Middle School Bans Footballs, Unsupervised Carthweels

Readers — A bunch of you have been sending in this ereseryyff
stunning story,
about a Long Island, NY, middle school banning anything that could, conceivably, ever hurt a child. According to CBS, “officials at Weber Middle School in Port Washington are worried that students are getting hurt during recess. Thus, they have instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds….along with…rough games of tag, or cartwheels unless supervised by a coach.”

What’s so absurd about this decision it’s like some kind of modern day fairy tale: Adults, desperate to make sure nothing bad ever happens to the children, keep them captive in a barren schoolyard. It’s like Rapunzel in her tower. Everyone who reads that classic understands that it is crazy to think safety is more important than living. That’s the whole, long-beloved POINT.

Ben Miller of Common Good has long argued for less risk-obsession, especially on playgrounds. Of this decision, he writes, “The schools superintendent says, ‘Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious.’ What about the injury of removing children’s opportunity to exercise, socialize, and even learn from their mistakes? Sadly, the school is more likely to be sued over a playground injury than a compromised childhood. But in the end, which one leaves the deeper scars?”

I think we can all agree on the answer. The question is: How come some of us are so willing to believe kids can’t handle anything harder than a Nerf ball? -L

Middle School recess contraband.

Middle School recess contraband.

47 Responses to Middle School Bans Footballs, Unsupervised Carthweels

  1. Rick October 9, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    Ack! How sad. In 20+ years of working with kids in an elementary afterschool program, I have enjoyed 20+ seasons of throwing the baseball, football, whatever-ball around with the kids. And, yes, some kids have gotten hurt. Bonked on the head with the football. Slipped and fell and scraped a knee. Tagged a little harder than the rules allowed. But we had ice. Sympathy & TLC. And wouldn’t you know it, some of the kids I’ve played with have gone on to amazing stuff: one kid is now one of the most sought-after baseball players on the collegiate circuit; one just started as a freshman playing football for the Oregon Ducks; another is the current starting quarterback for our local high school team. Probably more out there that I’ve lost track of. What’s funny is that I can remember them getting bumps and bruises at one point or another.

    Of course, the most serious injury I’ve seen came, not from sports, but from playing on the play structure. Broken collarbone… you may know this kid, Dave Franco. He even references it in a video he did a few years back with his brother (warning: funny, but with adult language and humor): http://bit.ly/GMlXh7 Dave somehow pulled through and managed to piece his life back together somehow (he said, tongue in cheek).

    The point is that childhood is full of play which can be rough and tumble. You can’t wrap them all in bubble wrap and stand guard like the cherubim at Eden’s gate. Kids have to play. It’s their work.

  2. BL October 9, 2013 at 4:15 am #

    Banning should be banned.

  3. Molly October 9, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    Frankly, I’m surprised to learn that a middle school still has recess. In my area, recess is strictly an elementary school phenomenon, and often limited to 15 minutes a day. I don’t know of any public middle schools in the area that have recess.

  4. Nicole October 9, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Same as Molly said – our middle schools here don’t even have a recess to ban things from.

  5. Katie October 9, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    They might as well not have recess at this point!

  6. Donna October 9, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    Okay so what are they supposed to do at recess? Wander aimlessly around the school yard? Or is walking too dangerous?

    If my memories of my years in middle school, my brother’s years in middle school and the comments of my friends who have children in middle school currently hold true, it seems like the last thing we want to do is leave a large group of tweens/young teens idle and bored in a school yard for any length of time.

  7. Snow October 9, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    As others have said, middle school has recess? No recess in the middle schools where I live.

    Banning those things is stupid, no matter what the grade level.

  8. Linda Wightman October 9, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    “How come some of us are so willing to believe kids can’t handle anything harder than a Nerf ball?” Because kids do get hurt. Statistically, only a few, but some do, and some injuries are disastrous. (I know two people who were made quadriplegic in unsupervised gymnastic accidents.) The fact remains that we cannot protect anyone completely from death or fates-worse-than-death. This is a fact many are unwilling to accept. Not that we shouldn’t do our best — but the best is often less than the most.

