TAMPA (FOX 13) - A large portion of the multi-billion dollar trophy and awards industry is built on recognizing youth who compete on the playing field and achieve in the classroom. However, recognizing all youth with a trophy, medal, or a certificate is cause for national debate.
There's the results-oriented tough love talk: "Only those who win deserve to get a trophy."
On the opposite end is the all-inclusive softer approach: "Let's build self-esteem by giving every child participant an award."
Google "everybody gets a trophy" and you'll see page after page of commentary from well-informed credentialed professionals to the average Joe and Jane.
"Participation trophies can't be just handed out to kids without them realizing, you know, 'What have I done for this?'" said Stephanie Moir, who is an athlete and licensed mental health counselor. "It is up to the parents or coaches on award day, or whatever it may be, to actually tell the kids, you know, you've earned this by coming to practice on time every time, by being a good sportsman or sportswoman on and off the field."
In other words, there must be some measurable achievement to merit a trophy or award, and apply some common sense. A 6-foot-tall trophy that needed scaffolding to build wouldn't be appropriate for kids on a team who finished last but showed up for every practice.
Mark Sofia is a big believer in providing end of season awards to kids who participate in Police Athletic League programs.
"This may be some of the most special opportunities that they may have in their life," Mark said as he prepared for the fall sports programs he runs for PAL, which generally has many kids who are not as well off as others. "That may be the only time in their life when someone does recognize them because, sadly, that's just the environment and the family background that they come from."
Maybe therein lies the answer. A trophy can never replace a hug, a kind word or a pat on the back, but it may go a long way in boosting the confidence and future success of a kid who is lacking attention.