What Are The Pros And Cons Of Participation Trophies?

To compete and having the will to succeed or win is something innate in human nature. Competing for survival has been an obvious constant throughout human history. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, the standard of living has improved beyond our wildest imaginations. Any contest that one participates in, does not pose any risk to life, but the winner takes all mentality remains the same. At least, that was the case until the advent of participation trophies, which according to many, do not hold any significant worth.

Participation trophies are certainly beneficial for those who don’t seek winning in the first place, it is rather about the experience for such people. It also raises and uplifts the confidence of the ones who fell far short of everyone else. On the other hand, something not earned through effort and hard work, is what keeps most of the people in their comfort zones. As stated by hardcore sports fans, if you do not play to win, there is no point in showing up either.

While the dedicated and committed performers have always despised the idea of getting any award for free, the other side considers participation certificates and trophies as a recognition for participants on showing up to compete. This paradox has sparked quite a debate on the value and merit that these awards carry, along with their importance.

Let’s Start With Some Pros:

Pros of Participation Trophies

Recognition for trying

This is particularly important for young athletes who have just started a sport or have participated in a competition for the first time. Participation trophies are an acknowledgement for having the will to compete.

After all, no matter what the contest is, there can only be one winner.

The least that can be done for those who fall short is to appreciate them for making an effort.

The participation awards serve to reduce the gap of disparity that exists between winners and losers by endorsing everyone’s undertaking and struggle who performed in the competition.

Encouragement for amateurs

For upcoming and budding sportsmen, the participation trophies mean a lot more than recognition for their efforts. It inspires them to perform even better the next time.

The participation trophies serve as a benchmark to many by reminding them that in the end, regardless of the results, effort and strive is what matters the most. On the other hand, if one’s efforts are overlooked, it can certainly be demotivating and disheartening.

Participation trophies are a boost to the confidence of everyone who took part in the contest, stimulating and propelling them to take on such endeavors more often.

Serves as a reminder

The participation trophies have a unique nostalgic value attached to them. It reminds the sportspersons and the competitors of their struggling days.

The sentimental worth of these awards is simply priceless. A mere jog down memory lane, reminiscing the younger days can be quite valuable in terms of reinvigorating their old spirit and passion they felt at that stage of their careers.

Apart from revitalizing their zeal and zest, it serves as a yardstick, reminding them of how far they have come.

Boosts self-esteem in children

For someone just starting, too much stress should not be placed on winning the competition. Instead, it is important to motivate them to try hard the next time.

Children are very prone to losing their will once they see no reward after trying.

It is very easy for them to quit once they realize that they are far behind everyone else and can never win the race, or score the most. Apart from their confidence and self-belief, it can be perilous to their self-esteem as well, considering how tender and sensitive they are.

To boost their feeling of self-worth, it is indispensable to have participation trophies that will cherish and acknowledge their efforts, and give them a reason to try once again.

No one feels left out

Another great advantage of participation trophies other than recognition of competitors’ efforts is that when the contest is over, everyone feels included.

This creates a good friendly vibe and boosts the morale of the participants for the next time. Everyone, not just the top achievers, feel that their efforts have been recognized.

It creates an aura of amiability and warmth among the competitors. There are no sour feelings at the end of the day and everyone goes home, satisfied. The participation trophies foster a sense of belonging.

Promote healthy participation

The participation trophies nurture active participation once the participants know that their efforts are all that counts.

Not everyone is playing to win, some are in it just for the sake of the experience. A mere recognition in the shape of some award is enough for people to flock to a competition. You can be serious as well as avail the luxury of having fun when the participation trophies are in play.

There is no pressure to win. It can lead to a higher engagement in team work, by helping each other out and making sure everyone crosses the line together.

The Cons of Participation Trophies:

Cons of Participation Trophies

The drawbacks of participation trophies are just as compelling as all the points in its favor.

From handing out free rewards to killing the competitive spirit, there are many who are in opposition to the idea of including participation trophies in competitions. Since you can get them by just participating, shows that they are not earned like any other awards.

Some lessons are meant to be learnt the hard way

The fact that in any competition in life, there can be only one winner is an uncomfortable truth of life that everyone needs to get used to.

The participation trophies are liable of dilute the bitter realities of life that can only be learnt through competitions.