    Sadly, I’ve found that the most common lack of common sense is that there is little discussion, much less understanding, of risk-benefit analysis and opportunity cost.

  9. lollipoplover October 9, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    I also am surprised they still have recess! So if you don’t let them physically play and blow off steam, will school administrators be surprised when there’s a surge in drug use and other inappropriate activities that bored teens will do?

    Honestly, football and cartwheels are the BEST things these kids can be doing at this age, bumps and all. I’d take stitches and a broken arm over a drug addict and an knocked up teen any day.

  10. Eileen October 9, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Clearly an odd decision…I presume they still have gym/PE classes for the same student population?

    But I’m unfamiliar with middle school recess as well. Didn’t have it when I was a kid, and my kids never had it.

  11. Cynthia October 9, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Banning childhood play and removing recess completely is just wrong. Perhaps parents would be more at ease and complain less about common minor injuries if the school admin communicated with them better. I have two active little boys who go to a small school with students in kindergarten to grade 8. When they get a blow to the head/face, I always get a quick phone call from the office admin explaining what happened. I’m always appreciative of the phone call. The boys, of course, come home with lots of scrapes and bruises that go unreported by the school. My 7yo likes to play basketball and football with the older boys and does get banged up a little but I don’t worry because I feel secure that any possibly serious injuries to the head won’t go unnoticed or reported by the school. Parents do worry more now than ever before. Chalk it up to risk-obsession if you must but that won’t change everyone’s attitude. Encouraging the school to better communicate with these type of parents might however move many of them in the right direction.

    Having said this, at times, it’s the teacher’s attitude that needs readjusting. I remember my then kindergartener coming home with a bandaid wrapped tightly around a very swollen finger. When I cut the bandaid off, I found no cut or even a scrape. My son had fallen on his finger during gym, told the gym teacher it hurt, returned to his regular class and told that teacher that it hurt still and instead of icing the finger, she wrapped a bandaid around it. Wrong, wrong, wrong thing to do to a sprained finger. In discussion with her, she admitted that she always gave her students a bandaid when they complain about a sore thing or other because it always quieted them down. Crazy, I know.

    Yep. Coddling our kids and students is not the answer ,folks. There are learning opportunities even when children sustain injuries. The children have a better understanding of their body and their limits, and also learn how to properly care for injuries if we take the time to teach them instead of cocooning them in a bandaid.

  12. TaraK October 9, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Here’s a similar article. I thought of FRK when I was reading it! http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/08/its-not-the-schools-fault-if-your-kid-is-a-lazy-wuss/

  13. BL October 9, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    @Linda Wightman
    “Because kids do get hurt. Statistically, only a few, but some do, and some injuries are disastrous. (I know two people who were made quadriplegic in unsupervised gymnastic accidents.)”

    Few injuries are disastrous, and gymnastics is not the same as running, throwing and catching a ball. Gymnastics is known to be dangerous, which is why it should be practiced with spotters and padded floors. It’s like the boy who cried “wolf!”. Too many false claims (that ALL physical activities are high-risk) and no-one will believe when you say gymnastics should only be practiced with spotters. And then someone finds out the hard way that a very few things really are dangerous.

    I broke two fingers as a child (in touch football and playground basketball) and broke a tooth in a bicycle fall. I dont regret doing any of those things, even through it left me with a capped tooth and a finger that throbs in cold weather.

  14. anonymous this time October 9, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    This is not about keeping children “safe.” It is about ADULTS protecting THEMSELVES from the “anguish” every time a child is disappointed, crying, upset, injured, or emotional.

    It is not children who must stop venturing into the world, or playing tag, or playing with balls.

    It is for ADULTS to do their spiritual work of acceptance, and GROW a set of balls.

