In 1900, Theodore Roosevelt wrote an essay in a young people’s magazine named St. Nicholas that was titled “The American Boy.” Theodore Roosevelt was our 26th president and was known for being an advocate of “the strenuous life;” a lifestyle that measures success in hard work above all else. In “The American Boy,” Roosevelt provides his opinion of what a young boy should do to become a respectable man, a man that America would be proud to call our own. In today’s world, Roosevelt’s words go beyond that of just the American boy, but include advice that our young girls should be applying as well.
“Of course, what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won’t be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud.”
So begins Roosevelt’s essay, with a clear statement of what is expected of a boy to become a good man. Roosevelt dictates that in order to become a good man, a boy must first be a “good” boy. Simply put, children must take advantage of living a good childhood (with good parenting and role models) in order to become adults that can properly contribute to society. “He must not be a coward or a weakling, or a bully…” Bullying has been and will continue to be a problem unless we teach our children that to bully another is wrong. But it is only by providing them with the means to stand up for themselves and for others that bullying will be stopped. Children must know that to be a bully is to be weak-minded. In our High Mountain Youth classes, we as coaches aim to help all of our participants become strong in body and in mind.
Roosevelt is sure to point out the advantages of being involved in sport and activities that work the body, and he believes that a child should be actively engaged in such activities all their lives. He also points out that hard work includes hard study. A child who lets himself become so distracted with athletics that it takes away from their studies is not developing the proper characteristics to become a respectable adult.
“A boy needs both physical and moral courage,” Roosevelt states. Because of our instant access to the internet and social media, we live in a world where ridicule can come at any time. It is extremely important that a child learn physical and moral courage to defend themselves and to stand up for what is right in any given situation. Roosevelt puts it best when he says, “A coward who will take a blow without returning it is a contemptible creature; but, after all, he is hardly as contemptible as the boy who dares not stand up for what he deems right against the sneers of his companions who are themselves wrong.” Roosevelt intimates that “ridicule is one of the favorite weapons of wickedness…” and that it can bring even the best of young children to make foolish decisions if they are not taught to have a strong moral code.
Roosevelt’s idea of the American boy presents many traits that embody the goals we have for our High Mountain Youth. The traits he presents build good character, and allow those who embody them to be an example to others. We are actively building these traits with our High Mountain Youth, and encourage them to pursue excellence both inside and outside of the gym. We too believe that children should be, “good at their studies…fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrong-doing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless.” We are helping our Youth become physically and mentally prepared for any challenge that they may face, while allowing them to still be children. We encourage them to learn to approach every obstacle with a well-mannered ferocity in which they will always find some sense of achievement. Roosevelt again says it best at the end of his essay: “In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!”