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Getting in the game early

Getting in the game early

Zach Olsen of Pitman High varsity baseball credits Tiny Tots Baseball and Little League for helping him develop his athletic skills.

POSTED April 26, 2011 10:11 p.m.

Soon after Zach Olsen could walk, he began competing in sports. This sounds like a story that implies he was destined to become one of the Pitman High baseball team’s best players, which is actually the case this season. His story is very familiar, though.

These days, many parents, including the ones in the Turlock area, are placing their toddlers into sports programs to teach them the fundamentals of their respective sports, of course, with parents and coaches close by. Though the aspiring athletes are still learning how to talk, they’re just at the right age — usually no more than 5 years old — to start hitting a baseball off a tee or kicking around a soccer ball that’s almost as big as them.

“I would say it has helped because it’s given me experience that can help me as I go further in my career,” said Olsen, who began baseball at age 2, “but most of all, starting young has created lots of muscle memory, to where it’s just about reacting instead of thinking so much.”

Just last week, he finished with four hits and three RBIs in the Pride’s comeback win over Buhach Colony High in a crucial league game. Parents who plug their children into sports programs for toddlers don’t necessary think that far ahead, to wonder what type of player their son or daughter will become at the high school level and beyond, but they do know that starting early is always a plus.

That’s why the City of Turlock Municipal Services offers three programs that are geared toward toddlers. Tiny Tots Baseball and Tiny Tots Indoor Soccer are for kids as young as 3, while Kidz Love Soccer offers clinics to children as young as 2 1/2 years of age. The programs are set up to help parents get a better understanding of where their children stand when it comes to athletic development.

“A lot of the parents like the programs because they don’t know where to start with their kids,” said Mark Crivelli, the city’s recreation supervisor. “They’re trying to learn how to teach them to catch and throw. A lot of parents are using that for a starting place.

“For other parents, it’s that first step to get into league.”

Yes, it leads to other sports, like Little League and Pee Wee. The parents who have sent their kids through these youth programs say the process teaches them the importance of being healthy at an early age, though some don’t start competing until about preschool age.

“Our kids always had a variety of sports related equipment in our house and yard,” said Maureen Kramer, who’s the mother of UCLA-bound athlete and Turlock High senior baseball player Kevin Kramer. “It started with throwing balls to catching them to batting in the backyard, taking them to games and then having a variety of baseball games with friends and family. The importance was being physically fit, exercising, being healthy, learning socialization, teamwork, patience, different abilities of players and how to inspire, lead and have toleration.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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