Participation trophies and ribbons

One thing people are always screaming about are how Millennials grew up getting participation trophies, so that makes us “entitled” and that makes us think we deserve more than we do.

It makes me think of when I was in school, when we had competitions and I didn’t place, I wanted to be invisible. I hated those stupid ribbons- they were a symbol of failure not fun rewards for participation. I don’t know anyone who took pride in receiving a participation trophy- unless maybe they had physical disabilities and competed against fully able bodied children. (I can’t speak for them- so I don’t know how they felt)

It was also not our idea to give trophies to every child- we were children, not the adults leading the competitions so to blame us for being the generation given the ribbons is unfair itself. It was not our idea and we didn’t demand it. (parents likely did)

I wasn’t even that interested in the awards themselves- just to show to my parents (I do still have them somewhere but my mom saved nearly everything) but the stories about winning the field day or coming in second/third place were what I was proud of- one of my classmates got a bunch of participation ribbons and I actually traded them a second or first place for them to show their parents- the award meant nothing- I had placed they hadn’t and trading meant nothing. They were empty symbols. I have yet to meet anyone who actually took pride in those ribbons, that’s not to say no one ever has but they were meaningless at best and embarrassing at worst.

Do I think they are good for some physically or even mentally disabled children at a young age? Maybe. Especially since children with certain types of disabilities can’t compete as well with “normal abled” children. Not to say there aren’t exceptions, but kids who have trouble walking or running can’t win a race against a kid who is a naturally fast runner. I had 2 problems that both were undiagnosed. I just thought that thanks to hip dysplasia, I wasn’t flexible. I thought my joints snapping in and out were normal reactions- I didn’t know that’s what was happening (or that each snap was weakening my joints and leading to the somewhat severe, at times, OsteoArthritis I have now. I also had no idea I had asthma until one of my lungs started to collapse a few years ago and I ended up going to the ER becuase I was having trouble breathing and my chest was killing me.

None of those counted as real disabilities. I worked out daily at home, could pretty much keep up with the athletes in gym class and running was my only real weakness. I didn’t know I had Ehlers Danlos or that some of the nervous habits I had meant I was double jointed. I also had no idea the breathing problems were asthma. I was simply called lazy, a slacker and made to redo until the class was over. I still remember feeling like my lungs were on fire and the pain in my chest, but I never had major attacks.

There are children with much worse disabilities, though, and those kids may benefit from the trophies. Like I said, I don’t know. At a high school level, it may be as embarrassing to them as it is for most of us at a young age.


Did you ever get a participation trophy in school? Were you as embarrassed as I was or was it something you took pride in?

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