I Don’t Want My Kids Getting Participation Trophies Either


I love sports. I live in the south (okay, Florida, but same thing) and sports are a part of life down here. I grew up participating in cheerleading, gymnastics, softball, volleyball and several other sports, and I love all sports in general. My husband played baseball and he loves football, so our kids will be athletes, too. As much as we love sports, though, we do not love participation trophies. Our oldest daughter is currently old enough to play sports, and she’s a cheerleader. She is not interested in other sports at the moment, and that’s all right. We have a little one who is going to play soccer later this year, and twins who will one day be old enough to choose to play sports, too. But oh my goodness; sports have changed since I was a child – and not for the good. Participation trophies are at the top of our “What has happened to sports?” list.

When I grew up, we practiced right after school, even if the sport was not a ‘school’ sport but a county league or a town league (Little League and Pop Warner, for example). We were home in time for dinner and we were in bed by bedtime. My daughter practices cheer from 6 pm to 8 pm almost every night of the week, and we are not fans of this schedule. For one, she’s 7. There is no need for kids this age to practice two hours a night, every night of the week and participate in games on Saturdays. It’s too much. Additionally, her regularly scheduled bedtime is the time she’s getting out of practice, which means she’s no longer going to bed until 10 pm.

Let me explain to you what my day looks like as it pertains to her cheer schedule:

3:30 pm – line up to pick up daughter from second grade in the world’s longest car line ever

4 pm – daughter finally in car

4:15 pm – pick up other daughter from her school

4:45 pm – home from school pick up (remove four kids, two with school supplies and two who are only 17-months-old from car)

4:45-5 pm  – unload car, get snacks, go through backpacks, sign planners, empty lunch boxes

5:00 – 5:20 pm – work on homework with 2nd grader and usually put it away before she is finished

5:20 pm – daughter gets dressed for practice

5:30 pm – leave home to drive half hour to practice

6 – 8 pm – watch kids play games and not actually practice except for maybe 30 minutes of the actual practice since the rest is bathroom and water break

8:30 pm – arrive home

8:30 pm – 10 pm – eat dinner husband has cooked and waiting on us, get daughter to finish homework, get daughter to take shower, get ready for bed

10 pm – tuck daughter into bed

7 am – wake up

Tell me that is not absolutely ridiculous. I decided not to coach this year, since last year and the year before meant I spent absolutely no time with my other kids or at home for three months once school was back in session. At least now I can get my husband to go for me while I spend some time with our other three kids and get the twins to bed when they’re done with the world at 6:30 pm so that my husband isn’t the only one that gets to hug and kiss and cuddle them at night when tucking them in (it makes me jealous). And not one ounce of this is my real problem (though we do dislike the times and lack of sleep and family time for kids this age).

When I was coaching last year, the commissioner of our local Pop Warner association had the actual nerve to call me as the coach of the 5/6 year old squad and tell me (not ask) to tell my girls’ parents that they needed to give her $10 a piece so that the league could purchase trophies for all the kids.

Excuse me?

These are the same parents that dropped more than $300 per child to participate. This is the same commissioner that neglected to order uniforms in time for the season to start and made our girls cheer two weeks in a row in shorts and a tee shirt and only get to wear their actual uniforms for the last six games (even though they were $200) and this is the same commissioner who thought that all the kids needed participation trophy.

I had kids on my squad that sat down ‘sick’ through every practice and every game. They do not get a trophy. I told her no. She said she’d just pay for them. I told her I’d pay for them out of my pocket before I asked these parents for another penny of their hard-earned money, but that not everyone on my squad was getting participation trophy – especially the ones that did not participate.

Sorry, not sorry. Kids don’t get rewarded for showing up. It’s not what life is all about. If I want my kids to strive for mediocrity, then I’m not a good parent. Good parents want their kids to succeed by earning the trophies and accolades. Sorry, but giving a child a trophy just for signing up is the equivalent of me clapping and cheering for my kids just for waking up in the morning. It’s not happening.

Participation trophies are ruining our kids. They know they’re getting something, and they know they need not work for it. This teaches them an ugly lesson about entitlement. Sorry, but my kids aren’t going to be there for that. If they want trophies, they better practice hard, work hard and do their best so that they can earn them. My kids aren’t getting everything handed to them just because they have the good sense to breathe. They’re working for it. Working for rewards teaches kids motivation, hard work, teamwork and it teaches them to be responsible.

If we give kids trophies for being there, they’re not learning to be responsible. They’re learning that showing up is all it takes. Actually working doesn’t seem to be a requirement. That means that they’re not learning anything.

In short, there will be no participation trophies in the Raiford household. If my kids want to have trophies to decorate our home with, they darn well better practice, work hard and make an effort to succeed. End of discussion.

Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images


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