  15. Papilio October 9, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I’m SO glad to read that schools are doing everything they can to fight the child obesity epidemic!

  16. Michael F October 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    I have to wonder, if we removed frivolous law suits how much of this safety theatre would go away.

  17. Warren October 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Again, don’t stand for it. Send your kid to school with his or her own football or whatever. Supply them with a card to show any school staff that tries to intervene.

    “My child is using this piece of equipment with my complete knowledge and permission. Your ban on balls is without merit, and based on fear. I will not have you teaching my child to live in fear, as living in fear is not part of your curriculum. Teaching my child to live in fear, is no different than teaching him other beliefs such as religion.
    Should you wish to go against my parental authority, and confiscate the equipment and or punish my child, I strongly suggest you call me before taking such actions.”

    And yes to all you fence sitters…………this is putting your kid in the middle. You all say not to do that for these things. So after how many of these things are you all just going to sit back and take it. Going to meetings, petitions, debates and etc. take far too much time. By the time you possibly get the rule changed, your kid will be in college. Does him or her no good.

  18. Gina October 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    WAIT: To be fair, the REASON for the ban is that there is construction on the playground and the area for recess is currently very small. The principal says that after the construction is done, the kids will be allowed to play with hard balls and play tag once again.
    That said: I still think middle-schoolers can figure it out for themselves and know what’s safe and what’s not.

  19. Snow October 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    I just looked up the bell schedule for that school and they don’t have a recess. They do, however, have a longer than normal lunch period, so I’m thinking maybe they let the kids have ‘recess’ when they finish lunch. They don’t seem to have an official recess, though. http://www.portnet.k12.ny.us/cms/lib6/NY01001023/Centricity/Domain/291/BldgSched1314.pdf

  20. Emily October 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    @Warren–That’s actually a really good idea. It’s sort of an offshoot of the “Free Range Kid Membership Card” that can be printed from this site. I think, though, that the best way to make the “my child has permission to use this ball” note stick, would be if you got together with the parents of your kids’ friends, and all wrote similar notes to the school. After all, it’s all well and good to give your own child permission to bring a football, basketball, soccer ball, baseball, or whatever-ball to school, but you can’t play a proper game of any of those things alone–it even takes at least two people just to play catch. However, if enough parents wrote “my child can use a ball” notes, then maybe the school would rethink its policy……or, maybe you could have a big protest at the school on a nice sunny weekend day, and have the kids there playing sports and doing cartwheels, and the parents on the sidelines with picket signs and picnic coolers. If you alerted the media beforehand, you might be able to get more people on your side.

  21. John October 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    This is another disturbing trend happening in the United States where this country is slowly, but surely, softening its youth and turning our children into a bunch of creampuffs. There will come a day when small countries such as the Philippines and Thailand will bludgeon the United States in the summer and winter olympics because their athletes have been battled hardened in their sport since they were 8-year-old children.

  22. John October 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    You know, I’m not trying to get political here and it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing BUT I was very disturbed by President Obama’s answer just before the Super Bowl when he was asked that if he had young sons, would he allow them to play youth football. His reply was that he would really have to think about it given the brutality of the sport. He went on to say that in the NFL, they’re all adults and they can choose for themselves but children are tender and are not old enough to make that choice.

    The absurdity of that thought process lies in the fact that had Colin Capernick and Ray Lewis been denied the choice to play youth football when they were kids, it’s highly unlikely that we’d see them on the field on Super Bowl Sunday, let alone, know who they are in the first place! Goodness, kids in South Africa and Australia play youth rugby where NO pads are worn and tackle the daylights out of each other. But you don’t hear cries in those countries to ban kids from playing rugby. Only in America are kids made out of balsa wood!

  23. Alicia October 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

    John F. Kennedy

  24. CJ October 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Confused by all of the reactions here. Concern may be appropriate, but it looks to me like everyone (including Lenore) has missed an important element to this story–that there is construction going on that severely limits the space in which the kids can play.

