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Dave Hollander Headshot

Take Little League Off TV

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I read about kids who are playing golf at age 5. We're not talking miniature golf here, but golf lessons, every day with a pro. They've got a team of coaches, nutritionist and psychologists. They're in training.

Two summers ago, the Silva family sold their house and two cars in Rancho Cordova, Calif., and moved to France with their two other children so Jan Kristian Silva, their 5-year old tennis prodigy, could live and train full time at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.

Last summer, 9-year old Australian soccer phenom Rhain Davis, signed with Manchester United. He and his family flew with his family to join the U-10 squad at Manchester United, after his grandfather sent a DVD of the boy's abilities to scouts.

This summer, I look at the face of that tiny Chinese gymnast - the little girl who they say is 16 but looks no more than 11, probably younger - and I feel her pressure, not her joy. The NBC booth announcer tells us these gymnasts start training at age 3, so at ages 9-11 they reach their prime.

Then I read Michael Sokolove's excellent new book (does this guy write anything that isn't excellent?) "Warrior Girls" which frightens and infuriates me as it explains how the current practice of pushing young athletes to specialize in one sport and play it year round is resulting in an insanely high rate of A.C.L. ruptures in female athletes leaving them permanently impaired.

One of my buddies has 7-year old twin boys who played 50 ice hockey games in 5 states this year.

My other buddy has two sons. One was told he had to choose between soccer or baseball at age 9, even though they play at different times of the year. His other boy came home at age 9 and said that if he didn't enroll in additional strength and speed classes he would fall behind the other kids. My friend says where he's lives, Shelton Connecticut, kids have to specialize early because the level of competition demands it.

I started thinking about him as I watched the young faces of boys, most of them 12-years old, from Shelton compete in the Little League World Series on ESPN. And I thought what I've always thought when I watch the Little League World Series: This shouldn't be on TV.