I often hear rants and jokes about how we're breeding a generation of underachievers by rewarding them for participation. The insinuation is that we don't keep score and everyone is regarded as a winner. This isn't true, nor is it new.
In the early 80s, when I started my house league hockey and softball career, we all received participation trophies, but we played to be champions. In my observation with my 12-year old son, nothing has changed.
My son receives a participation trophy, but that's not the trophy he plays for. He wants to win it all, as do his teammates and coaches. Even though it's house league, it's competitive, and everyone wants to end the season as champions.
Since tee-ball, they've been keeping score with winners and losers. Since Tyke hockey, they've been coached to end the season #1.
The participation trophy isn't the goal, and it isn't new. Kids still want to win.