    So, unless we can assess the area for their recess and know whether or not they plan to continue the ban after the construction is over, these reactions may be premature.

  25. Michelle October 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    When my son went to 3rd grade (new school for him at the time) he came home the first day so upset because there was no running allowed at recess. I was sure he had that wrong, until I talked to the school and sure enough, no running, kids get hurt when they run… REALLY?? Good luck with a classroom full of eight year olds with no outlet for thier energy – this was 10 years ago – absolutely riduculous!!

  26. Donna October 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    @John – I agree with Obama. Notice that he didn’t say no, he said that he’d have to think about it. Given the nature of the sport, I’d think about it as well rather than giving a knee-jerk yes or no. For example, we have kids who are hospitalized and/or die every year at the beginning of the football practice season here in the deep, hot south because of idiot coaches who work them too hard in the August heat so I’d research the program before I said yes. If a son was as much smaller than his peers as my daughter is compared to hers, the answer would be no. 25lb bodies don’t react well to being piled on by 60lb classmates. I highly doubt that I would be sacrificing his NFL career at that point, but if so, I’m sure he will be fine.

    I’ve said this before, but I definitely think some here respond knee-jerk in the opposite of anything that could be considered helicopter under extreme circumstances. I don’t believe in stopping all activity that may possibly result in broken bones, but I don’t think one needs to throw all caution to the wind and court injury just to prove that they are not helicopter.

  27. oncefallendotcom October 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    No balls allowed — no footballs, no basketballs, no baseballs, and most of all, no balls from the people propagating this crap.

  28. Warren October 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    So parents when asked if they would let their kid play football would have to think about it?
    1. The majority of the parents that say they have to think about it, come back with a resounding no.
    2. If you child wants to play a sport who are you to say no, because of your own fears?
    3. The arguement of deaths, injury and such is no different than the arguement that your child will be abducted by a sexual predator, if walking to school.

  29. Emily October 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    As for the cartwheel rule, I think that should be a “common sense” thing. As in, keep the cartwheels on flat, level surfaces (preferably on the grass), make sure there’s enough space to do one without bumping into anyone, and that should probably be sufficient. While cartwheels can pose some danger, usually what happens is, either a child can do a cartwheel, and lands on both feet with no problem, or the child can’t do a cartwheel, and does sort of a monkey jump instead. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen anyone actually fall out of a cartwheel.

  30. Liz October 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Can we start suing for a compromised childhood? When our kids grow up to be obese and unable to cope in the real world?

  31. Emily October 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    @Warren–You have a good point about football/contact sports. I mean, okay, I don’t like them, but if I had a child who wanted to play a contact sport, then I don’t think I’d say “no” straight up. I’d do some research and find out which leagues teach safely (as in, no physical contact until a certain age, at which point they actually TEACH the kids how to tackle/body-check/whatever without hurting someone, as opposed to a free-for-all), but I wouldn’t rule it out absolutely. For one thing, a child banned from playing formal contact sports might still try at a friend’s house or on the playground (public playground, since the schools don’t allow it anymore), not know how to do the “contact” part of contact sports safely, and end up seriously injuring him-or-herself, and possibly someone else as well. I say it’s better to teach how to tackle/check/spar/whatever safely, than make it a “forbidden fruit.” It’s sort of along the same lines as candy, television, Internet, ear piercing, and all of those other controversial childhood issues–deny a child these things, and the child sneaks around and gorges on candy, watches the Playboy Channel (or sneaks onto an “adult” chat room) at a sleepover, gets a DIY ear piercing at a friend’s house or in a school bathroom at recess, and so on, and so forth. The consequences of any of these things are much worse than the consequences of responding to a reasonable request “Can I play hockey/have a piece of candy/watch some TV/use the Internet/get my ears pierced?” with a “Let’s see how we can make that work.” This might mean researching reasonably safe options for sports, allowing candy in moderation, limiting TV and Internet to specific shows/websites, or nothing over a certain rating, or watching/surfing with the child to educate him or her about appropriate media content (until the child is old enough to make a judgement call), or taking a child who wants pierced ears to a reputable piercing parlour that sterilizes its equipment. The trouble is, parents (and schools, and other big organizations) don’t want to do that, so they issue a blanket “no,” because it’s easier. Well, it may be easier in the short run, but it results in stunted, defeated, unhappy, and often poorly socialized and obese kids. That’s not to say that candy and ear piercings are absolute needs, but it is pretty hard to be the only kid in your class not allowed a certain thing, regardless of what that certain thing is.

