Lots of opinion pieces have been written with the thesis that giving a medal to everyone is the genesis of a generation of entitled snowflakes. You might think a certain generation is like that but it probably has to do with a whole lot more than the medals they received as children. But… when I decided to do an olympic a few years back the deciding factor on which one to do was that one gave everyone a medal so I might be a bit biased! I love all of my bling even the handmade medal I received that children in an after-school program made even though it has twine as a ribbon. I display them all prominently in my home and I’m proud of all of them even though every single one just says participant! I don’t really think it’s a big deal if everyone gets a medal or certificate or not but here’s a shocker I do think it matters that there is a winner at some point.
Participating is an accomplishment
So here’s my deal most adults, most kids and most people don’t really participate in all that much if anything at all. So just going for it and participating in the race really is a big deal. In fact I don’t even think it needs to be a race. Signing up, showing up and finishing something is a bit of an accomplishment on it’s own so if the organizers want to recognize that with a medal then so be it. Most of us are pretty into internet videos and scrolling and lead very sedentary lifestyles from our early teens on. Before that it’s mostly up to our parents if we participate or not. If you think about it there are very few years (maybe age 7 – 14-ish) where getting a medal for something is really a big deal. Before that you’re too young to understand and after most people just aren’t showing up for stuff anymore.
I say if getting a medal is a motivating factor to getting moving than it’s worth it. Is that a bit stupid? Maybe, but it gets me to tackle bigger and bigger challenges, I’m proud of them and I like it. Secret time: sometimes when I’m having a bad day I just wear my triathlon medal for a while and it usually makes me feel a bit better! Most of us train for these events and even if you come in at the back of the pack and in my opinion the participant medals really celebrate that commitment. If you look at the overall health and activity statistics in the developed world it’s clear that we need all the motivation to get active and participate that we can get. If medals are what hooks you when you’re young and keeps you active through adulthood than I think that’s totally worth it!
Really young kids don’t understand winning
Up until this year (for obvious reasons) I’ve made it a point to participate with my niece in athletic events for toddlers where she will get a medal. Full disclosure last year that did include pushing her on a bike in a triathlon and carrying her during a run. Yes she got a medal or a ribbon for both of those events. She has no idea what so ever why she’s getting a medal and so far her favorite things have been her NAVY 10K shirt and spending time with me. Sometimes she even wakes up and asks if she is running with Ciocia Ali today. She’s almost 4 this year and trust me even though she’s participated in about 7 events with me and gotten medals for each she has no idea what they are all about!
The reason I do it with her is so that she is introduced to an active and healthy lifestyle at an early age. It often means that it takes up a day where I could be working. Race season is also our busy season and so that’s not always an easy thing to do but I think it’s really important! I plan on doing the same thing with my nephews next year although with three of them It might be hard to manage. At age 4 she has no idea what a race is, that she’s in one or what winning is all about and I don’t imagine that knowledge is right around the corner either. Maybe next year she’ll have some idea that we didn’t come first but I don’t think it will really matter to her then either. So before kids understand about winning and loosing why not give them a medal just in case it hooks them into being active later on?
At some point the medals have to be different and winning has to matter
You might think that I’m all sunshine and just participating is enough but I do think it matters who wins. I’m not sure we have to go out of our way to recognize the looser but… results do matter. I don’t agree with not keeping score in a soccer game, not recording times at a certain age or certainly ignoring that someone came first. It’s important for people and children to realize that the amount of work you put into something reflects on what you get out of it. After all some children will train before hand and others will just show up on race day. I do think that at a certain age it’s totally fair and right for children to get 1st, 2nd and 3rd place medals and everyone else get’s a participant medal. After a sports season one team should be declared the champion but all the teams should get invited to the celebration party.
I guess my philosophy at least is that at a certain age (maybe about 7) it’s okay for there to be winners but no one should be treated as a loser either. I really do think that participating in whatever (usually a sport) is an accomplishment and recognizing that with a medal or certificate for everyone is okay. I really don’t think it does the winners or the losers a service to ignore the score, not declare a winner or pretend that every time is equal. They know it’s not and they can treat each other poorly about it after the fact anyway. Why not recognize the special accomplishments of some and the accomplishments of all in an organized way and then move on?
Adults get it and if they want a medal give it to them
When it come to adults the damage is already done and if they want a medal, just give it to them. Personally you can keep the shirt but I definitely want the medal. One trend I’ve noticed is the bonus medal phenomenon. That’s some variation on do two races get three medals. While I’m not mad at it… I think it’s too much. What is that third medal really for? Plus it drives up the fees for everyone. I do however like it when everyone gets the same medal for all races but if you do a second race you get some sort of limited medal for the kids who just do the second one. So just like Bluenose in 2018 and one less than sole sisters in 2019. But no one is asking me so there is that.
At the same time a no bling option is now becoming popular. That means when you register you pay extra for things like a medal or shirt. I really, really like this idea because it makes races more accessible for everyone. You still get your bib as a keepsake, there is less waste and more people can afford to participate. That’s a win, win, win if you ask me. Then everyone is happy. I do understand why not all race directors do that though. It’s a logistical nightmare deciding who gets what and handing medals to the right people at the finish line. PS if you’re looking for a great way to get rid of your medals check out this option where they are presented to children in hospital for being so brave.
Should everyone get a medal? My opinion is sure why not if they want one! While you could argue that people are more entitled than ever before I think that particular emotional issue goes a whole lot deeper than just participant medals. It’s a great idea to acknowledge children’s participation in sport but sooner rather than later we should recognize the special achievement in children that perform above average. Do you think everyone should get a medal? Under what circumstances? Leave it in the comments below.