Weight Restrictions Not Pound Foolish

Published February 1, 2004

According to a panicky report in the press, our society is in the grips of another terrible crisis: weight restrictions for players on youth football teams.

As reported by the Washington Post on November 8, 2004, a number of youth football leagues around the country are now classifying players by weight. This, the paper reports, is done largely to avoid having really big kids play against really small kids, to reduce the chance of player injuries.

Still, to Post reporter Hamil R. Harris it is the weight restrictions that are the problem. Harris writes, “Higher rates of childhood obesity are making it difficult for kids to qualify for teams and are prompting them to try what can be unhealthy and dangerous weight-loss regimens.”

Harris tells of several youngsters who have been hindered by the standards.

“It crushed him,” said Charles Rivers of his son Charlie, who failed, by just one pound, to make the team that went to the Metropolitan Area Youth Super Bowl Tournament, the article reported.

Charlie has since rebounded–he’s now the star running back for Largo High School and reportedly hounded by major college scouts.

Harris’s article also tells of young Andrew Dillon’s struggle. Dillon couldn’t play on the team close to home unless he lost some weight. “We cut out all junk food and snacking and sodas,” said his mom. Andrew ended up losing the weight and making the team.

Said Andrew, “I was happy. I was finally on the team.” He clobbered a few opposing quarterbacks to boot.

Given that obesity is an increasing problem in the United States, one would expect newspapers such as the Washington Post to applaud efforts to teach kids good habits of eating and exercise, especially when examples noted in the article showed the children ultimately benefiting from them. Unfortunately, the Post seems much more interested in the children’s immediate self-esteem than in their long-term health and physical safety.

Paul Jacob ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at U.S. Term Limits, a grassroots organization based in Glenview, Illinois. This essay first appeared in the publication Common Sense, at http://www.termlimits.org.