  32. Warren October 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    They have actually found that age restricting the normal physcial contact in sports, such as football or hockey, has the reverse effect, than desired. Those kids when they come of age to start tackling, and bodychecking, their minds and bodies are not ready. They have no experience in hitting or taking a hit. And now they are bigger, stronger and faster.

    Better to teach it from the beginning, when they are not as fast a skater or runner.

    Unfortunately the helicopter parents do not want their little sports darlings being physical, so they cannot get the rules changed.

  33. Snow October 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    I say no to all contact sports, but my son has a medical issue that warrants that. He still plays non contact sports.

  34. BPFH October 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Even Nerf balls aren’t entirely safe. Two summers ago, I got a call from my son’s baseball coach. It seems that while they were doing a ball-trapping drill with a Nerf football, my son did successfully trap the ball. He also managed to break his pinky finger at the same time.

    Somehow I managed to restrain myself from suing the local Little League…

    Oh, and as others have already said, middle school recess? I didn’t have any (other than what you got if you finished your lunch early), and I was in middle school nearly 30 years ago.

  35. Liz October 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    This story was picked up on Bob and Tom (morning radio show in Indiana). Tom’s reply, now the only thing these kids will get is diabetes.

  36. Emily October 9, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    Fair point, Warren. You know much more about sports than me, so I guess the best way to handle the contact/no contact issue would be to offer separate-but-equal sports leagues with and without physical contact, clearly delineate which is which, and start teaching physical contact beginning when the kids are young, in the leagues that do that. My brother had his growth spurt late, so, when he was twelve, and body-checking started in hockey, my parents deliberately didn’t enroll him again, because they couldn’t find a recreational hockey league without physical contact, for kids his age. Keeping my brother in hockey would have resulted in him getting body-checked by players much bigger than he was. My parents didn’t bar us from any and all sports activities; in fact, my brother didn’t entirely mind leaving hockey, because, in his words, it was “more time on weekends for skiing.” But, my brother was one kid, and from what I overheard on the sidelines, there were a lot of other parents in the same boat, who felt like they had to pull their small-for-their-age kids out of hockey, knowing that body-checking was coming, and not knowing of any other options. For all I know, at least some of those kids wanted to stay. I think that, on some level, my brother did too, and his comment about “more time for skiing” was just making the best of a bad situation. They have non-contact hockey here for all ages now, for both boys and girls, but they didn’t have it back then. It was either start body-checking at twelve, or stop playing hockey. When you think about it, that’s a pretty crappy choice to have to make.

  37. Rick October 10, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    @CJ – thanks for the “construction area” clarification. But the thought remains… suppose the construction had limited the area for science classrooms. Would they just ban science until the work was done? Probably not.

    They’d FIND a place for science because it’s important.

    But this shows that the powers that be do not find ‘recess’ (or whatever it is called at that school) important enough to be accommodated. And I disagree. Physical activity is VERY important.

  38. Warren October 10, 2013 at 11:07 am #


    No it is not a pretty crappy choice to make. The choice should not even be there to begin with. It was overprotective moms that got the whole non contact thing going. Hockey from day one has been a contact sport, as is football, baseball, basketball, and most team sports.

    I know kids that grew up playing non contact. Then joined high school teams, and college leagues. They didn’t last, because they couldn’t handle it.

