Monthly Archives: October 2023

Medals for All?!?

Ah, participatory medals! Are they purely good or purely evil?

In the movie The Incredibles, the super villain says “with everyone super, no one will be.” His point being that if everyone is equal then no one will be special. Should participation medals, or finisher awards, be encouraged and supported? Or do they diminish the event and the sport? Let’s look at both arguments.

Finisher awards can be a great way to boost self-esteem, encourage inclusivity, promote engagement, build a foundation for growth, and create a positive atmosphere.  When everyone gets one, participatory medals can also dilute the significance of the medal, reduce competitiveness, create a lack of motivation for improvement, foster unfairness and resentfulness, and lead to diminished resilience and perseverance.

Boosting self-esteem: Finisher awards can help boost the self-esteem and confidence of individuals, especially those who may feel discouraged or left out due to their perceived lack of achievement. Recognizing their effort and participation can motivate them to continue trying and build a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

Encouraging inclusivity: Finisher awards can create a more inclusive environment by acknowledging and valuing the efforts of everyone involved, regardless of their skill level or performance. This inclusivity can foster a sense of belonging, encourage teamwork, and promote a positive atmosphere.

Promoting engagement: By recognizing participation, individuals may be more motivated to get involved and actively participate in activities, events, or competitions. This can lead to increased engagement and a higher level of involvement from a broader range of individuals.

Building a foundation for growth: Finisher awards can serve as a stepping stone for individuals to further develop their skills and abilities. By acknowledging their initial efforts, individuals may be inspired to strive for improvement and eventually achieve higher levels of success.

Creating a positive atmosphere: Recognizing participation through awards can contribute to a positive and supportive atmosphere, fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. This can enhance collaboration, cooperation, and overall enjoyment of the activity or event.

It’s important to remember that finisher awards should be carefully balanced with recognition for exceptional achievements. This ensures that the awards continue to motivate individuals to push themselves beyond participation and to strive for excellence. 

There are definite drawbacks to the participatory medal and it extends beyond the event and into everyday life. While finisher awards have their benefits, some argue that these participation medals can contribute to a weaker society in many ways. 

Dilution of significance: When everyone receives a participation medal, it can diminish the value and significance of the awards. It may not provide a clear distinction between outstanding achievements and mere participation, potentially reducing the motivation for individuals to strive for excellence.

Lack of motivation for improvement: If individuals receive a medal solely for participating, they may not feel the need to push themselves beyond their comfort zone or work towards improving their skills. This could hinder personal growth and development, and prevent individuals from realizing their true potential.

Undermining the value of achievement: Participation medals can diminish the importance of achievement and excellence. When everyone receives recognition regardless of their performance or skill level, it may create a sense of entitlement and diminish the drive to excel or put in extra effort. This can lead to a society that lacks individuals who are motivated to push boundaries and strive for greatness.

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Unrealistic expectations: By rewarding participation alone, participation medals may create unrealistic expectations in individuals. They might come to expect recognition for simply showing up or putting in minimal effort, without understanding the need for genuine skill development, hard work, and perseverance. 

Inflated self-esteem: While participation medals can boost self-esteem in the short term, some argue that they can contribute to an inflated sense of self-worth in the long run. Without receiving constructive feedback or being pushed to improve, individuals may develop an overestimation of their abilities, which can make it challenging for them to handle failure or setbacks in the future.

Reduced competitiveness: By focusing on participation rather than performance, participation medals may reduce the competitive spirit in individuals and society as a whole. Competition can drive innovation, improvement, and the pursuit of excellence. When participation alone is rewarded, the drive to outperform others may diminish, potentially hindering progress and innovation on a societal level.

Diminished resilience and perseverance: Without experiencing failure or facing the need to improve to receive recognition, individuals may struggle to develop resilience and perseverance. Over time, this can lead to a weaker society that lacks individuals who are willing to take risks, learn from failures, and persist in the face of challenges.

Unfairness and resentment: In some cases, individuals who put in extra effort and achieve exceptional results might feel unfairly treated if their accomplishments are not recognized separately from those who simply participated. This could lead to resentment and discourage individuals from investing their best efforts or supporting local events.

It’s important to note that these arguments are not universally agreed upon and the impact of participation awards on society can vary depending on the specific context and implementation. What do you think?  Do you seek out events where you will bring home a finisher award for your efforts?  Do you proudly display them to celebrate your accomplishments?  For those who do regularly find themselves on a podium, does seeing every finisher being handed a medal diminish your victories? 

What do you think? Share your thoughts and write us a letter to the editor. 

This article was published in Oro Valley Style. The link is