A Case for Participation Trophies & Medals in a ‘Winner Takes All’ Society


This young man will need a kidney transplant in a year. He completed a half-marathon today, running it in 1:54. He didn’t win, but got a well-deserved participation medal.

“In The Blood of Olympus, which is currently the beast-selling book in the U.S., a group of modern-day demigods try to save the world from warring Greek and Roman immortals. The way my 14-year-old daughter described the plot, it sounds fantastically complicated. But there was one part I got right away:

Nike, the winged goddess of victory, sets four of the main characters against each other. She wants them to fight until just one is left standing. The others, she promises, will be happy they died gloriously.

When they try to convince her that everyone loses if they go to war, she freaks out. “There is always a winner!” she screams. “One winner! Everyone else is a loser! Otherwise, victory is meaningless!”

That leads the goddess to a rant about participation trophies, which is funny because she’s talking about soldiers shaking hands and saying “good game” instead of killing each other.

But her basic thought—people shouldn’t be rewarded just for showing up—is one I see echoed regularly on social media. Inevitably, the thought is expressed by a guy who, I would guess, was the biggest, strongest, most badass kid growing up. He didn’t need participation trophies because he was almost always the best at whatever sport he played. And now he objects to the idea that anyone who isn’t the best gets rewarded….”

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