A baby's milestones are the things memory books, photo albums and Facebook sites are made of. But in today's ultra-competitive world, first steps, first words and sleeping schedules can take a back seat to baby's gymnastics feats or sports training schedule.
As reported in Today, moms are shuttling their babies and toddlers to gyms and showing them special DVDs to train their athletic sensibilities even before their first birthdays, all to get a head start on the athletic front. To meet the demand, as the New York Times reports, a plethora of new sports training programs for kids as young as as six months are popping up around the country.
Doreen Bolhuis, founder of GymTrix in Grand Rapids, MI. tells the New York Times, "The younger the better... With the babies in our family, I start working them out in the hospital."
Through programs like Bolhuis's, budding infant athletes jump, kick and practice baseball skills, accompanied by their doting parents, who hold their child's hands on the bat during batting practice. The goal is to give them a jump start in athletics, Bolhuis explains. "We hear all the time from families that have been with us, 'Our kids are superstars when they're in middle school and they get into sports."
Moms in Grand Rapids are not the only ones in on the action: several Circle of Moms members have shared stories about getting their kids involved in sports earlier than ever. Gigi F., who is an Olympic gold medalist and a member of the sports moms community, has even created her own series of baby sports DVDs (Baby Goes Pro).
"How early is too early to start developing athletic talent?" she asks. Her DVDs introduce babies and toddlers to baseball, soccer, golf and tennis with the intention of "inspiring a generation to move" by through visuals that teach kicking and swinging. Her own twins began watching the videos when they were nine months old, and by the time they were 13 months, were kicking balls when most kids that age just want to pick them up.
"I think it's not a bad idea to get babies started early," comments Jennifer M, who takes her baby to a gym that teaches gymnastics as general motor skills.
And Melissa C. says that there are definite benefits to pushing kids into sports before they can walk: namely that it will improve future athletic prowess. "I believe that there are children who are ready before others," she says, adding that her three -year-old "can handle his lacrosse stick ten times better than some kids two years older than him. He can whack a baseball without using a tee. His hand-eye coordination is awesome. His teachers tell me all the time about how well he can kick a rolling ball and catch and throw."
But many other Circle of Moms members seem startled that the age of entry into sports training has dipped so low.
According to one, Maria O., pushing kids too early into sports can backfire. "One has to be very careful at pushing the child at a very young age," she says. "The child should show an interest first, then love and enjoy the game. The harder an adult pushes, the more adamant the child pushes away from the game if they no longer find it fun. The fun and excitement, I believe has to be nurtured for the child to keep the love of the game."
Princess W. agrees. "I think the key is nurturing their interest and not pushing it," she says. "With my first I tried to push him into getting involved with a lot of sports early. " She reports it backfired and her son didn't want to play any sports for a while. "I think it is best to wait until they are ready."
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