THF Presents at Arlington ISD

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At age 16, Taylor Hooton was 6 feet 2 inches, 180 pounds and muscular but wanted more. He wanted bigger, better. So he used steroids, unaware of the steroid-induced depression he could experience as one of a number of side effects. That depression led to his suicide.

This is the opening punch Don Hooton threw at students at Shackelford Junior High on Jan. 6. Hooton created the Taylor Hooton Foundation seven months after his son's death, hoping to bring attention to the dangers of appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs.

Sponsored by the Texas Rangers, Hooton gave two presentations to Shackelford seventh and eighth graders and talked personally and candidly to both grades about not just how steroids are being taken by athletes to perform better on the field but by people who just want to look good.

Students were stunned by the testimony via a video presentation of a female cheerleader who used steroids to help her carve out her six-pack abs.

Principal Andy Hagman said Shackelford was chosen as a pilot school after AISD Assistant Superintendent of Administration Jimmy Walker had conversations with former player and current Texas Rangers senior executive Jim Sundberg to bring the presentations to the district.

Hagman thinks junior highs are a perfect place to have the presentations, partly because steroid use is growing among young people, especially girls in eighth and ninth grades.

"The surprising thing is that they're doing it because they want to look more defined," Hagman said. "He (Hooton) didn't pull any punches in the presentation. He talked about boys getting breasts and girls having their hair fall out. He was quite candid."

For boys, Hagman said the message was pertinent because junior high is the transition period between YMCA sports and high school athletics, where the competition to succeed becomes stiffer. But he wanted to make sure his students were more in tune to the less-talked-about-message of steroid use as an appearance-enhancing drug.

"I just think the appearance thing is so paramount right now," he said. "While some of our kids aren't faced with exposure or opportunity to get steroids, it's just right around the corner. You throw in your 14-year-old freshman kid, and he's got 18-year-old seniors running around. There's the opportunity."

As for combating the importance of appearance among students, Hagman said it's about treating all of them equally.

"The most important thing is modeling from the adults in the building," Hagman said. "There needs to be a consistent message that emphasizes the good things coming from all the kids."

Pictured: Don Hooton from the Taylor Hooton Foundation recently spoke to Shackelford Junior High students about the dangers of steroids.

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