Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Year End Trophies for Youth Football

2013 3-4 grade team-Trophies for youth football players seem to be a very hot issue with guys coaching youth football and an important cog in the whole process- moms. Like it or not, in most families, moms have a lot of input about whether Junior plays football or not. In 2014 there are a lot of moms out there who want everyone to get a trophy no matter the outcome. On the other side of the aisle, many youth football coaches don’t want trophies to be awarded unless the team actually won something.

So do we hand out trophies no matter what? Both sides have points that make sense, there isn’t a tin foil hat needed for any of those trying to make a case in this one. The moms think that if a player completes the season, there should be some type of reward for making it all the way to the end. I get that, youth football isn’t an easy sport. It requires a commitment and hard work. It’s dirty and hot and sometimes not very pleasant. Some kids don’t get to play the positions they want to or get the playing time they think they deserve. Most seasons don’t go as well as most had hoped they would, there are usually a lot of ups and downs, kinda sounds a little like life doesn’t it? Maybe there should be a reward for a kid sticking it out, as nearly 10% of kids playing youth football quit before the end of the season. We all want to encourage and reward commitment and persistence don’t we?

On the other side of the coin, we have coaches who feel that trophies should only go to teams and players that win something. Those on this side of the fence often times feel it cheapens the competitive spirit of the game by making sure all the kids get the same reward regardless of inputs. Many of these coaches feel it is a bit communistic, making sure kids get the same reward when the work done by one team is clearly more consistent and committed than another team. Many of these coaches feel our society has gone too soft. They have grown sick of everyone being hyper sensitive about anyone getting their feelings hurt or anyone getting a sliver more of something than anyone else, even when it’s the result of additional work or effort.

Both sides make sense on this one and maybe there is some middle ground. For the very youngest kids say 8 and under, maybe it makes sense to reward the kids for participating until the end of the season. That means attending the majority of the practices until the end of the season. I don’t see a lot of harm in that approach. But once they reach 9 or above maybe in makes sense to start that process of teaching better inputs= better outputs. Do we really need to give an 8th grade boy a participation trophy when his team went 0-9?

In my program we give trophies out if we’ve won a championship or played for a championship. It just shows our kids that we’ve separated ourselves from other teams who chose not to commit, learn, work, listen and persevere as well as our players. During the season we have plenty of weekly Foundations process goal awards that every player has the opportunity to earn. In a 14 week season, about 40 of those awards are given out, but they are earned, not everyone gets one automatically. More on that in our Developing Chemistry and Character Step-by-Step program. //winningyouthfootball.com/booksndvds.php

You can do other creative things without handing out trophies. At the end of every season, every player on my team gets a card stock certificate with the teams picture on it. The teams record of achievement is on it as well as an award that is specific to that player. He may have something like this on his award: Best Attitude, Best Encourager, Most Persistent Player, Most Coachable Player, Most Physical Running Back, Mr Pancake Award. There are lots of ways to reward players for working hard during a season without handing out participation trophies. There are medals, t-shirts and a myriad of other options, should you choose to get creative.

I’ve done over 180 youth football coaching clinics nationwide and I’ve asked this question at these clinics and even did an internet poll as well. With about 1,000 respondents, this is what youth football coaches said when I posed the question:

Should Trophies be given out to youth football players regardless of the seasons outcome, even if the team didn’t win many games?

Yes, every player should get a trophy every year- 9%

No, only teams that win a Division or League Championship- 38%

Every player should get a trophy, just for very young age groups, after that, only for Champions- 23%

Every player should get an award of some kind, but Trophies only for Champions-  30%

Now before anyone starts bombarding us with e-mails and phone calls, we get that not all moms want trophies all the time and not all coaches only want trophies for champions. We were just trying to frame the debate. In the end do what makes sense for your mission statement and your situation, it doesn’t need to be a big fall on your sword political battle.

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1 Comment

  1. Greg Paylor

    I base the trophies on the expectations. If the kids meet my expectations or exceed my expectations. I’m comfortable with giving out trophies. I’m big on rewarding accompishment as well as championships. It’s tough to enforce this strategy when in this society everyone is “expected” to get a trophy for partcicpation.


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