Parenting In The Age of Trophy Kids

what is healthy competition in sports

The Olympic games are a powerful reminder of the thrill of competition. It is truly exhilarating to watch as athletes from all over the world go for the gold.

The shear joy of watching the 15-year-old Mexican diver take the silver for synchronized diving, her partner, 11 years her senior, her childhood idol, the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, a childhood dream, the opportunity to take the silver -- it was all out of this world!

Back on the community soccer field or baseball diamond, parents proudly watch their kids play. The playing field has been truly been leveled providing all kids the opportunity to participate.

Related: Mobile Apps for Youth Sports

Each child is given equal time on the field; all kids are appreciated and acknowledged; there are no losers; every child wins. Every child's participation is valued.

At the end of the season 'the most valuable player' is not identified or acknowledged. All the children 'win' a trophy regardless of their skill level or commitment.

A very rosy Norman Rockwell like picture. Things are as they should, or are they? In an effort to be politically correct and fair, has the pendulum swung too far in some communities?

Have we taken the competitiveness out of the sport? By acknowledging everyone and giving each child equal play, are we doing a disservice to the kids who deserve to be noticed?

Of even greater importance, are we being honest with our kids regarding the ways of the world? The answer to this question is unclear. In fact one could argue we do a disservice to our kids when we hand out those trophies. Aren't we sending them the message that life is always fair, that no one individual should be recognized that competition is not necessarily valued in sports in which 'everyone wins?'

Related: Top 10 Benefits of Sports for Kids

In reality not all kids are natural athletes. Some kids excel while others lag behind.

These children do, however, excel in other areas of interest where they are acknowledged with accolades. While lessons of cooperation and collaborative play are, indeed, important, a little healthy competition provides an honest depiction of the world at large.

Trophy kids are led to believe that they do not need to work to be recognized. They are taught that all players are equal despite their level of commitment or skill. It would be hard to believe that the majority of Olympic competitors could have made to the Olympics with this philosophy.

As with most things in life, it is all about balance. At developmental levels of play all children should be given the opportunity to participate, however, those individuals who clearly excel should not only be recognized, but properly encouraged, as well.

The majority of kids will not grow up to be Olympians. By promoting healthy competition and acknowledging skilled players, however, we provide a healthy competitive environment in which adept athletes can excel.

What do you think...should kids always win? Have we gone too far?

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Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual."  They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at

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