I am not old. In fact, I’d say I’m quite the opposite. Sure my childhood may be over, but I’m still a few good years away from 30. That’s when you really get old. All kidding aside, it seems a bit strange that I, at the ripe old age of 25, am about to give a “back in my day” sermon, but it must be done. 

The world is becoming an increasingly more dangerous place, and we have good reason to be more cautious in some aspects of our lives. With natural or human-induced disasters seemingly around every corner, we should absolutely take the necessary steps to make our world a safer place.

Eliminating athletic equipment from childrens’ recess at school isn’t one of them.

Recently, Weber Middle School in Long Island decided to ban footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, soccer balls and any other athletic equipment that could cause harm to any student on the playground. Rowdy games of tag have also been banned, as have cartwheels. Instead, children will be given foam Nerf balls with which to play.

The change during what I’d call my favorite “class” growing up is because of a recent rash of minor injuries received by students while at recess.

When did we get so soft?

This travesty, yes, I’m calling it a travesty, is just the latest in a series of events that has led us to become spineless shells of our former selves. While leaving children unsupervised with a BB gun in the back yard, something that was done in my neighborhood with regularity growing up, is probably not the safest practice, but altering one of the most fundamental aspects of childhood, recess, is not the brightest of ideas.

When I was a kid, we played kickball, four square, soccer, football, basketball and countless other activities while on the playground. Did we get hurt sometimes? Yes. It’s part of being a child.

I twisted an ankle during a kickball game when I was in the third grade. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I cry? I can’t remember. What I do remember is that it wasn’t the end of the world. My childhood wouldn’t have been any safer/better if I had never turned an ankle that fateful day in third grade.

Children get hurt. Cuts, nicks, bruises and even a few broken bones are part of growing up. We can’t protect children from every little thing that could put them in harm’s way. We can protect them from everything but themselves. We should obviously always be looking for ways to make our world safer, especially for our youth, but eliminating the chance to play soccer on the playground is a tad excessive.

Recess was my first taste of competitive athletics. It’s what turned me on to the game of basketball. It’s where I built some of the friendships I still have today. It was an extremely important part of my childhood development.

Weber Middle School has taken that away from its students. Sure, recess still exists, but only as a reminder of our ever-softening backbones. What are the students suppose to do now? Are we going to live in a world where students spend recess texting, surfing Twitter and playing Angry Birds?

I sure hope not.

There is enough of that already. Children are meant to run and to fall.

Isn’t this the same country that is justifiably concerned about national obesity, especially in children? We should be extending recess and the time we all spend exercising, not curtailing it.

I say let ‘em play.

— Zach Beehler is a sports reporter for the Hermiston Herald. He can be reached at zbeehler@hermistonherald.com

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