Little-League Participation Trophies and the Decline of America

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 5 2013 8:23 AM

Little-League Participation Trophies and the Decline of America

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There will be no trophies awarded for winning the coin toss.

Scott Halleran/Allsport

Americans like winning. A new poll, however, finds that when it comes to the global economic race, we’re not so sure we're winning anymore. The survey of the American mood, conducted by the financial website The Street, found that more than a quarter of Americans think China has surpassed the U.S. as the “world’s dominant economic power.” One in three Americans think that by the end of the decade, the U.S. will be second to a rising China.

But what to do about our slumping fortunes, real or perceived? Invest in education? Pump out more engineers? Lower taxes? Raise taxes? These are complex questions with difficult answers. Which is particularly difficult to hear for a country that still plays by Vince Lombardi’s “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” rules. (Or more recently, Ricky Bobby’s “if you ain’t first, you’re last” mantra.)

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In the vein of “think globally, act locally,” one Texas youth football league has taken it upon itself to toughen up its share of America’s pre-teens. Its plan to prepare kids for the real world: Stop handing out trophies for participation. “The biggest thing is we want to teach these kids everything in life isn’t going to be given to them,” the league's director, John Quinones,  told a Dallas TV station. “Your boss when you go to work isn’t going to give you a trophy just because you showed up on time.” Quinones elaborated further to the Dallas Morning News: “The give-everyone-a-trophy attitude can skew a kid’s worldview, he said. The sense of entitlement that kids have nowadays is tremendous.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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