    It is like anything else in life. If you are only exposed to a watered down bubble wrapped version, when you join the real world you cannot handle it.

    The parents of my teammates and myself never had a problem with contact in our sports. Because they knew it was a component of the sport.

    Don’t give me any crap about trying to eliminate injuries. If you do not understand that everytime you play there is chance for injury, if you cannot accept that, then don’t play. It is that simple.

  39. Emily October 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Warren–some kids don’t go into football or hockey or rugby with the intention of playing it for the rest of their lives, in the “real world.” Some parents don’t intend that for their kids either–they’re just in it for the fun, exercise, socialization, teamwork, co-ordination, and discipline that can come from learning a sport, even without the physical contact. Since we’re Canadian, let’s talk about hockey. Even without the body-checking, it involves skating, passing, shooting, maneuvering around other players, learning how to stop and change directions quickly and safely on skates. Like all team sports, again–punctuality, organization (for example, if little Jimmy forgets his shin guards, he has to sit out, so he remembers next time), teamwork, perseverance, and of course, physical fitness as well. Even when my brother played non-contact hockey, injuries still could, and did, happen, because, well, any sport played on a hard, slippery surface with sharp metal blades on your shoes, a hard puck, and sticks, is going to have some element of danger. However, my parents still let him play, because they felt that the benefits outweighed the risks. When body-checking was introduced into the equation, though, they felt differently, because they didn’t like the idea of their 70-or-80-pound son being body-checked by 150-pound opponents. Maybe you don’t think that that’s a reasonable concern, but my whole family agreed that it was, as did several other hockey families. Sports leagues like this can’t exist without adequate enrollment, and so, when someone saw that participation in recreational hockey was dropping around the age that body-checking started, non-contact hockey was born, and so, they reached a solution that most people agreed was beneficial. Maybe you would have solved it by starting body-checking at five years old instead of twelve, and maybe there are some leagues that do that.

    However, I don’t think offering the option of checking or not, or starting checking at five or at twelve, is such a bad thing. After all, one of the goals of the Free Range movement, and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and the general “get kids up and active again” initiative, is just that–to get kids up and active. I think that, given the choice, most people would rather see kids playing sports without physical contact, than sitting inside playing on their PlayStations.

    Also, not every kind of hockey involves body-checking. What about pick-up hockey with people of all ages participating? That’s usually not a contact sport, because it just wouldn’t work, with such a variance of ages and sizes. That’s why my parents chose to pull my brother out of hockey when body-checking started; because some of the other players were already “adult size” at the age of twelve, and my brother wasn’t, so it would have ceased to be a fair game (like it was before checking), and he could have been badly hurt, and not able to play hockey, or ski, or do anything physical, possibly for a long time, depending on the severity of the injury. So, by choosing not to have him play full contact hockey, they were making it more likely that he would be able to continue to be active in other ways–and he was, hence his comment about “more time for skiing.”

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s a whole range of options between “sissified couch potato” and “full contact,” and when people feel that there aren’t, that’s when they start teetering towards the “couch potato” extreme. Also, there are recreational hockey leagues for adults (again, with or without contact), so if my brother wanted to resume playing hockey now, since he’s full-grown, he could. I can see teaching physical contact in hockey from the start for a kid who’s bound for the NHL (let’s say that kid started in a rec league and showed promise), but most kids aren’t going to grow up to be Rocket Richard, or Sidney Crosby, or Danielle Goyette, so I don’t see any problem with allowing them the option to play without contact, so they can get the “fun and fitness” benefits of hockey (or whatever) in a safer environment. That’s much less bubble-wrappish than eliminating opportunities for active play altogether, and some parents are going to see an edict of “body-check or don’t play” as eliminating the opportunity, especially for parents of kids who are small for their age. So, I see this as a “live and let live” thing–if you’d rather your kids play contact sports, that’s fine, but if another family chooses to put their kids in non-contact sports, then that’s fine too, because it doesn’t have any effect on your family’s decision, and it allows more kids to begin or continue participating in sports, when they might not do so otherwise.

