A Critical Analysis of the Impact of Participation Trophies in Youth Sports
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Participation trophies in youth sports has been a recent hot topic of the 21st century, subject to controversial debate. This debate was brought back to light when Pittsburgh Steelers star James Harrison publicly denounced his six and eight-year-old sons' bringing home participation trophies on Instagram and advocating the return of the awards to their coach until they "EARN a real trophy." Rewarding these types of trophies to children for participating in sports has been a tradition going on since the late-70s, started by youth soccer leagues. However, it has become more of a common practice today throughout many youth sports. As the so-called war on Millennials heats up, many have been labeled as lazy and entitled by the older generation. Some parents are in uproar about youth programs awarding participation trophies to kids, regardless of winning or losing, as it may be sending the wrong message for the next generation and culture. Others believe that the purpose of participation trophies is not about winning, but about teaching a process of raising self-esteem and fostering future success through motivation. Whether these participation trophies are meant to be helpful or harmful to young athletes, people ranging from the world of athletics, academia, and adulthood all have an opinion regarding the matter. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to conduct a review on the existing literature and opinions surrounding the effects of participation trophies in youth sports, explore its implications, and propose ideas for a future compromise.