I saw this video on Yahoo! Surprisingly, most comments about the video appear to be negative with people worrying about the welfare of the children.
Now, this video was produced to show a specific image. It is impossible to know the whole story. However, based on the footage, what is the problem?
Look at their ability to do a full squat, or what is known as a “third-world squat”. I have had 100-150 college students roll through my weightlifting class in the last two years, and none could do a full “ass to the grass” squat. They lack a combination of flexibility, strength, and coordination. Who should we worry about – the five-year-old who can perform these feats or the college student who can’t even get into a full-squat position? Who is healthier?
Most children in the U.S. lack the mobility and strength to get into this position. Who should we worry about?
The initial video shows amazing feats of strength for young children. It also shows two kids who are smiling and who appear to be happy. I am not sure of the consternation.
What is wrong with our society that we worry about children who are working out and getting strong? When people say that a child is “missing out on his childhood”, what is he missing? The best parts of childhood are playing: my best memories are playing sports, playing pick-up games, playing bike tag in my neighborhood, etc. If I had spent more time training like this, the things that I would have missed out on would have been, for the most part, watching television, playing video games, and hanging out by the pool. Would my life be worse if I watched fewer cartoons and did more push-ups?
I am not an early specialization fan, and I don’t think that a six-year-old needs a private basketball trainer. However, I also don’t think there is anything wrong with a child spending five, six, seven hours a day engaged in exercise and playful activities. Provided the child enjoys the activity, and most of the activity is child-initiated (though with five-year-olds, almost no activity is truly child-initiated), why not work out? Why not engage in playful activities? What is wrong with physical activity?
Now, if the dad is pushing these children too much because he wants them to be stars, they are likely to end up burning out on the activity or becoming unhappy. That is the risk. However, most children gravitate toward activities that their parents value. If these children are following their father’s lead, and enjoying the activity, where is the harm?
In Pistol, the book suggests that Pete Maravich’s father played basketball in front of his son in the hopes that it would encourage his son to show an interest in basketball. Once he showed an interest, he gave Pistol Pete drills to master. For young children, according to the work of Nicholls, there is no difference between ability and effort: working hard is the same as being good at something. Therefore, these children, and Pistol Pete, are motivated to continue working hard because they feel that they are good. Their feelings of competence motivate them to continue.
I think the video is tremendous. I am discouraged that so many are outraged. It seems like our society has decided that pursuing excellence in a physical activity (sport) is to be discouraged, which is unfortunate.