"Why," you ask, "should a kid get an award for just showing up?"
Because sometimes just showing up takes a lot of guts. Sometimes gearing yourself up for the possibility of defeat takes everything in you.
Speaking as someone who was a shy, fat, uncoordinated child who heard my share of moaning and groaning from my classmates when my name was called during Phys. Ed, just showing up can be fraught.
Speaking also as someone who deals with anxiety, as many people do, putting yourself into new situations is some scary shit, for children and adults alike.
In Grade 8, I made the decision to try out for the school's volleyball team. I tell you, it took every ounce of courage for me to go into that gym.
I went and I tried my hardest. Not even halfway through the tryouts I could feel tears of frustration welling up in my eyes, with every ball that I instinctively ducked instead of passed. My face went red with the effort of trying not to cry.
Unsurprisingly, I didn't make the team. I don't think I was even remotely close because I was really, really, bad at volleyball. I also kind of hated it. But I wanted to be involved in something.
I felt like a spectacular failure, and it was many years before I tried out or participated in anything remotely competitive again.
I kind of wish, at that time, that someone had given me something to acknowledge that even though I sucked, I tried, which was more than some had done. That my effort was worth something. That just showing up, when I was so afraid of falling and failing, that THAT was worth something in and of itself.
I get that kids need to learn how to win and lose graciously.
Taking scores out of games so there are no 'winners' or 'losers' doesn't help kids. Kids need to learn that sometimes they are going to win, and sometimes they are going to lose and regardless, they need to not be an ass about it.
However, hyper-competitiveness doesn't help kids, either. Over-emphasizing the value of winning over all other things teaches that if you can't be the best, don't even try.
There is value in effort. There is value in trying, and fucking up. There is value in just kind of being okay at something. There is value in trying.
And I think that's worth recognizing.