  40. Ellie October 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    @Emily: You make some great points. I don’t think you should have to keep justifying or explaining your point of view to Warren, though. Warren likes to take the opposite point of view to anyone, even the most reasonable, and argue with the person to the point where the person just has to wander off , bored to tears and in search of a sugar fix.

    Notice how you granted that he had valid points each time, and were gracious about your response, and he wouldn’t do the same back? Your comments are your business, of course, but since it’s a public forum I just wanted to mention that your good manners and attempt at civilized debate may be lost on some people who just enjoy stirring the pot.

    I agree with you completely. There is a happy medium between allowing children to play real sports and still keep them safe in an age-appropriate way. Some people think that adults who play contact sports like hockey, American football, and boxing should still be doing them without any helmets or protective gear because that kind of stuff is for “sissies.” Science has proven lives and brains can be saved by some basic common sense equipment. Requiring its use does not make adults sissie or the parents of sports-kids helicopters. It makes them smart and allows them to have very functional and enjoyable lives, including playing sports.

  41. Warren October 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    No one wants to see their kid get hurt. That is a given. But as you pointed out, the switch to non contact was your parents idea, because of their fears.

    I am not talking about making pro’s out of every kid, but I am talking about giving them the skills and experience to be able to play and enjoy the game in any situation.

    Age appropriate contact? No such thing. Teach the game, teach all the skills, and give them the experience they need. You want to talk hockey? Hockey has been a physical contact sport since the day in was created. The best players in the world are those that use physical contact as part of their game. Because if you do not know how to properly throw a bodycheck, you do not know how to receive one either. Doing things halfway is a recipe for severe preventable injury.

    I have no problem with 90% of protective equipment. There are some things going to far, and when that happens we fight them in our area.

    Had not directed any comment toward you, until now. Leave the discussion to the adults. Maybe in a few years you can join us, until then stay at the kiddies table.

  42. Emily October 10, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Warren–It wasn’t my parents personally who precipitated the “switch to non-contact sports,” and it wasn’t even a binary switch–people just have both options now, which results in more kids getting active, which I say is better. As for your comment about how “the best hockey players use physical contact,” well, yes, they do, but my brother was never going to be one of “the best hockey players.” Not every sport, activity, or childhood experience is about the “next level.” Lots of kids play hockey, or do dance or gymnastics, or join a swim team, without any intention of advancing to the Olympics, or even the high school team. To them (and their parents), it’s just a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, that’s more active and wholesome and generally beneficial than an afternoon spent in front of a screen. Maybe free outdoor play isn’t feasible for them (or at least not as often as they’d like), because their yards are too small (or they live in apartments with no yards), their parents feel the neighbourhood is unsafe, they don’t get home from school (and their parents from work) until after dark, or most likely, all the other kids are in organized sports or cooped up inside, so there’s no one to play with. Organized recreational sports, while not a perfect solution, can help to somewhat fill that activity gap, with options varying in price, time commitment, competitiveness, and physical contact. So, if a 75-pound twelve-year-old who’s enrolled in non-contact hockey would otherwise spend weekends on the couch, if no such option existed (like it didn’t when my brother was in that boat), then I think non-contact hockey would be a much better idea.

  43. Warren October 10, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Please stop with the rose coloured glasses. Non contact leagues are filled primarily with players that are there because of their parents, not by choice.

    Maybe one in 50 actually choose to be in a non contact hockey league, but that would be about it. The other 49 would rather be playing real hockey, but Mom won’t allow it.
    That is reality.
    Hell our oldtimers league is non contact. And it drives most of us nuts. That is why alot of us also play in an industrial league, where it is standard rules.

