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Will Play for Donuts

Written by MeMe Roth   
Sunday, 01 June 2008 00:00
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MeMe Roth, President, National Action Against Obesity

The moment we signed up our kids for Fall Soccer, guess what happened first? Snacks. Snack schedules. Snack emails. Snack discussions. The same thing happened during flag football, field hockey, baseball, and basketball seasons. I scratched my head over this. The primary reason for having our children in recreational sports is to provide them a positive sporting experience— not another opportunity for recreational eating.

And by the way, “snack” doesn’t really mean snack. It means Party Food. We’re pressured to bring the children not only a post-game “snack,” but also a half-time snack. And although the coach and parents have agreed the food would be healthy, it’s nowhere close. So far, it has been Oreos, Chips Ahoys, organic “Oreos,” chips, organic chips, cupcakes, etc. And then just this last weekend, it was a mountain of chocolate-frosted Dunkin Donuts— with sprinkles on top. This, all in addition to bananas and orange slices. At a practical level, we’re talking about children expending maybe 200 calories, then consuming 300 calories in parentprovided snacks...

Our family politely opted out of the “snack” program, as we’d like our children to get excited about soccer, not doughnuts. But what does this constant parent, team, peer pressure say about recreational sports leagues? One parent chided me throughout an entire game about my position on the “snack,” then interrupted our coach on the sidelines to talk about it, then proceeded to make disparaging remarks about me to the coach, most unfortunately, in front of my son.

It would be fantastic and helpful to parents attempting to keep their children healthy—if America’s recreational sports leagues enforced a reasonable “snack” policy. And it’s not easy for the coaches either. The head of a YMCA sports league serving tens of thousands of children tried to bypass the snacks and “had parents screaming at me and quitting,” he said. Another commissioner of a major soccer league told me, “It makes me nuts to have a donut-induced Pavlovian response to soccer.” Even as coach and commissioner, he can’t seem to get his team parents to stop with the donuts.

What Should We Do?

To keep it simple, we could ask that parents bring the water and fruit their own children need... OR... we could provide guidelines that the “snack” be a healthful snack such as fresh fruit or veggies. It’d be great for the kids to get excited about foods their bodies need—and are woefully in short supply of—like fresh fruits and veggies. They could love apple slices, orange slices, bananas, grapes, berries, carrots sticks, celery sticks, etc., if we’d condition them that those are the foods we eat alongside a soccer match.