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Everyone Gets Gold

April 23, 20242 min read

I went to watch my granddaughter’s dance competition this weekend. It’s been years since I’ve been to one, so it was fun. But things have apparently changed drastically since my daughter danced.

Watching all the little dancers and seeing parents and grandparents cheering their moves was fun. I was so excited to be there supporting my granddaughter and seeing all the hard work she has put in pay off on stage. My granddaughter looked radiant up there; her movements were strong and graceful. Her smile was confident and joyful. I couldn’t help but beam with pride watching her perform.

However, I must speak up about the troubling trend of participation trophies in youth sports. I’m deeply concerned about the message this sends to young athletes.

Let me paint you a picture. This past weekend, my granddaughter’s dance competition was a far cry from the healthy, competitive environment when my daughter danced. Instead of the typical bronze, silver, and gold medals, accompanied by thoughtful feedback from the adjudicators, everyone walked away with gold. Seriously, everyone! Where’s the incentive to push themselves and strive for excellence?

The point of youth sports should be to foster a love of the game or activity, develop essential skills, and learn the value of hard work and determination. But when we hand out trophies simply for showing up, we’re doing our kids a disservice. It robs them of the opportunity to experience the thrill of victory and the motivation to improve.

I firmly believe that participation trophies send the wrong message. They teach our children that effort alone is enough, rather than emphasizing the importance of striving for personal bests and celebrating genuine achievements. In the real world, that’s not how it works, and we’re doing our kids a major disservice by shielding them from that reality.

Instead of participation trophies, we should focus on cultivating a healthy, competitive spirit in our young athletes. With constructive feedback and the opportunity to earn recognition for their hard work, they’ll develop the resilience and drive they’ll need to succeed, both in their chosen sport and life.

I realize there is a natural and admirable desire to shield children from hurt feelings. After all, their emotional well-being is of paramount importance. However, in our efforts to coddle and protect, we may be sending the wrong message - one that fails to prepare them for the true nature of life.

Life is not always fair. By shielding children from this reality, we risk creating a generation of misguided and entitled individuals ill-equipped to handle the inevitable disappointments and challenges that lie ahead. How can they develop the resilience to bounce back from setbacks if they have never had to work hard for their achievements?

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Monika Polefka-Proulx

Monika is an author, publisher, and coach. Her company, Reach Love Connect, comprises two parts - Reachout Publishing and her family coaching program, Unreachable Reach. Reachout Publishing facilitates publishing while working closely with authors to share stories that inspire, educate, entertain, and spread joy. Her mission is to amplify hope, comfort, and grace through meaningful content that can impact people’s lives. Monika also coaches families of troubled teens, using her 5-STEP R.E.A.C.H process to identify Root causes, Open Eyes and awknowledge blinders, Attack negative behaviors and influences, Chase family harmony, and Heal the family unit. Monika is the author of - No Matter What - How Far Would You Go to Save Your Child? She has also written several children’s books.

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