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Weekly Digest #115

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In this digest-

1. Article- North Carolina Wants to Ban Participation Trophies: I Am All For It!

2. Happiness Quotient From Around The World

3. Did You Know?

4. Entertainment Quotient

-Cover Story-

North Carolina Wants to Ban Participation Trophies: I Am All For It!

By: Agastya Rao

3 Senators of the Republican Party in the USA recently introduced a Bill in the local legislature in the State of North Carolina. This proposed Bill is groundbreaking but has stirred up quite a controversy. This legislation is not based on the ‘usual’ controversial topics in the USA such as gun laws, but is about participation trophies in sports.

State senators Tim Moffitt, Eddie Settle, and Bobby Hanig have introduced a bill named “An Act to Prohibit Awards In Youth Recreation Activities of Local Governments Based Solely on Participation”. The goal of the bill is a simple one - to ban participation trophies/awards in any youth sport or activity that is run by the local government. I for one, am all for it!

While some argue that the Bill is a waste of time and distracts from real issues faced by the State, such as the rampant gun violence and school shootings, others bring up the argument that participation trophies are making children “soft”, not fostering competition and giving children awards for basically doing nothing.

The problem is not a clear one,nor is the answer which is neither black nor white.

Participation trophies have been in use for the last 100 years or so, at least in the USA. They are given to all participants at a competition (usually children), and are given to encourage the child to participate in more competitions, and as a reward for the effort that the child put in for taking part.

Looking at it from the perspective of those against participation trophies, we get a few key and valid points against these awards-

1. They create a world or understanding that children (and when they grow up, adults) will receive some form of a prize just for showing up, thus killing the competitive spirit. The reason this spirit is important is because competition fosters innovation, and the drive that a person gets from within, encourages them to work harder and give their very best performance, with the goal of winning the top prize or ideally, challenging themselves.

If a child knows that they are going to win an award anyway, why would they bother to work any harder than they need to? This belief would slowly build up with every competition they take part in, leading to children giving up, or to take a more modern example-”Quiet Quitting” i.e., working only as much as they are required to do, without going the extra mile to work harder.

2. If children are used to getting an award just for showing up, when they become adults and enter “real life", they will be hit with some very harsh truths, i.e.they will not be rewarded just for heading into work on a certain day; they will need to work harder to do better. If during India vs Pakistan cricket matches, both teams were told that they would receive awards for simply showing up to the match and not giving it their very best, would we have this great competitive rivalry that we see today?

There is an inherent inequality in society, and to think of the world as 100% equal would be highly utopian. Taking the example of the popular Davis-Moore hypothesis, which states that social inequality and stratification shall always be there in society and it is beneficial to society as it motivates those with the most talent and potential to perform the hardest/most beneficial tasks. To put it simply, the harder people work, the better their rewards will be. Obviously this hypothesis itself is problematic for ignoring the fact that in life there is no level playing field among people and obviously, hard work does not always get rewarded; and yet the harsh truth is that merely showing up is of no use.

As a someone who has fenced and won at the State level, and participated in a multitude of sports and academic competitions, I have begun to feel a great disdain towards participation trophies, simply due to the fact that after a certain age, they have no point and are most just a waste of paper, that reminds you of your loss, and reduce the value of the trophies that were “earned”.

The main flaw with this argument about competitiveness, is that it tends to overburden the child and lead to additional pressure on the child making them burn out. If we consider this in the context of sports, at the end of the day sports are supposed to be fun and stress-relieving, and not adding additional unwanted pressure on the child.

Those who support participation trophies offer valid arguments as well, and when we put ourselves in their shoes, we see a certain argument-

1. Participation trophies motivate children to participate in competitions and build their confidence: This argument focuses on the idea that a reward for participating in a competition, will encourage the child to participate in more competitions with the hope of getting a reward there as well. This reward will also boost their confidence as it will become a motivating factor just to participate! These may even encourage a diffident child to participate in an event that they did not feel they were up to.

While this is alright at a young age, when a child comes of a certain age and realises that they get these trophies just for showing up to a competition, it will destroy their interest in participating in competitions, as they will get the same reward every single time.

2. Trophies lead to the end of the ultra-competitive and draining rat race to be the best- Another leading ideology is that this ultra-competitive environment to be the best is not conducive to a child’s health and can lead to extreme stress on a child, which at a young age would certainly hamper development. Participation trophies will help the child understand that they don’t need to be the very best at what they do, and sometimes being good enough is enough!

There are many older people who constantly tell us that our generation is becoming soft, and we are getting a little too coddled. The internet has put the world at our fingertips, and we are starting to live in a world where children are unable to accept failure when they face it, because they live in a protected world where they get rewarded for doing the simplest things, and in the case of participation trophies: sometimes doing nothing at all.

Children do need to learn how to lose, and how to lose gracefully. The plain truth is that not everyone wins everytime, and while there is always a winner, beside them there is a loser. Only once you learn from your loss will you be able to take the steps to win.

We don’t need to win every single time, but the motivation to be able to win can only come from within, and that will be stifled if we expect some form of an award just for showing up to the competition. Some of the greatest inventions and sporting moments have come due to rivalries.

Why do Messi and Ronaldo work so hard to train themselves everyday? For the money, sure; but a bigger factor is the competitive edge and the need to win and be the best person they can be. Nadal and Federer, Manchester City Vs Manchester United, Frazier Vs Ali wouldn’t be possible if they got participation trophies for all of their matches!

At the end of the day, life is a competition and while it may not be the survival of the fittest, the fitter ones will always stand a better chance, than the unfit. I for one, welcome this Bill, and while it does feel like something too trivial to be taken up as a Bill and take up time that could be used for more pressing concerns such as stricter gun laws, it wouldn’t be too bad an idea for the younger generations to learn to lose and accept the loss gracefully and to gradually stop the use of participation trophies.


By: Mihir Rao


By: Abhimanyu Rao


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