Earned self-esteem can lead to better outcomes

Published: August 24, 2012

A Texas boy weighing nearly 297 pounds isn't being allowed to play peewee football. His family's reaction to the ban shows why adults should stay out of what otherwise would be kids' play. When I was 12, I too was bigger and more advanced athletically than most guys my age. In order to be accepted by playmates, I was careful to gauge my efforts according to their ages and abilities. Other boys my age wanted me on their church-sponsored football team. I went to practice. The coaches told me, “Sorry, you exceed the weight limit.”

Reaction to this is all a matter of attitude. I understood that if a “big” kid hurt a small kid, the team organizers would never hear the end of it. I had “self-esteem” because I'd earned it on the playground — without adults. I wasn't a victim with hurt feelings. I took it to mean, “You're too big and good to play with these little boys.” The next year I was one of only three in my class who went out for the junior high team. We three had a head start in growth and athletic ability that carried us through high school and clear into college. The problem presented in the case of the Texas boy is that the “adult” parent sees herself (and is teaching her child to see himself) as a victim — as a loser, not as an equal and certainly not as a winner. Shame on her!

Ron Pyle, Norman