There are also rewards: college scholarships, pro careers. But those go only to a precious few, despite all the sacrifices and good intentions.
"It's just gotten so crazy out there," said Fred Engh, author of "Why Johnny Hates Sports" and president of the National Alliance of Youth Sports. "It all started with these travel teams."
Pitching coaches. Batting instructors. Personal trainers.
For a country that doesn't make anything anymore, we sure produce a lot of coaches, an industry preying on ridiculous expectations.
"It reminds me of the Old West when a guy came into town selling snake oil," Engh said.
Extreme as it seems, there is no indication that Cunningham's program isn't strictly a fine way for 18-month-olds to blow off some of their endless energy. And it's certainly preferable to sticking them in front of a television.
In his 10-week classes, Cunningham stresses fun and social skills for his 18-month-old charges.
"They like the same things over and over again — like with books and cartoons. That's how they learn. By Week 3 of our class, they know that the next thing we're going to do is bubbles."
Cunningham's classes are another sign that when it comes to youth sports, we haven't yet seen it all. For instance, Cunningham is currently the "personal trainer" for a 3-year-old soccer player.
"It's not about trying to find the next great player," he insisted.
But, these days, too much of youth sports really is.
"The parents don't see them as children," said Engh, whose organization deals with such issues every day. "They see them as the next Tiger Woods."
And we all know how well he turned out.