When it comes to youth sports at every level, trophies and customized ribbons in general create a lot of controversy. Nothing is quite as prone to starting arguments as the participation ribbon. While you likely have a personal opinion about these awards, there is plenty of specific evidence of how praise and rewards affect children on a psychological level. Understanding the latest research will help you decide between buying participation ribbons for every team member or just trophies for the top players.
The best use of a participation award is to use it to recognize commitment to the game in children that may not have the same amount of physical ability or experience. If the ribbons are given out to children who do not make much of an effort or are used as the only reward for participating regardless of achievement, you can miss your mark of encouraging everyone and end up creating some discouragement.
Participation ribbons must be tied to a specific set of goals, such as attending the majority of practices and playing in every game, rather than simply awarded to everyone who signs up but only attends one or two practices.
Focus on Effort
By tying the reward to effort and demonstrating the value of making a good try, you're more likely to see both good and average team members return and commit to training again next year. This effect was discovered in a study in which students were either praised after a test for innate ability, as in being smart, or for making a good effort.
Students who were praised as having made a good effort were over 60% more likely to try a difficult test. This shows the importance of communicating why certain players are receiving participating awards for their effort and dedication.
Expectation of Reward
Players who expect a reward because you've made it a clear goal for the season often lose interest in the game itself. Even if the players signed up at the beginning solely for the experience of playing and the joy of achievement, being aware of an extrinsic reward can interfere with that genuine enthusiasm.
Consider keeping the participation ribbons a secret, or changing how committed players are rewarded from year to year, to prevent this effect from impacting the team's cohesion and performance. Don't let the reward become the focus for reaching the end of the season or you'll find your benches filled with distracted players.
On the other hand, advertising the lure of a reward at the end of the season can increase your numbers if you are having attendance issues. Some children, and adults as well, are simply motivated by extrinsic values instead of intrinsic ones. This means that an external reward is what keeps them interested in an activity, not the joy of participating alone.
Consider setting up multiple leagues for players who are drawn in for the rewards alone and those who are more competitive and driven to win so that everyone can find a game that meets their needs.
Finally, remember that even young children are smart enough to understand when they've worked for a reward and when they're getting empty praise. Don't try to trick them into thinking they've done hard work if they've missed most of the games or failed to participate during practices. This is especially true for adolescents and teens who definitely can tell when everyone gets the same rewards regardless of effort.
Respect the intelligence of your players and you'll get better results out of the team for the entire season and for many more years to come.
A few months ago, I realized I didn't really enjoy my vacation time that much. Instead of getting outside and doing something fun, I found myself chilling in front of the television and trying to figure out what to do with my free time. Fortunately, a friend of mine mentioned joining a local sports league and trying out a few new hobbies. I was nervous at first, but I knew that she was right. I started playing in a sports league, and it was a great time. I was able to lose a little weight and enjoy the great outdoors. Check out this blog for more information about recreation and sports.