Speaking to various youth sports organizations throughout my career, I'm often floored by the number of stories people will come up and tell me afterward. I kept a diary of all these stories, and as I reflect back they never cease to amaze me.
The following story was told to me by a youth sports administrator from Atlanta, Georgia. How would you react if this was your child?
A mother had gone to pick her 10-year-old son up at football practice early one day as she had forgotten that he had a dentist appointment. It was a hot August day.
The administrator went on to say that as she approached the field, she looked around for her son and, not seeing him, she went up to the coach and asked where he might be. The coach replied, "He's over in that car at the end of the field."
The mother asked why he was sitting in the car, or if he had been acting up.
"Oh, no," the coach answered. "He's trying to lose weight."
"Lose weight?" she screamed. "Why does he need to lose weight? He only weighs 100 pounds!"
The coach said, "We have weight limits in our league, and since he's our running back he needs to weigh no more than 100 pounds. When we weighed him earlier this morning, he weighed 105 pounds. We've got weigh-ins by the league tonight, and if he doesn't make the weight limit, then he won't be our running back."
The mother then rushed over to the car, and there was her son sitting in the front seat. He was wrapped in plastic bags that contractors use as trash bags. The motor was on, and the heat was turned to full speed.
Horrified, she grabbed her son out of the car and screamed at the top of her voice for all to hear, "YOU COULD HAVE KILLED HIM!"
The coach came running over and said, "Ma'am, I'm just trying to help your son make the team. All he's doing is sweating off a few pounds."
The mother replied, "Have you ever heard of heat stroke? If I hadn't shown up here, my son might have died, and you'd be in jail for a long time."
The coach replied, "I'm sorry. Nobody ever told me how dangerous it might be to get them to lose weight. It won't happen again."
"Well, you can be sure it won't happen to my son because he's not playing for this team as long as you're the coach."
According to the youth sports administrator, she took her son out of the league.
I asked him how this could happen on a public facility? Didn't the football league require that the coaches be trained?
He replied that the football league just gets a permit to use the field and that they had no control over the association; even in making sure the coaches are trained, especially in the safety of kids.
And therein lies the problem in many communities across America.
The next time you ride by a locally owned public sports complex and see a group of 10-year-olds practicing football, ask yourself this: I wonder if they have any of those kids losing weight today?