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Zopf: Is 2 too young for athletics?
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Like a young Barry Sanders, he darted around the practice cones with a football tucked tightly under his right arm.

A day earlier, he channeled his inner-LeBron James, practicing short jump shots, chest passes and dribbling ... bubbles?

That’s right, bubbles. How else would you get a 2-year-old to work on his game?

Now I’m sure some of you may be thinking, what kind of parent forces a kid to dribble bubbles and weave around cones as if he was preparing for the NFL combine?

Well, don’t question my parenting skills, I mean how else is my son going to be ready for this cruel world of specialized sports stars and highly-recruited youngsters?

We’ve all seen the video of a young Tiger Woods playing golf on the Tonight Show with his dad standing right by his side, proud to show the world his prodigy who would one day transform the game of golf like no other. Is my son going to do that? Probably not, but it’s never too early to try and make it happen.

That’s what I did by signing up my youngster for one of several camps aimed at children from the ages of 2-5 at the Suwanee Sports Academy.

They say the earlier you read to a child, the smarter they will be. So I guess the same thing goes for sports. Start ‘em early, then watch them shine.

At first glance, you probably think that 2-years-old is way too young to get your kids involved in athletics. I say you’re wrong.

It’s not because of the ultra hyberbole that began this column, but for the reasons that the camps exist in the first place: to teach children the brighter side of sports, the teamwork, the hand-eye coordination and the pure joy one feels when successful.

The camp isn’t about molding future Hall-of-Famers at the ripe age of 2. That type of future can only be had with hard work, dedication and a little help from the gene pool, which alas my son is lacking (the gene pool, not the hard work and dedication).

This camp — which teaches basketball, football, baseball and soccer — is about showing kids the simple fundamentals of sports and helping them develop social and motor skills that they wouldn’t receive sitting at home watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Yet while all those things are fine and dandy, the biggest benefit of the camp for me (beside seeing my son dominate everyone else in his class) is the joy and excitement that are on display from every kid involved. They don’t care if they make a basket, miss a cone or drop the ball; all they care about is having fun playing sports, something that we as a society take for granted.

We — and I include myself here — are too caught up in the final score, the inflated box score and the arrogance that comes with being, or thinking, we are the best. And those negative aspects of sports are showing up earlier and earlier in life, which is evident if you ever attend a sporting event from middle school to high school.

Sure, the love of the game is there with the players chanting and supporting one another, but there is still an underlying feeling that the game being played is just proof that one group of kids is better than the other. As a competitor and sports fan that doesn’t bother me. As a parent it does.

We’ve lost the way in regards to teaching the future of the sports world how to act. Amidst all the chest bumping and muscle flexing, we forgot to teach that it’s OK to know that you’re the best, but it’s not OK to show that you know you’re the best.

I’ve known this for quite some time now, but it’s a shame that it took a 2-year-old to make me realize how bad the situation is.

My son is the one attending this camp to learn how to play sports, yet it’s me who will probably get more out of it than he ever will.

Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. Reach him at

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