Have a friend with a young kid? If so, you've probably already been made aware that his or her child is a cut above the rest.
Every little girl and boy is "special" in their parents' eyes, as they should be. What kind of parent doesn't gaze into their child's eyes and allow themselves to daydream of gridiron glory and Wimbledon Cups? What kind of new mom or dad doesn't indulge briefly in the idea of her or his child floating in zero gravity, relaying feedback to Earth from the surface of Mars?
The kind that's an unfeeling monster; that's who.
And while a great many of these pipe dreams are forgotten as these children grow up and ready themselves to work at Groupon, some of them do follow the blueprint. Today, we're going to take a look at a handful of sports stars whose promise wasn't just seen by their parents, but was recognized by all at an early age.
These are videos of sports stars as kids, and they are awesome.
Here's video of a shy, 14-year-old Wayne Gretzky wearing a white suit that's way too loud for his personality.
For those of you who haven't heard, the Great One was a dynamo from an absurdly young age, and by the time he reached puberty, Canadian youth clubs were going to ridiculous lengths to pull him into their orbit.
Seeing how easily Gretzky undresses defensemen and the goalie in this clip, you can't really fault the clubs for their desperation. I would've done shady, awful things to get this kid on my team had I been alive/a youth hockey coach at the time.
Granted, being extremely shady was likely all but a requirement for youth hockey coaches in the '70s.
Barely in the double digits, completely dominant in the game.
Now I understand why Lionel Messi hasn't changed his haircut in 16 years. It's been working out pretty well for him.
Tennis is life for the Williams sisters.
From the youngest age, the two sisters from Compton, Calif. wanted to be tennis stars (with backup plans in archaeology and animal care).
This video from a Trans World Sport documentary shows the Williams sisters (ages 11 and 12) honing their skills at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Florida. Their father, Richard, explains that he introduced his daughters to the sport after watching a tennis player receive $40,000 for winning a single tournament.
Smart move, Pops.
It's not exactly nursery footage, but tape of Kobe Bryant butchering the opposition at Philadelphia's Lower Merion High School feels like ancient war film.
Bryant averaged 31.1 points and 10.4 rebounds in his junior year at Lower Merion and was selected by USA Today as the National High School Player of the Year as a senior.
He was—and continues to be—all that is man.
"You never knew what he would do...He never repeated the same trick twice."
Even at nine years of age, Ronaldinho was unguardable. The youngster constantly amazed his youth soccer coaches by embarrassing his opponents' parents, all of whom once thought their children were the best.
Behold, video of Rafael Nadal (forefront) playing France's Richard Gasquet in "Les Petits As" in Tarbes, France.
You may notice several things about 13-year-old Nadal that differ greatly from Gasquet when he was the same age. He doesn't grab at himself, and he doesn't spend minutes fretting between points.
It's basically a different human being. Then again, we all pretty much feel like a different person than our 13-year-old selves.
Short and frank, this video of a young Diego Maradona stands as a metaphor for the man he was to become.
The footage shows the legendary Argentinian explaining his dreams to play in the World Cup and win it—dreams he accomplished, albeit with a little help from God and some referees with cataracts.
Truly, the "Hand of God" goal makes much more sense when you consider the dreams of one of the most competitive men in sports history rode on winning that game.
This is a two-year-old Tiger Woods teeing off on The Michael Douglas Show.
Woods was on the show to demonstrate his possession of a perfect golf swing—a neat trick considering most his age are still learning the ins and outs of potty training.
Andre Agassi literally can't remember life without tennis—that's how young he was when he picked up the game.
By the age of six, he was swinging a racket half the size of his body and returning balls in front of crowds in Las Vegas, his childhood home.
It's good to know that as an adult, I've never hit a tennis ball better than a six-year-old Agassi. It truly builds me up.
You're not allowed to grab his collar, guys!
You'll be hard-pressed to find footage more precious than this home video of Peyton Manning playing backyard football. He cries, he celebrates and he cries some more.
Even through the tears, Manning illustrates a knowledge of the game. He points out that you're not allowed to horse-collar other players years before the tackling maneuver was outlawed—an astute assessment for someone with so much sand in his eyes.