Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Some gains aren’t worth it

My son attends an excellent high school, recently ranked #1 in Nebraska by a national publication. He has great academic opportunities, and he takes advantage of these. He is out doing some volunteer work for his National Honor Society application as I write these words. He also loves sports.Yard09

His first love is baseball (homerun shown), and he plays all summer. Since 8th grade he has played football as well (it’s the state religion of Nebraska). He has played offense and defense on the freshman and sophomore teams, and he got to suit up with the varsity as a long-snapper for one game last year.

He will not be playing this fall.

Oh, he has gone to weight training almost every weekday at 8am all summer long. He even attended football camp. He finally decided that the payoff was not worth the effort required.

Or the pressure to gain weight.

No one offered him steroids. No one offered any nutritional advice. No one suggested supplements, other than other kids on the team. But coaches did mention that he should try to put on 30 lbs or so if he wanted to play a position besides snapper.

He is currently between 90th-95th percentiles for height, and just above the 90th percentile for weight with rippling muscles I never imagined anyone with my genes could possess. Adding 30 lbs to his frame would increase his body mass index from a healthy 27.2 to an obese 31.8.

He came to this decision on his own. He did not want to get fat because that would mess up his baseball game, not to mention setting him up for health problems later in life (his father has type 2 diabetes). He plans on academic scholarships and achievements, not sports, for his future.

I wonder how many boys on his team could make this decision? I wonder how many of them would pack on pounds in hopes of football glory and a chance to go to college with the sport? I wonder what happens to them, metabolically, when their playing days end?

My daughter quit her dance major because of the pressure to lose weight when she had no body fat to shed. Now my son is giving up a sport  because he refuses to become obese.

I am proud of both of them. But I am worried about all our children.


  1. I have a cousin who wrestles at the high school level and he is constantly either starving or trying to gain. I worry about him. My hat's off to your son for just being healthy.

  2. I noticed that in this picture, it appears that your son's helmet has a face guard. Given the recent news on blunt force trauma to the base of the skull (and death), has anyone suggested a neck guard/flap as well?