Demias Jimerson of Malvern, Ark., is 11 years old — and he’s so good at football that “he’s going to score almost every time he touches the ball,” according to his intermediate school principal, Terri Bryant.
In other words, he’s so good he must be stopped. Because Jimerson runs circles around the other kids on the field, Bryant has decided he’s not allowed to score more than three touchdowns, provided his team has at least a 14-point lead.
In Malvern, they call that “the Madre Hill” rule, after Razorback great Madre Hill, who, like Jimerson, grew up in the tiny Arkansas town and breezed by his competitors at mind-boggling speed.
According to Bryant, she’s re-invoking the rule not to punish Jimerson but to provide his competitors with a chance to develop as players, too.
It’s easy to see the temptation she faces. It’s only natural that the other kids become discouraged when they find they can’t quite compete with Jimerson. But I also know what my dad would say (sheesh, quotin’ him two posts in a row — he’s gonna get cocky!): If you want to be the best, you have to compete with the best. He’d pump my head so full of confidence — and encourage me to practice and push myself so relentlessly — that I’d tackle Jimerson or pass out trying to catch him. (Not healthy, you say? Maybe you’re right. I know burn-out is a real phenomenon — but I also think there’s something to it.)
Doesn’t the principal see? Running with Jimerson does develop the other players. Maybe they’re not immediately able to discern the ways they’ve improved. But, for every time a kid comes only oh-so-close to tackling Jimerson, he’s going to tackle some other less-speedy quarterback with greater ease. In other words, Bryant and the parents of the other children are missing a prime opportunity to encourage their kids to keep pushing and to teach them all that they can do is their best but that, eventually, their best will pay off — if not on the football field, then in the increased disciplined and irrepressible optimism they cultivated while competing with Jimerson.
Reminds me a little of the whole Tiger Mother debate: Might we be doing children a disservice by allowing them to get up from the piano before they’ve conquered the most difficult passage of “The Little Donkey”?
For what it’s worth, Jimerson seems pretty unaffected by the shackles the school has put on his prodigious talent:
“I got, kinda got shocked because I didn’t know that was gonna happen, but it did,” said Jimerson. Adding, “I’m ok with it.” …
But the Madre Hill rule is only for fifth and sixth grades. Next year, Jimerson goes to seventh grade.
“I’m gonna run hard and bring our team to victory,” said Jimerson. Then he added, “but God always comes first, before anything, and grades second.”
God, grades, then touchdowns — Madre Hill Rule or not.
Sounds like a pretty good kid to me. Here’s hoping he follows in Madre Hill’s footsteps all the way to the University of Arkansas!