Were Participation Trophies Invented In Massillon?

According to some people, participation trophies are the clearest sign of what’s wrong with America these days and according to records, participation trophies were invented in Massillon.

Handed to everyone who participates in an event, people claim that these trophies have  dampened our competitive spirit and made us softer. Participation trophies have set up a generation of Americans to be less determined, less likely to work hard and less prepared to face the world that awaits them. From Facebook commentary to pro athletes, countless people have rallied against the participation trophy.

Former NFL linebacker James Harrison famously returned his children’s participation trophies in 2015. He was quoted saying:

Everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy

University of Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz feels the same way:

Right now, the generation of kids that are coming through, everybody gets a damn trophy, okay? You finish last, you come home with a trophy. You kidding me? What’s that teaching kids? It’s okay to lose

In 2017, MLB superstar Bryce Harper sent that same message to a group of Little Leaguers that he was speaking with:

As much as they might tell you, ‘It’s OK you guys lost today,’ no Johnny. No participation trophies, OK? First place only, alright?

So, without getting into the debate on who should be blamed for participation trophies, the person who was given it or the person who gave it, it’s clear to see that some people are vehemently against them. And you might think that participation trophies are a relatively new thing that’s been adding to the sissification of America, but they’ve been around for at least 100 years and the first record of them comes from Massillon, Ohio.

The first printed mention of Participation Trophies comes from The Massillon Independent. Their evening edition from February 8th, 1922. The newspaper was covering a high school basketball tournaments and the headline read:

Many Trophies for Tossers in State Tourney

The Massillon Independent wrote about the trophies to be handed out.

Trophies galore will be offered for the second annual Ohio State invitation high school basketball tournament. Members of the victorious outfits will be given individual trophies. A participation trophy also will be given each athlete playing in the series.

Found on Newspaperarchive.com
Participation trophies continued to be a part of American culture through the decades at universities, state fairs, and military bases. The use of them in youth sports reached new levels in the 1990’s which just so happened to line up with the pay to play movement, which leads some to believe participation trophies were a way to increase participation(revenue) and keep parents happy as opposed to the kids.

Personally, I think the concern about participation trophies ruining America is a bit overblown. The trophies are primarily used in sports for little kids and the idea that their lives will be ruined because of a piece of plastic they got when they were 5 is ridiculous. By the time kids are playing at a higher level, the game changes, scores are kept and trophies are reserved for winners.

Source: Stefan Fatsis for Slate

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