Episode 151 – Why we need to get rid of participation awards
I remember receiving a participation award in school for coming 8th out of 15 for a 800m race. I was embarrassed to be in the bottom 12 participants. This was the equivalent of putting a big red sign over my head that said, “we felt sorry for these [loser] 12 kids.”
Eventually of course, I went on to enjoy the 800m race distance and even competed at state and regional levels a few years later – but I didn’t need a participation ribbon to spur that – it was the embarrassment of getting a participation award (kid’s read between the lines better than adults think).
I have always been exposed to competition, sports and a few other adverse situations (racism, prejudice, etc) that have shaped me throughout life.
It’s made me who I am.
In fact, to this day I purposely go out of my way to seek adversity.
It’s the “weathering” of life’s elements against my soul that creates great strength and richness of character.
Personally, I believe there should be distinct and identifiable winners and losers in life (particularly from my sporting and competition background, and even thinking about it from an evolutionary perspective).
It’s innate in our genetics – and you know what, humans might even need it to strive and thrive!
Let’s look at an example in more detail:
Junior sports – where everyone gets a participation award – are going the wrong way.
I think that’s a rubbish act on behalf of the governing bodies or organisations of those events – and the average parents who expect it of an event or organisation.
There should be only 1st, 2nd and 3rd in sports at all levels because when you’re a kid growing up into sports you will recognise and get the honest and genuine feedback that you need such as relating to one of these self-talk statements:
1. “Hey, you know what, I’m good at this and should keep going” or,
2. “I’m not good enough for this sport [activity, etc]. I need to either to improve myself to be better next time, or next year or next competition” – or,
3. “I didn’t enjoy it and perhaps I need to find another avenue to express myself where I am good.”
This is exemplary of an great avenue for constructive feedback to grow and develop oneself and it also creates opportunities to work on positive and constructive self-talk.
Confused about the nature of participation awards? Read on below.
On the contrary, the worst thing that can happen for a child’s development is if everyone gets a participation award.
It creates the wrong self-talk message (a false truth):
“Hey you know what, maybe it’s okay to be this way – to be mediocre – to be like everyone else.”
“Well, I get an award for it like everyone else.”
The number one question on my mind in response to this is:
“Why would you want to be like everyone else? Why would anyone think that feedback isn’t good?”
What happens when you take away or withhold the participation award “reinforcement” for doing something? (or worse you are exposed to an activity that has no apparent award) What does that do to your psychology?
This is what it does:
1. You get conditioned for inaction (unless there’s incentive)
2. It makes you weak in the mind where short term gratification blinds you from long term rewards
3. There’s no self-talk development and refinement: Self-awareness is stunted
4. Mediocrity ensues.
Get rid of the participation awards.
Let the “weathering” of life’s elements against their soul create great strength and richness of character.
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Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness.
Chris Everingham lives and breathes health & fitness. International Athlete, Elite Performance Manager for the Philippine Volcanoes rugby teams, qualified Dietitian / Nutritionist and qualified educator. Chris Everingham combines more than 10 years of experience and education together to deliver the best strategies to grow your mindset, rewire your habits and transform your life.