    Call it barbaric or whatever you want, but until you have actually delivered and clean, devastating bodycheck to someone, you really do not have the right to condemn it. If you have never played the game, you have no business saying how it should be played.

  44. Emily October 10, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Warren–Maybe there are a lot of kids for whom non-contact hockey is a “compromise” of sorts, because their parents won’t let them play full-contact hockey (or whatever sport), but the fact is, the parents are the ones enrolling their kids, and writing the cheques, or not. So, if the options are “body-check or don’t play,” then a lot of those parents whose kids are enrolled in non-contact hockey (or whatever), wouldn’t let their kids play at all. So, again, if non-contact sports lead to more kids playing sports, and if contact leagues continue to operate, for those who prefer them, then I can’t see that as anything but a positive thing. Oh, and I grew up in Canada, just like you did, so of course I’ve played pick-up hockey before. I didn’t really like it, but since it’s such a big part of our culture, I’ve tried it.

  45. Emily October 10, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    P.S., Warren, just so we’re clear, I don’t object to body-checking in hockey, if all the players are of similar size and strength. I just think that twelve is a really stupid age to start body-checking, because, again, some of the kids have started puberty, and some haven’t. Start at five, when hockey starts, and everyone knows how to do it safely, so by the time the kids are twelve, they’ll know to adjust their force according to the size of the person who they’re trying to get the puck from. But, again, if you start body-checking at an age when there’s so much variability in size and strength, it’s just asking for trouble. That’s what my parents objected to–they didn’t bar my brother (or me) from participating in anything that could possibly be construed as dangerous; hence my brother’s “more time for skiing” comment, because we both skied, and were encouraged to challenge ourselves with black diamond runs if we wanted to. My dad started taking us skiing when I was six and my brother was three, so they definitely didn’t belong to the “park kids in front of a screen so they never get injured” school of thought; they just (sensibly) didn’t want my brother’s very first experience with body-checking in hockey to be with players twice his size. If body-checking had started earlier, and he’d had a chance to learn safely, then I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem. Skiing was okay (according to my parents), because a skier’s size, and proportion to the other skiers on the hill, doesn’t have any bearing on how dangerous it is.

  46. Warren October 11, 2013 at 4:39 pm #


    Body size and mass has little to do with bodychecking. It is timing, technique and skating. One of the best pound for pound hitters to play the game professionally was small by comparison. Darcy Tucker. He played with drive and emotion.

    Again your arguement is flawed. Only against players of equal size. Life is not like that. The game is not like that. If the game was meant to be easy it would be checkers or knitting.

    When you are learning a sport, playing a sport, especially as a child, it is just as much about life as it is about the game. So many life lessons have been lost over the developement of the sports. By the pansy parent movement. Not keeping score, participation trophies, non contact, and so on. They are robbing their kids of valuable lessons, that just cannot be taught anywhere else.

    Kids who want to play a sport should not have to compromise because mom or dad is scared. That is just wrong, on so many levels.

  47. Emily October 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Okay, Warren, I guess we agree on one thing–if there is to be body checking in hockey, or tackling in football, it should start on the very youngest teams (I said age five because that seems to be the minimum age, or maybe it’s “under five”), rather than waiting until age twelve, because it’s safer to teach kids how to body-check properly and safely from the beginning. I know we don’t agree about whether or not to offer non-contact leagues as an option, but I think we can both agree that twelve (puberty for most kids) isn’t a good age to start the body-checking. Although size may not be the biggest issue at play, as you explained, kids going through puberty are dealing with a lot of physical changes, so the have a lot more clumsy moments, they’re hormonal, so sometimes their impulse control is compromised, so, between those factors, and the macho excitement of “ZOMG, we get to check for the FIRST TIME EVER!!!”; it just sounds like a recipe for disaster all around. Start at five, and it’s second nature by twelve, and it’s not a “forbidden fruit” thing either. Also, just so we’re clear, I never objected to winning, losing, and keeping score. Those things are necessary elements of any game.