Should Every Kid Get a Prize?

The question of every child receiving something for their participation in a competitive activity is a controversial issue. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal — and the reason is simple.

Let the Market Decide

Should every kid get a prize?
Whether or not an organizer gives one of these to each child…is it that serious?

Some events give every child a ribbon/medal/trophy, and others do not. Often, this is a question of economics more than philosophy: buying enough prizes for each participant gets expensive quickly!

Parents who want to guarantee their child a participation prize can enter their child into competitions that award them. On the other hand, families that take issue with such a policy can avoid these events. To each their own.

There’s no need to debate whether these trends are good or bad for society in general.

What’s Really Important

As a coach, when I have a student ready to play a tournament, I never consider the prizes when suggesting which event to play. And I can’t remember a parent being concerned with the prizes on offer.

Their primary concern is that their child is prepared enough to give a good performance.

Know your students! When choosing a tournament for them, I consider the following:

  • My student’s schedule!
  • Does the tournament have a reputation for being well-organized? This includes factors like a good playing environment and competent/impartial tournament staff,
  • The rating/grade/age sections on offer. Each tournament offers different divisions, some of which may make more sense for my student than others.

Always keep your chess goals in mind (as a player), or your student’s goals in mind (as a parent or coach). There are very few absolutes in this game — it’s hard to judge another player or their family because their situation or objectives may be completely different from yours.

Author: Andre Harding

Since 2003 I've taught chess to thousands of students in public, private, and charter schools in the New York City area, and have given countless private lessons. I also direct USCF- and FIDE-rated chess tournaments.

2 thoughts on “Should Every Kid Get a Prize?”

  1. I look for appropriate competition and convenience. For my son at age 8-10, participation ribbons were useless but he was sure upset if he tied for fifth and lost out on a trophy on tiebreaks. And if he was reasonably in between two sections, it was hard to convince him to play up even if only by a few points. The boy loved trophies, but only if he thought they were earned. Now I think it’s all about cash prizes for him.

    1. I think your son’s attitude is reasonable. He wanted to win trophies, but through his own hard work. And losing out on a trophy because of tiebreaks is annoying for sure! That’s probably something he likes about cash prizes: no tiebreaks are applied.

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