she sees himself and is referred to by people he looks up to, then he indeed will grow up being "that kid with asthma."

Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 7, 2014 at 5:45 pm

My son's doctor explained to me that to understand what it's like for him to try running around while breathing through a small straw. Thus the inhaler. But sports do help build endurance and are good. Doing your best is what counts, that's my point, and that is what I think should be celebrated.

Posted by Awards for Effort, a resident of Stanford,
on Dec 7, 2014 at 8:25 am

It's the germ of a good idea, I wouldn't think you withhold achievement awards for lack of effort, but anyway, it's too hard to measure effort.

Even 50 years ago, the teachers tended to be practical? sloppy? lazy? w/r to grading effort. I can recall receiving unwarranted ratings of "E" (highest mark) for effort when I received any sort of "A" in a course, even when my effort was clearly minimal or substandard. And also receiving "S-" (less than satisfactory) when my grade was B- or C+ even when I was putting forth more effort than most in the class and far more than I did for classes in which I received an "E" for effort.

If there were a good way to measure effort, it would be an important grade. But it would also force teachers to teach a very wide range of things at the same time. Classes work best now, in the default assembly line model of education, when the weaker students try harder and the best students don't try as much. With students at all levels putting forth all levels of effort, teaching classes would become a profession much more difficult to master.

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