We all like recognition, attention and approval. When young children participate in recreational sports at the beginner level, it is about fun , physical activity ,basic skill development, interacting with others, listening, following directions and developing interests in areas they like, are good at and might like to pursue more in depth later on.
At the youngest ages, it has become a widespread practice to provide medals awards of one kind or another so not to make a less skilled player feel “left out our inferior”. It is also useful in helping the child feel good about his/herself. This approach is probably useful for children from ages 3 up until around age 8. Beyond that children can better assess the value and importance of awards and have the sense if everyone is getting it, it can’t be very worthwhile.
Participation awards add to the satisfaction of playing and learning and help keep them interested so they can grow through active participation in a sports program
Placing too much emphasis of “results”, especially at an early age can negatively impact self-esteem. It is harder for younger individuals to separate winning and playing well from how they feel about themselves.
As the child matures physically and emotionally and their skill level improves they can be introduced to “competitive” sports programs that place greater emphasis on results and winning while having a less significant impact on their self esteem.
Even at the professional level, providing awards of different types for different purposes has value.. For example : first place, most valuable player, rookie of the year, sportsmanship award, etc. Each has its place and purpose.
Dr. Robert Heller is a psychologist and sports psychology consultant based in Boca Raton, Fl. And works with individuals of all ages on developing peak performance in sports and in life. His contact information is www.mentalskillstennis.com