By Jane Dodd
We all know that it is often the subtlest of communications that makes the most impact.
The not so subtle insults from a group of parents towards a lad who had the guts and determination to turn up for his league team, highlights a pattern of behaviour that needs to stop.
The bullying behaviour of these parents is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Those same comments are usually made outside of earshot to the person in question, but unfortunately sometimes within earshot of their own kids.
I doubt they have considered the fact that doing any sort of physical activity when you are a large person requires far more effort than it would for someone who is of average size? That child is potentially playing harder than anyone else is on the field or court. Have you carried a 20kg suitcase up a flight of stairs? Try doing it on a netball court or rugby field for the full game. Then there are the practical considerations, like wearing a uniform that wasn’t really made for your shape and maybe having to change into that uniform in front of other kids.
This public shaming of a group of parents needs to be a wake up call to everyone to stop using body size as a reason to criticise or judge people. It’s ironic that we are now supposedly so very inclusive of different genders, yet body size is something too many people think they have a right to comment on.
It is not just the opposition who get this sort of treatment. I have had people complain that “the big kid” gets more game time than he deserves because “he’s not that good of a player”. I am sure most people who have helped coach a team have had the same experience. How the heck will they get better or fitter if they have to sit on the bench, and what sort of lesson does this teach other kids about teamwork?
Increasing body weight is a fact of life, given our lazier lifestyles and eating far more than we need to on a regular basis. Kids know better than anyone does what they should and should not eat, and they are all too conscious of being overweight. Kids who do carry some extra weight are often the butt of jokes and ridiculed from their peers. Now we know where they get it from - the parents.
If we are going to stop the growing problem of children becoming overweight before their time, we need to face some facts. Firstly - being big is not always unhealthy, and if the person is active and otherwise healthy, that may just be their size. Secondly - turning out for a team is double the effort for that child, do not triple it.
How can we expect people to get, or stay fit if they are excluded from teams because of the bigoted attitude of parents who think their trim and healthy child deserves more game time, or the children themselves get the clear vibe that they are more of a hindrance than a help. Next week when they are sick, it is likely they are heart sick and simply do not want to face the criticism again.
Finally, my dietetic colleagues are seeing another emerging issue in their clinics - children who are restricting their food for fear of getting fat. Sugar has been so demonised that sugar-phobia is becoming a new issue, not only for kids but also for other groups of people who need those calories in their diet. Some older people for example who need to put jam on their toast and drink a milo before bed.
The fact is we do come in all shapes and sizes; you only need to look at the Warriors to see that. Therefore, kids sports teams will also have a range of body weights, and kids who do not fall in the middle of a bell curve should not be disadvantaged or judged because of their differences.