I’ve run into people who use “participation awards” as a criticism of modern society. And to a certain extent, they have a point. If one does not reward excellence and accomplishment and reward instead simply showing up. Well, you get a lot of showing up and not a lot of excellence and accomplishment.
That said, I do not oppose “participation” awards, per se, provided excellence is additionally rewarded. In many cases, simply showing up is an accomplishment.
Frankly, there is a value in recognizing, “you came, you participated, you did the task.” Let me give you an example from several years ago (okay, the example is an excuse to brag on my daughter, but still…). My daughter was out to every softball game (except one where I thought it was rained out but it apparently cleared up enough later that they could play–but that one’s on me, not her). She played through minor injuries (getting hit in tender places with pitched balls). She earned her award. (How many kids never even tried?)
Would have been nice if her team could have gone on to win the league championship, but they washed out in the first round (luck of the draw–got put up against a very strong team with a pitcher who puts the “fast” in fast pitch). Even so, I would have given her another award if I could: her first at bat she got hit in the foot with a pitched ball. That may not sound like much but she had to be helped off the field. Still, when her turn in the rotation came up, she hobbled up ready to go. (Coach and I both said “no!” and sent her back to the bench.)
Incidentally, she was still hurting the next morning and I took her to see the doctor. Good thing, too. Turns out that hit was almost a “perfect storm” type thing. “Just to be safe” the doctor had her foot x-rayed. Well, the ball hit a tendon causing the end to partially detaching it from the bone. She’s in a “walking boot” to give it a chance to heal.
The ball did that to her and she had been game to go back out there and try. They didn’t give her any awards for that. She’ll have to settle for daddy’s praise . . . and a “participation award.” And somebody else went on to get the championship award. More power to them. They played good softball.
But all the people who stayed home never even got that. Remember, the guy who comes in last is still lapping everybody sitting at home on the couch.
So, yes, reward participation. But don’t stop there. Those who go beyond simply participating to achieve excellence and accomplishment deserve their own recognition.