Fashion and Fun after Fifty

You have to fail in order to succeed and Participation Trophy Givebacks

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You have to fail in order to succeed!

Last Saturday while teaching my Blogging 202 class, one of the comments I reiterated was, ”you have to fail”. I was making this statement about the younger generation and why we have failed them by not allowing them to fail.

We have two sons, the oldest is intellectually disabled so for him a lot of life’s lessons were difficult to comprehend. I remember times when as a toddler he would be on the playground with the other kids, “parallel playing”. You know from a distance it appears as though a kid is playing with others but upon closer inspection you see they aren’t, just jumping around and talking to themselves.



Perhaps he didn’t understand the rules of the game or maybe the other kids simply didn’t want to play with him. As a parent, this was hard to watch, but my husband and I couldn’t force the other kids to play with him. He either had to learn the game or be a bystander.

This definitely set the foundation for him later in life when he was cut from the Appo HS football team, even though he attended all the practices for the entire summer and the coach gave him a helmet and a jersey only to take it from him before the beginning of the season…yes, I am still a bit perturbed by this if you haven’t noticed!  


Anywho I too remember not being chosen for a team or getting picked last because I wasn’t fast enough, so like our son, I would either go off to do my own thing or just stand there and watch.

As both our sons got older we signed them up for the local T-Ball and Soccer teams.  The cost of participation included a certificate and trophy presented to them at the end of the season and it didn’t matter whether they won or not.  I always thought it was a stupid idea because how would the kids learn that they needed to try harder if they were all being rewarded for just participating?

participation trophy

How would they learn that not everything is going to be given to them for little to no effort – how would they learn to deal with disappointment and failure?  Unfortunately, a lot of kids today haven’t learned that lesson and we can see how well that worked out just by reading a few newspaper headlines!

“It’s a Different World”

So when I heard the report about James Harrison, of the Pittsburgh Steelers wanting to give back the “participation trophies” that his kids brought home, I said, “finally!”

participation trophy return

Of course there are controversies on both sides, but as a parent who wants to raise his kids with the understanding that not everything is going to be handed to them as a just because, and that sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed, I think he did the right thing. You know me, I am all about teaching my sons the realities of life, the good the bad and the ugly #ihatecancer

Now let me go see if I can find a few of those “participation trophies” collecting dust in the basement, maybe my sons might even remember getting them!

Chime in, what is your take on kids needing to fail in order to work harder for success?



  • As a parent we want our children to get good grades and medals etc. and we feel for them when they don’t but they do need to be encouraged win or not win and getting a medal for just showing up isn’t teaching them much in my opinion. This whole issue is a Pandora’s Box of a mess!

    • DeDivahDeals says:

      I think parents today are coming to the realization that the “me generation’ is being done a disservice. As long as we recognize this and then try to make a change, then things will work out for the best…it always has.

  • As you know my girls are in swimming classes. Well Lauren advanced to the next class and Michelle didn’t and kept calling herself a loser. I told her that don’t be so down on herself just work harder and she will advance too. I’m happy the teacher just didn’t pass her just because she only missed one move, she needs to learn.

    • DeDivahDeals says:

      Michelle should never feel as though she were a loser but if she puts it in her heart and mind to try harder to be better, she will achieve the success and it will be sweet!
      You are a good mom and I have no doubt that you are raising the girls to be responsible and respectable individuals, strong and resilient.

  • Lynette Oliver says:

    I totally agree with you, Toni. I used to tell my kids that you don’t get a pat on the back for doing something you’re supposed to do. You’re SUPPOSED to go to school. You’re SUPPOSED to get good grades! You’re SUPPOSED to clean your room and do chores around the house. I never liked the idea of participation trophies either. Our kids need something to strive for and mediocrity is not acceptable. Those participation trophies breed mediocrity.

    • DeDivahDeals says:

      So true sis, they are not understanding the consequences of not having to work hard to ‘earn’ things in life, which is why when things don’t go their way, the don’t know how to deal with it properly.

  • Neti* says:

    My son got two participation trophies and Five for soccer that he earned with his team. The first two trophies are the only reason that he got the next 5 because they gave him the encouragement he needed at a very young age. Yes. . .I do believe that children who never miss practice and are eager to learn should get participation trophies in the 3-5 year age group, but not when they are over age 10. Great post Sista. . .I started writing one on this subject, now I dont have to. Thanks!!

    • DeDivahDeals says:

      Thank you sis, but I would love to read what you have to say as well, we can piggyback off of each other’s posts for more insights. I do agree we have to motivate our kids but we can’t shelter them from life’s disappointments…let them fall down and hurt themselves, let them touch a hot stove…they will learn!

  • ellisiii says:

    I agree, I coached my son in the Winter/Summer Smyrna PAL basketball leagues. As a coach, the one thing I seen with the kids I coached was, they didn’t have drive or hunger to play. And part of it is, I believe is because the kids of this generation have too much, so they are naturally not hungry to compete for anything. For example, this summer we made it to the championship game and one of the kids on the team was bragging about going on a vacation cruise after the game. My son heard him and he was pissed. My son is very competitive on and off the court (Honor roll student since 1st grade). He told me “they don’t care Dad”. I felt badly for him, but I told him you have to keep competing no matter what. Do your best and forget the rest. We did lose the game, but he played hard and I was very proud. But what made me more proud as a Dad, after the game, other kids on the team ran over to get 2nd place trophies and my son just sat there. He didn’t want the trophy or to take a picture with it. My heart smiled. The bottom line is we live in a very competitive world, and I’m teaching my kids to compete and have a goal. My motto is you don’t fail until you quit, when you quit that’s when you fail. Losing is very large part of our world. From the kids I coached, to my kids I tell them all it’s not about winning or losing it’s about how you play the game.

    • DeDivahDeals says:

      I agree and you must be very proud of your son. I never agreed with how they just gave away trophies. Our oldest was on the Special Olympics teams for many years and they each received a metal based on which place they came in, but those kids tried hard and did a great job, therefore, they ALL deserved to get a medal. But for all teams to get a trophy was beyond my comprehension along with shaking the hands of the team members that beat you…but that’s a different story for a different day. Keep up the good work dad and thanks for stopping by to comment.

  • Good for you! This idea that kids shouldn’t suffer anything bad is total nonsense. How else are they going to learn to deal with the really bad stuff that life inevitably hands out? I know kids who can’t function because they are so afraid of failing and it’s just part of life. There are times to reward simple participation, but not always.

I love reading your comments!

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