If you do not make it through, your efforts amount to nothing. Such harsh veracity should become acceptable in a society rather than spinning it other way around. In protecting everyone’s feelings and self-belief, we are losing sight of something far more important. Some lessons are to be learnt after getting hurt, these lessons are far more important in building character than false sense of accomplishment.

Dampens the motivation in competitors

It is highly likely that no one will give a competition its due respect until and unless there is something worth playing for.

The advent of participation trophies has proven detrimental for the innate aggression and competitive spirit among the participants. No one feels the need to push their limits and achieve beyond what is expected of them since they believe their efforts are being recognized.

With the coming of participation trophies, it is much easier to quit when facing a formidable challenge, rather than overcoming the adversity and stealing the march on it.

Promotes self-conceit

According to many, the concept of participation trophies fosters misled motivation and confidence. Especially in youngsters, it is likely to nurture narcissism.

It is probable to believe in yourself when you have a participation trophy to serve as your accolade.  This self-belief is likely to turn into arrogance and presumptuous entitlement when the trophies are just as easy to collect as stepping foot in the competition. With every child feeling that they are the best, which in itself is extremely contradicting with the reality of the situation, there is no way for them to learn that nothing comes easy in life.

Next time, they expect things to be handed to them instead of striving to earn them.

Competitors are likely to overlook their mistakes

There is not any need to learn if there are no lessons learnt. The participation trophies recognizing the participants for their hard work and trying, makes them blind to what they are lacking. At the end of the competition, everyone is satisfied and there is no real reason to improve if you are getting rewarded for simply putting in effort. This not only prevents one from recognizing and learning from failures, but also prevents their growth as competitors.

The mistakes and mishaps are a big deal that need as much recognition as the efforts.

Gives participants a false sense of belief

The participation trophies at the very least are good at promoting false confidence.  For someone who is content with a participation trophy can never hope to bridge the gap between him and the winner. Facing any real challenges or competition in life is only going to expose him and his self-belief will crumble under pressure. Failure is nothing but inevitable for someone who is confident in himself because of any participation trophies.

The misled motivation and ambitions is nothing but a house of cards, that is about to get decimated and destroyed in the wake of the storm of a fierce competition.

Participation trophies breed self-contentment

Self-contentment and satisfaction may be a good thing in other walks of life, however that is not true when it comes to competing.

You compete for only winning, and nothing else. Settling for anything less is simply averse to realizing your full potential. The introduction of participation trophies is making the competition much easier for the winner by breeding contentment in the rest of the participants. Winner takes it all, on the contrary, is a much fierce mentality that brings the best out of everyone. This competitive nature can be reinvigorated by replacing all the trophies with a single one.

In which kind of competitions do participation trophies play a beneficial role? From which kind of competitions do they need to be abolished?

Participation Trophies

Any competition involving children or a large number of untrained participants needs to have participation trophies as a token of appreciation for showing up to the competition. It also encourages them to come and experience it again.

Overall, an atmosphere of amiability prevails. The purpose here is not to sharpen their competitive spirit, but offer a wholesome experience and memorabilia in the shape of participation trophy that they can take back home as a remembrance of this pleasant day.

The competitions that must not have such awards are the ones where the stakes are much higher and every participant is a trained professional. Even at junior levels of a sport, one must realize how hard it is to win. It prepares the athletes for much tougher challenges ahead in their career. Nothing is taken for granted and all that you are rewarded is something you have earned.

Should participation trophies be discarded after one becomes a professional?

It does not make any sense to discard any record of your past. If anything these certificates or awards do, is to remind you of your past and help you to stay connected with your roots.

They possess sentimental value and should be cherished instead of being discarded. No matter how far you advance in your career, there should be a reminder to tell from where you started and how much you have progressed since then.

A trip down the memory lane may also help you find your lost passion when you are feeling down and out. Refreshing your old memories through these trophies can sometimes help you rediscover yourself.


Participation trophies although may not be carrying any significant worth, but it can play an essential role in the development of young athletes. However, too much reliance upon them is not a good sign for any sportsman.

Therefore, at a certain level, the participation trophies must be removed from the competitions to inculcate life lessons in the amateurs, as well as giving them a taste of challenges lying ahead. It is much better for anyone to realize sooner than learning the hard way later in life.