Playing Up: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Competing in Older Age Groups

The decision whether or not to move up an age level is one that many youth soccer players in America face. It can be tough. You want your child to do well, and while they may be happy to dominate players in their normal age group, that may not be the best for their long-term development as a player.

But moving your child up to a higher age group is not always the right decision either. Is it better for your kid to be a star in their age group or a role player on a more competitive team? Should you be pushing your child to compete at the highest possible level, or find a team that will give them the most playing time?

In this blog, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of playing your child up an age group. We’ll also explain some of the factors you should weigh in your decision, so you can make the smartest decision for your child and his or her future as a soccer player.

The Advantages of Playing “Up”

Playing on an older team has a few distinct advantages. Generally speaking, the older teams get, the faster and more skilled the level of play becomes. For youth players looking to develop and advance to higher levels, playing up can challenge them to improve. Whereas they might get comfortable and complacent against younger teams, playing on an older team will bring a variety of new challenges to push them to get better.

It’s the same thought process for deciding whether or not to switch teams when your kid is dominating in a lower division. The biggest difference is that moving up a division will lead to more skilled competition, but moving up an age group will bring more skilled players and also larger and faster competition as well.

Factors to Weigh

There are a number of factors to weigh when considering moving your child up an age group:

  • Your child’s relative size should play a role in your decision. Although smaller players can learn to hold their own against bigger competition, moving them up to a stronger, faster, more-skilled team can be challenging and potentially discouraging for smaller players. On a similar note, if your child is already larger than the rest of the kids their age, he or she may not be challenged enough, and a move up may be wise.
  • His or her commitment to the game and what they want to do as they get older play a factor as well. If he or she is only playing for fun and has no real aspirations to play after high school, moving your child up an age group may not be necessary. If your kid does want to compete later in life and improve as a player, playing up can accelerate the progress.
  • His or her happiness should be at the forefront of your mind during this decision process as well. That doesn’t mean staying on the team with all of his or her friends is the right move, but moving your child to an unfamiliar team against his or her wishes can be a quick way to lose passion for the game.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the factors to consider, but it serves as a good basis to begin making your decision.

Doing What is Best for Your Child

When it comes to playing up an age during youth soccer, legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alexander Matthew Busby once said, “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.” While this may sound like he’s telling parents it is best to move their children up to higher age groups, if your child is not prepared both physically and mentally for the stronger competition, it may be wise to stay in their age bracket another year.

At Total Soccer, we run soccer training programs near Yardley, PA and throughout the Philadelphia region for youth players of all ages. Our trainers can help you weigh the pros and cons of playing up an age and can even help them prepare for an upcoming tryout at one of our Tryout Readiness soccer clinics near Montgomery County. Contact us today to learn more.