Setting Kids Up For Failure When Everybody Gets A Trophy

By Kyle Quick

I will always remember a poster of a basketball court that hung on the back wall of my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hunter’s, classroom.  On the poster was a simple but meaningful phrase; "You can't win unless you learn how to lose first."

When I was growing up there was meaning behind this phrase, however the so called leaders of our country and our school systems (in general), and worst of all parents' naïve and narrow-minded idea that everyone deserves a trophy, is a joke.

It is fair to say, as the "greatest generation" to ever live (WWII veterans) is dying, the "worst generation" our county will have seen is being fostered as we speak.  What's worse it is no fault to them but to the parents and leaders who are raising them.

I hate to break the bad news but each child is not special nor will they ever be special.  They will fail miserably before they ever succeed.  They will lose more times than they will win.  Protecting little Johnny from getting his feelings hurt because he finished last by rewarding him with a "participation" medal is setting him up for failure, and I mean failing in life.

You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality—we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.

I could not begin to count the number of times I have failed or was told I was not as good as I thought I was.  Today, we sugarcoat everything because we are so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or God forbid we offend someone.

Did I like being told I was not playing hard enough, of course not, but it made me play harder and work harder to achieve a goal.

The saddest and most disturbing thing is when I asked a few high school students if they noticed how everyone gets a trophy.  Their response was how they notice more and more that kids do not know how to handle losing.

"They get upset, angry, start crying, or blaming someone else because they lost."

I don't know about you, but if they're already seeing the negative effects, that says something.

History has taught us that failing is the key to success.  The most successful people of all time where failures at one point.

The Business Insider wrote an article, listing examples of successful people who failed at first.

Would we have iPhones, iPads, etc. if Steve Jobs had not been fired from the company he founded?  In fact, he credits his dramatic ouster from Apple as the key to his success with Pixar and his later success upon his return to Apple.

Boy, am I glad Steve Jobs failed, because I love my iPhone.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."  Good thing the brilliant idea of "everyone gets a trophy" hadn't yet been conceived.

Thomas Edison, he's the one who invented the light bulb, was told by a teacher in his early years that he was, "too stupid to learn anything."  Heck, he failed a 1,000 times before ever designing a light bulb that worked.

No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it is, “so what does this get me?”

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats." (Bertie Charles Forbes)


Below are a few articles I read pertaining to this topic and how companies are beginning to struggle in finding hard working Americans.

Sports in America: Should Everyone Get a Trophy?

When Everyone Gets a Trophy, No One Wins (This article was published by the Huffington Post.  In the article the writer goes a step further into the business world and devastating effects on our country.)

This is well worth watching.  One of the best speeches I've heard.