The Baltimore Sun

Parenting Inc.

By Pamela Paul

Times Books/Henry Holt / 308 pages / $25

Game On

The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children

By Tom Farrey

ESPN Books / 384 pages / $24.95

In Game On, author Tom Farrey bemoans the prevailing notion that it is never too early to train children as competitors. Youth sports are "less and less accessible to the late bloomer, the genetically ordinary, the economically disadvantaged, the child of a one-parent household, and the kid who needs exercise more than any other -- the clinically obese." The pressure on kids to perform and compete for such scarce resources as college scholarships or a place on a team in any urban public school has killed the fun. "When the president of the AAU looks at kid sports," he writes, referring to the Amateur Athletic Union, "he sees customers, not amateurs."

Farrey -- you gotta love him -- defends the parents: "The stereotype of the abusive parent pushing the reluctant kid usually doesn't apply." Parents, he argues, can't be blamed for wanting to do everything possible to help their young athletes, just as they might want to help their young doctors, lawyers, writers and artists.

Susan Salter Reynolds writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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