You Let Your Kid Do What? Children Drive Monster Trucks, Ride Bulls

Small children show no fear in the face of extreme sports.

ByABC News
May 1, 2012, 1:52 PM

May 2, 2012 — -- quicklist: 1title: Monster Truck Drivingtext: Monster trucks are motorsports' professional wrestlers: Big, loud and over the top, these 10,000 pound behemoths seem like anything but child's play. Except for one Fort Lauderdale, Fla., family, that's exactly what they are to most people. When Kaid Jarret Olson-Weston was 3 years old, his parents Nancy and Tod took him to his very first monster truck show, and from that moment on, KJ was hooked.

"He went home saying he wanted to be a monster truck driver," Nancy Olson-Weston told "20/20."

Most families would leave that statement as the whim of a toddler, but KJ was different. By 3 he had already spent his fair share of time riding Powerwheels and ATVs, and his parents saw nothing wrong with taking it a step further.

"I mean that's what ... his vision was. He wanted to be a monster truck driver," Tod Weston said.

Watch the full story on "20/20: Xtreme Parents" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

And KJ's parents were seriously committed to fostering their son's vision. They dropped more than $50,000 to have a custom made Monster Truck built. At 11 feet long and 3,000 pounds, it's roughly half the size of an adult Monster Truck. It fits KJ's frame, but it packs a serious punch, enough so that three years after his parents had it built, KJ joined with the Monster X Tour as the youngest professional driver ever.

The Olson-Westons were criticized for allowing their now 8-year-old son to operate a Monster Truck professionally, but KJ's parents stuck strongly to the belief that with all the safety measures inside the truck, it was safer than other extreme sports, or even some traditional sports.

"We're no different as a Monster Truck team than soccer. But safer, I think," Tod Olson-Weston said.

The family now tours the country as Team Kid KJ. KJ's younger brother, Jake, 7, also drives his own truck, and they are recruiting and picking up new families and kids to join the team as they go along. (Learn more about Team Kid KJ on their website and Facebook.) One day, they hope Monster Truck driving will be considered a mainstream youth sport.

"KJ is the pioneer of this brand new sport. So we would like to have a monster truck camp where you learn how to drive a Mmonster Truck, and the winner of that, you know, the best driver at camp has the opportunity to be in a Monster Truck show," Tod said.

Click through for more on kids and extreme sports.

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quicklist: 2title: Bull Ridingtext: Lane Huszar is like most American boys. He plays football. He plays baseball. But he also participates in bull-riding competitons. In many rodeo-loving towns across America, the gridiron and baseball diamond take a backseat on weekend nights when kids don helmets and chest protectors and hop on beasts weighing more than half a ton.

"Boys get concussions when they're playing football. You can get hurt playing baseball," reasoned Lane's mom, Angel Huszar. "But I would hate to have a regret to think that I did not let Lane do something that he was passionate about because I had a fear of it."

Lane's parents trained him early. After all, from Montana to Texas to Louisiana, rodeo is a part of the local culture.

"When he was little, he wanted to ride a sheep. And so that's how it started," said Angel Huszar.

Lane went from riding sheep at age 3 to calves at age 7 to bulls at age 10.

"Some dads and kids go on daddy dates. We go on rodeos," Lane told "20/20."

Besides, as his father, Joe Huszar, explained, "We don't understand skateboarding."

Bull-riding competitions, even for minors, is a serious -- and dangerous -- business. Lane practices for hours each week in his backyard on the back of a mechanical bull operated by his father.

"Bull-riding is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical," Joe Huszar explained. "You have to be in a good mental state to climb over the back of that chute and get on a bull and tell them to let him out into the arena."

Every Sunday Lane and other boys his age hone their bull-riding skills at the local church -- yes, church -- where bulls are kept and the local rodeo is held.

"I absolutely get nervous. I would be silly not to get nervous," Angel Huszar admitted. "I say that all of us have our place here at the rodeo and mine is to pray." Each time Lane enters the ring, his mother tells herself, "Lord, protect my baby."

She has good reason to be worried. Last year 16-year-old Brooke Coats was kicked in the chest after she was thrown from her bull. Her protective vest was no match. She died. And three years ago Wayde Hamar was also killed after being stomped. He was 12.

The night "20/20" watched Lane in action he was thrown from his bull after five seconds. He walked away unscathed, mom's prayers answered.

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quicklist: 3title: Motocross Racingtext: Kids and motorcycles may sound like a dangerous combination, but that hasn't stopped elementary school age children and younger from strapping on helmets and revving their engines.

The American Motorcycle Association estimates that at least 10,000 children younger than 18 compete in youth motocross racing competitions every year. Among the top-ranking youth competitors is Texas 8-year-old Jay Cramer, who started riding a dirt bike at age 2½ and graduated to a "junior" motorcycle by age 4. A YouTube video of Jay racing, doing jumps and sometimes falling down has racked up more than 600,000 page views.

In the summers, Jay travels across the country for races, making friends along the way and just "absolutely having a blast," said his father, Jason Cramer, of Port Neches, Texas.

"He can go out there and get 19th in a big race and come back as happy as could be because he knew he did the best that he could," Cramer said.

But it hasn't been all fun and games. Jay recently broke his arm during racing practice when his bike sputtered just before a jump. Cramer said it was his son's only serious accident in his six years of racing, and that Jay is eager to get back to racing once his physician gives the OK.

"We talked about it. It's what he loves. We take every precaution we can to keep him safe," Cramer said, noting that his son wears a protective neck brace, a Kevlar vest and other equipment when he rides. "He could have broken his arm playing football too. It's just a risk that you take when you're involved in what could be a contact sport."

Injuries such as Jay's are rare, according to the American Motorcycle Association. AMA-sanctioned races, the association said, follow a number of safety guidelines.

The youth division of the sport dates back to the 1960s.

"People flock to AMA-sanctioned motocross competitions because they are family friendly, well-organized outdoor events that teach fitness, discipline and teamwork," said spokesman Pete terHorst.

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quicklist: 4title: Mixed Martial Artstext: Sen. John McCain famously decried mixed martial arts as "human cockfighting" and some states have banned it. But parents like Shannon Carroll defend the sport and say it's great for their children.

Carroll, of Houston, said her two sons, ages 12 and 14, have been practicing mixed martial arts -- a combination of several forms of fighting techniques -- for the past two years. The activity, she said, is a good outlet for their aggression and has also boosted their self-confidence.

Thanks to his mixed martial arts training, her younger son, Carroll, said he was able to fend off a bully. When a larger boy, she said, squeezed her preteen's throat, her son was able to react quickly by slapping him in the face. The stunned bully quickly released her son, she said.

Mixed martial arts instructors "teach you how to defend yourself without inflicting pain if you can help it," Carroll said.

Her son, she said, "knows he can take care of himself if he needs to."

Carroll is a blogger with the Disney-owned parenting website Babble -- Disney is also the parent company of ABC News -- and runs the blog Whiskey in My Sippy Cup. Read more about her son's run-in with a bully here.

Watch more on kids tackling extreme sports on "20/20: Xtreme Parents" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.

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