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Should I allow my kid to practice with older players or an older team?

Should I allow my kid to practice with older players or an older team?

Always individual choice of course but for me, yes, definitely.

It is well known that many pros played up at least a year (some with teams 2+ years older) when growing up and this no doubt helped to speed their development; playing against bigger, stronger, better players.

It is difficult at first for any player working with an older age group but over time you adapt to their speed of movement and level of passing which leads to faster development. Of course, you need to be able to hold your own in the sense of being able to pass/move without being sticking out like a sore thumb in the first place. You can’t throw a 12 year old in with Academy level Under 21’s, obviously!

This is how I learned the game growing up – playing 5 aside indoor soccer mainly (and some 11-a-side) as a young teenager with/against adults (this continued for 10+ years). They were mainly semi-pros with some ex pros also (ranging from guys in their 20’s to others in their 50’s) and I have absolutely no doubt that this was the sole reason I developed quick feet, a good touch and an understanding of the importance of movement and creating space. Physically, I obviously couldn’t compete but this meant I had to adapt the technical side of my game very quickly to at least operate on what you would class as a relatively competitive level against the adults. Touch, move, touch, move…very limited physical contact which suited me.

I would love to see a situation (call it a trial if you will) where two young players who are at very similar ability levels for their age are split up – one practices with players their own age and the other works with a much older age group (at least 2-3 years older) over a period of time (probably won’t happen for many reasons, not least the fact we can’t ‘experiment’ on kids!) and their development is then assessed further down the line.

If there are any studies out there that show reasons why young players should not play with older kids too far out of their comfort zone, I’d love to see them. For me personally, this process worked and based on the fact we are all so different, I am inclined to trust personal experience over any scientific study but as always, I am open to new information and learning.

 

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