Pint-Sized Prodigies? Parents Push Kids to be Athletic

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It's the latest trend in extreme parenting -- moms and dads pushing their kids at an early age to become the next Michael Jordan or Alex Rodriguez.

Championship golfer Tiger Woods has God-given talent. But it was his father's push for excellence at a young age that transformed him into a champion.

Parents today are taking a page from the Woods playbook, grooming their kids at a young age for sports perfection. Many times that push comes before they can even talk.

Viral Prodigies

A video of 8-year-old wrestling superstar Stevo Poulin has nearly 70,000 hits on YouTube. Similar videos of other child prodigies are all over the Internet.

Companies are cashing in and encouraging parents to get their children to hit the gym. There are now exercise facilities for kids and even workout DVDs for babies.

The "Baby Goes Pro" video series promises to give little ones an edge up in sports. Gymtix is one workout DVD for babies as young as 6-months-old.

Doreen Bolhuis, the creator behind the video series, runs a gym called Gymco, tailored for kids young as one-year old.

"It's never too young. We read to babies, put them on our lap, and we read to them because we know that that translates into interest in literacy skills," she explained. "Physical literacy is exactly the same process."

Beyond Building Blocks

But not all parents are trying to raise future all-stars. Angel Hardy brings her 20-month-old to the gym to build confidence.

"She absolutely loves it," she said. "I'm not trying to make her a professional athlete. I'm just trying to give her the skills she needs to be successful."

Bolhuis' gym doesn't promise future athletic success or a fast track to the big leagues, but does guarantee "playground superstars."

"A playground superstar is a child who can navigate everything on the playground very confidently and earns the respect of his or her peers," Bolhuis explained.

Exrtreme Parenting?

But is this parenting extreme? Glen Lines doesn't think so.

Lines quit his job so he can stay home and train his daughter Mia, a 4-year-old budding tennis star. She works out up to three hours a day in 95 degree Florida heat.

"I just let Mia decide how she goes. I'd rather have her outside playing tennis," Lines said.

"People might say two hours, three hours that's too long," he explained. "But a lot of people are letting their kids play three, four ,five, and six hours on PlayStations, eating junk food, drinking cans and cans of soda."

Experts say focusing young kids on just one sports isn't the answer.

"The parent's job is to expose the child to a bunch of sports activities and let the child feel what seems best to them," clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Bradley said.

Research shows that the best way to raise an elite athlete is to teach them a broad range of confidence skills, early sports speculation does not give an advantage.

But with big time pay checks and multi-million dollar endorsements on the line, parents aren't likely to stop pushing anytime soon.

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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at