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Stop With the Trophies Already!

Stop With the Trophies Already!

With a new school year beginning, one mom offers a plea for kids to be awarded trophies only when they’ve accomplished something that deserves the recognition.


My kids are 12 and 8. They have been playing sports since they were little. They aren’t superstars. And yet we have more than 20 trophies sitting in our home. Trophies that take up room, gather dust, and are pretty much meaningless.

We’ve got trophies for kindergarten Catholic Youth Organization basketball, our beach club’s swim team, the National PTA Reflections contest, a first-grade soccer tournament, and cheerleading. Last month the girls and I cleaned their rooms. All those trophies ended up sitting in the hallway of our upstairs. The girls didn’t want them cluttering up their shelves. “Mommy,” they said, “we don’t need them.” No kidding, I thought. No kidding.

I have been against giving out trophies since we got the first shiny plastic and stone monstrosity complete with a little soccer ball. (That one was for participating in a local peewee soccer program that didn’t even have games!) My biggest complaint has always been that trophies should be for real accomplishments. Big wins. Amazing feats of prowess, academic or athletic. You don’t need a trophy to commemorate 10 weeks of kindergarten sports skills classes!

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison created a firestorm when he posted on Instagram about taking away trophies his little ones got. The photo was accompanied by this post:

“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and 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…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues” 



I totally agree and wish others did, but alas, I am in the minority. For example, a few years ago I ran our elementary school’s Reflections program and I championed phasing out the trophies. We could give out ribbons and medals, I said. It would be cheaper, I said. It didn’t fly. The trophies were ordered, and I silently cursed the fact that I would have another four of them in my house. (My kids tend to do well at those types of contests.)

But I digress, as usual. When my kids handed over their shiny loot I took to the Internet to find out if I could recycle them. Yes, I discovered, there are companies that will recycle trophies, but I couldn’t find any close by. Today I posted on Facebook and a friend sent me a link about a place way out east that takes them and refurbishes them for charities. It’s about an hour away from my home, but it may be worth the trip just to get them out of my sight.

In the meantime, I know I am blessed that my kids are able to be involved with sports and contests to earn trophies at all. There are many children who don’t have the same opportunities.

Does that earn me a medal?


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