How young is too young for sports training?

Perhaps in the near future, not walking won't be an impediment to beginning serious athletic training with infants.
CBS News

"No pain, no gain" has long been a mantra for aspiring athletes, but is a full speed ahead training philosophy good for the very, very young?

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that some parents seem to think so.

Steffi Graf picked up a tennis racket around the age of three. Tiger Woods was swinging clubs by two. These days they might be considered late bloomers. Now, it seems, it's never too early to be a tyke in training.

The push is on from slick videos urging parents to get infants into the swing of things, from little baby baseball to soccer training for toddlers at Lil' Kickers in Chicago.

Instructors say they're toning tiny muscles, developing coordination and instilling a life-long love of physical activity and sports. They insist they're not trying to create future superstars.

"The real idea is for them to have fun and not to have pressure with sports," says Ben Tatham, a coach at Lil' Kickers.

Still, a parent can always hope.

"Many parents think their kids are supersports and think they'll just take off and be professional and all that," says Bobbie Stanger-Seewagen with the Children's Athletic Training School.

It's a good bet many parents think they're giving their kids a leg up when it comes to sports, but there's no guarantee that early training is going to turn your baby into the next Babe Ruth.

"Early enrollment in too focused an area sometimes doesn't make your child a better athlete, it actually hinders them in becoming the full athletic abilities that they might have," says Dr. Bob Adler, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles.

Adler says baby exercise is a good thing, but focusing on a specific sport?

"You want to make sure that you're not pushing the child because of your own competitiveness," Dr. Adler says.

Some baby sports instructors, like Cory Bertisch, CEO of MyGym, insist they're not being competitive.

Pull-ups mean something completely different for most at MyGym fitness center. Just like Baby Einstein videos didn't produce a generation of geniuses, baby athletics probably won't produce many champions. So at MyGym, Bertisch says they are "more focused on the fun."

Everyone knows, fun produces winning smiles.