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Participation Trophies Are Worth Celebrating

10/25/2015 08:38 EDT | Updated 10/25/2016 05:12 EDT
Rana Faure via Getty Images
Croton on Hudson, New York, USA

This summer, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison drew a lot of praise for an Instagram post where he announced that he was returning his kids' participation trophies. He went on to say, "I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best... cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better."

Really? Between the two of us, we have seven kids of varying athletic abilities -- a couple of superstars, some above-average athletes and some with limited athletic ability. What does this mean to us as parents?

If we follow James Harrison's advice, it appears that only the superstars should be praised and the others should be driven to do better. But, what if they can't do better and they do not have that "natural" talent? What if they still love hockey or soccer?

We're talking about kids' sports leagues here, likely house league or a recreational league. If your child has already been identified as a future "great one," he or she has likely been recruited to play on an elite team. There are no participation trophies in elite sports.

But getting back to the discussion about participation trophies and medals, we love them. Our kids love them, too. As they get older, they will grow to understand that you get trophies for winning ,or being the top scorer, or MVP. There is nothing wrong with a seven-year-old walking away with a ribbon at the end of a great soccer season. The ribbon in itself can be a motivator to do better and gives kids a feeling of accomplishment.

There seems to be concern over giving a trophy to the child that does not work hard or try. This argument is total BS. If a kid is not trying hard or acting disinterested, maybe ask yourself why they are not working hard, as opposed to being concerned about whether or not they deserve a trophy. Maybe they don't like the sport? Maybe they are being pushed too much?

Another argument put forward is that giving your all does not always get rewarded in the real world. Another ridiculous argument. Is this something you really want to teach your seven-year-old? They have lots of time to learn life's harsh realities. The mediocre kids know they are mediocre, but on one day during the season, prize day or trophy day, they are just like the kid who scored all season long. They both get the same trophy. The participation trophy does not diminish the super athlete's accomplishments. He or she get lots of accolades, high-fives and praise throughout the season.

Some argue that participation trophies foster narcissism. If we are so worried about raising future narcissists, we should pay more attention to the thousands of selfies they take and the validation they get from Instagram "likes." This is what's creating the narcissistic generation.

Participating in sports is part of a healthy lifestyle. Playing on a team is a good life skill. James Harrison's message is that it's not always enough to give 100 per cent. We believe the exact opposite -- all you need to do is give 100 per cent. In life, you will win some and lose some, but if you raise your kids to understand the importance of giving it their all -- in whatever they undertake -- then we think you have done your job as a parent.

About the Authors: Stephanie Kleiman and Tal Srulovicz are co-owners and editors-in-chief of Her Magazine.

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