Last week, the Orange County Register reported the Tustin (CA) Red Cobras, Western U.S. representative in the 2011 Pop Warner Super Bowl, paid cash to their 10 and 11-year-old players for hard hits knocking opposing players from Yorba Linda, Santa Margarita and San Bernardino out of games. Though coaches Darren Crawford and Richard Bowman have denied the allegations, the Register’s Keith Sharon reports today the Red Cobras coaxed boys into dangerous weigh loss techniques including but not limited to ordering a player to “wear a plastic suit to try to sweat off the weight” (“he sat in saunas. His teammates said he sucked on Skittles candy to create saliva so he could spit more often”)
Player X weighed more than 85 pounds on Aug. 1, 2011, the first day of football practice. He still weighed more than 85 pounds on Aug. 12, the day each player is officially certified by the league. At this point, Player X could have been immediately moved up to a bigger division, Pee Wee, where he would play with heavier kids.
But Player X was a key piece of the Red Cobra’s title hopes and the team sought – and received – a waiver from OEC that gave Player X until Aug. 27 to lose the required weight, according to Zanelli’s chronology.
Many Pop Warner families are familiar with extreme weight-loss efforts by the children near the cutoff limit. Many boys in Pop Warner diet and, in some cases, take diuretics to lose weight.
Brad Davidson, owner of Stark Training in Irvine and the trainer of professional athletes like Sam Baker who was raised in Tustin and is now playing for the Atlanta Falcons and former Laker Matt Barnes, said extreme dieting for children is “crazy.”
“At that age, the stress that dieting puts on the body is unbelievable,” Davidson said. “You’re stripping the body of electrolytes. The body becomes massively dehydrated. Strength and coordination will be affected. When you lose too many electrolytes, you can die.”