I agree with some, but not all, of the sentiments expressed by John Donegan in "Participation trophies" (April 8). I don't like the idea of mindlessly handing out trophies to one and all.
On the other hand, I recall that when my oldest son was 9 years old and played an entire season of Little League baseball without winning a single game, the coach got all the kids and parents together for an end of year pizza party and handed out cheap little trophies to every kid. He managed to find something positive to say about every kid. The kids had worked reasonably hard with little to show for it, and my take then and now was that the little award ceremony showed them that their efforts and accomplishments were significant and noticed, even though they may not have shown up on the scoreboard.
When my son was 12, the team, with many of the same players, won their league championship. Was it because of the award ceremony (which was repeated every year)? Probably not, but who knows? In any case, I loved it. I would have been fine without the trophies, but I liked the recognition of effort and improvement.
Certainly, I would not want to be treated by a doctor who failed his classes, but this seems like a straw man, since nobody is suggesting this kind approach. I get the argument that maybe too much importance is attached to "self-esteem" at times, but that doesn't mean that kids who struggle should be kicked to the curb. When I was growing up, not everybody made the team, even in recreational leagues. Kids who were small, unathletic, or inexperienced often got no chance to play on organized teams. Today, any kid who is willing to try can usually find a place to play and learn.
I can relate to Donegan regarding his guitar. I have been playing for years without the benefit of a lot of talent, but I enjoy it, and I plan to keep doing it. Every now and then I find a willing (or maybe just polite) listener and/or somebody else to play with, both of which add to my enjoyment. I also play golf badly, and thanks to the handicap system, I occasionally win.
At this point I don't need any trophies, but for 9-year-old kids, maybe they help to motivate them to keep trying. If so, I'm good with that.