Blog: The Wussification Has to Stop

Michael Gaio Headshot

First there were youth sports leagues that stopped keeping score for fear of someone having hurt feelings. Then there's the football league in California that does keep score, but penalizes the teams that win by too much. Now, it appears we've reached a level of softness even Charmin can't match.

A middle school in Long Island, New York has banned footballs, baseballs and even cartwheels at recess in the name of safety. Even tag has been ruled out unless supervised by a coach. Tag!

"Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious," superintendent Kathleen Maloney says.

To her I say it's time for a reality check. Kids have been playing games at recess forever. A colleague of mine at AB recalls playing tackle football during his days on the playground in the 70's. Then before Halloween, he and his classmates would go inside and carve pumpkins with real knives. I'll concede that putting knives in the hands of gradeschoolers doesn't seem like a great idea, but banning tag and football? You have to be kidding.

And before I go any further, let me clarify that I'm not some old-school tough guy ready to drone on about how I walked two miles to school, uphill both ways. I'm 24-years-old and tough guy I'm not. But even I played football at recess. Took some shots too. Even once suffered a bloody nose. Imagine the trauma! But I, like the rest of my classmates, picked myself up and continued playing. It was fun. Every day, just like on playgrounds all over the country, there were winners and there were losers. And occasionally someone got knocked down. If you lost, you tried harder the next day. If you got knocked down, you got back up. We competed.

When it comes to the issue of taking away balls at recess, this middle school is not only taking away a chance for fun, they're taking away learning opportunities that only come from the school of hard knocks. Winning and losing are facts of life. So are bumps and bruises. Perhaps one of our Facebook fans said it best when he commented on this story. "They should ban all water. Someone might choke. Kids fall out of trees. Let's cut them all down." Well said, Richard.

At some point, we have to realize we can't turn every kid into the bubble boy from Seinfeld. Kids play sports. There are winners, there are losers lose and sometimes kids get hurt. And when they do, they eventually pick themselves up and are better for it. It's part of growing up. Now if only the grown ups in charge of making the rules would grow up, too.

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