Can you imagine your seven-year-old being taunted and called a freak for his size?
What if he was told that he was no longer allowed to play his favourite sport because – through no fault of his own – he might hurt the other children?
Seven-year-old Samoan Rugby League player Vaka Tuitupou stands head and shoulders above his teammates – literally. None of the other kids reach beyond his armpits.
Weighing in at 100 kilograms, the Sydney school boy has been told he is too big to play on his local under eights rugby team.
Listen: On the latest episode of This Glorious Mess, Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo discuss whether Vaka should be allowed to play with his peers.
Vaka’s story went viral recently when his father shared a video of his son’s talents. In the short clip, Vaka is seen tearing through the other players, who try to tackle him but are casually brushed aside. Even five opponents hanging off his limbs can’t stop him from dominating.
The video was shared throughout the country, with commenters criticising him for being too big to play with his peers. They said the boy was a danger to his opponents and it wouldn’t be fair to play.
But since then, his coach has responded, calling the seven-year-old ‘a gentle giant.’ He said Vaka is only allowed to play five half games a year to make it fair on the other kids.
Then, on August 3rd, it was reported Vaka had been removed from the team indefinitely.
The controversial match-up of a Samoan boy playing against children half his size has sparked a debate: should children’s sports be organised by age or size?
It’s a question that has divided parents across the country.
A parent’s first thought when their son announces he wants to sign up for the rugby team is usually to make a mental shopping list to buy every piece of protective clothing they can muster. From a cup to a helmet, and every piece of padding in between.
Because to see a Jonathon Thurston-sized child running full speed towards their darling seven-year-old would strike fear in their hearts.
This is a contact sport. He could crush them!
On This Glorious Mess, Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo both agreed he should probably be playing up with the nine year olds.
“I think it’s quite a violent sport,” said Holly.
And plenty of people agree with them.
“There needs to be an age weight limit. Sadly it will not be long before another child gets injured,” wrote one commenter.
“I’m not at all one for health and safety rules but it really does make sense here. These kids could get seriously injured,” agreed another.
One woman took to Facebook to share her disappointment in the way the young athlete has been treated.
“NO NO!! This little boy should be allowed to play! He is not out to hurt anyone and the fact is he’ll make a wonderful adult player,” she wrote.
And that’s exactly what we’ve got to remember – despite his size, Vaka is still just a little boy on the inside. This is children’s sport, and everyone should get a fair crack.
No child should be made to feel like they have to hold back or stifle their talents and abilities. To tell Vaka he can only play a half game is just as bad as the other kids missing out because the Gentle Giant is hogging the ball.
Vaka’s size is a blessing. He should be allowed to play, to succeed and to shine for his unique skills. He should not be taught that his height and strength is a curse.
It's not about winning (although with Vaka on their team, the Eagles are certainly doing so) it's about getting active with mates, learning a new skill and practising good sportsmanship. If the Sydney school boy was moved up to play with the older boys, he would miss out on the opportunity to play with his peers. Instead, it would become all about competing, which at seven is pretty damn sad.
We've got our entire lives to be told what we can and can't do.
Let the boy play.
Do you think Vaka should be allowed to play with age group?
For the answers to more hairy parenting dilemmas, listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here:
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