For years I have used the term sports maturity. There’s a lot to it. It affects kids as young as 5-6 years old all the way up to adults. As for kids, some are very mature in public, but not in sports or vice versa. There have been players who have come to me at age 10 who all of a sudden want to improve their skills. Then you have adolescents who struggle to control their emotions in good and bad situations. Sports maturity can come naturally and it can be taught. Personalities, attitude and willing to learn all have a piece in a players maturity in sports.
Sports maturity by gender
I really don’t see a difference in gender when it comes to the sports maturity I’m talking about. Yes, I do see that girls are better listeners at younger ages 6-9. There are some boys who appear to be immature in school, but do well in sports. When it comes to sports maturity they understand that practicing is serious. That’s an example of good sports maturity. Again different from social maturity, where kids just act wild when they should be behaving.
I think for the most part, from ages 10-12 years old boys and girls are equally mature in sports. At the same time, I think about how teenage girls probably care more about what their peers think of them. This might affect them more when it comes to playing performance. This is why having parents and coaches supporting these kids is so important. I would love to hear from you on this, so shoot me an email if you have an opinion on it.
Sports maturity in elementary and middle school kids
From ages 5-9 you will see a big difference in kids sports maturity. Some get it right away and some don’t. I think the way our brains are wired makes us all very different. Some kids absolutely love sports more than any other activities and so they get it right away. Then there are some who also love sports, but maybe their brain is thinking so many different things. During a game or practice it looks like some kids are not interested. Don’t write them off too early. You have to be patient with these personalities and encourage them.
Some kids ages 10-11 can hang with high school kids or are even better in terms of technical skills. Emotionally at this age they can finally admit that something is difficult and that they need to practice it. From ages 5-9 it’s like they have that ‘superman syndrome. Everything is “easy”, even though deep down they know they can’t do it.
Ages 12-13 are in that stage of they know more than their parents. I try to tell them that most 13 year olds think they know so much, and they do. They are very smart, but not as smart as they think because really they have zero experience in life. They badly need an adult to speak positive encouragement over them. At the same time to be told when to work harder. Coaches who address this to kids the right way get a good response. If communicated with respect, kids like to be told they need to do better.
Teenage sports maturity problems
As a teenager I was a punk at times. I think that is one reason I now have such high desire to help them now. To speak positive and knowledge into these youths. I remember getting substituted off the field during a tournament for poor play or attitude. So frustrated I walking away from the pitch. I just wanted to tell him through my actions how I felt. Which was that if you mess with me, I will mess with you. Bad attitude! I think it takes time and it takes someone who’s been there to tell you that you are wrong and why.
Not long ago a friend of mine from elementary and high school called me. He has 2 sons that play soccer and have worked with me. His sons are awesome all around boys. He was telling me about how so many teens will give up on the field after a mistake. It’s embarrassing and frustrating for players when they mess up. They just don’t know how bad it looks when we sulk after mistakes.
Ages 14-17 is where hopefully they have been taught how to have good character. It’s important that they are surrounded by some positive hard working adults and peers, so that they keep up the hard work in this vital stage of their sports career. Many teens don’t think they are good enough when they are, or they think they are better than they really are. Asking kids to give their opinion is important, and helps them feel like adults can trust them and treat them like the young adults they are.
Body language in sports is powerful
In high school I would sulk on the field because I was frustrated with myself. Once that happened, I wanted everyone to know that I was upset with myself. This resulted in sulking. We have to teach these youths that this is normal to mess up. How it looks so bad to give up. Kids need to know how great it looks to recover from a mistake with hard work.
Watching pro soccer/football or any sport on TV is one of the best ways to learn how to act. How to react in good or bad situations. One thing that I love to teach is how to have a strong personal brand in sports. This is really a great way for youths and adults to protect their own name.
How my daughter broke out of her shell
My oldest daughter has played different sports from ages 5-10. I would say around age 10 is when she gained sports maturity. To understand you have to put in work at home in the sport you love. I think for her she is better off doing sports that are individual, not team because she is a ‘thinker’. For this type of personality soccer or basketball are tough because you have to stay focused every second of the whole game. It’s not that she’s not a good teammate or doesn’t work hard, it’s just the type of and the amount of constant focus in having to react right away. She is very mature in social events or in conducting herself in public. She is very smart at school and communicates with kids and adults very well.
From age 5-7 she was very timid in basketball and soccer, but did great in swimming. At age 8 she became more physical and focused in basketball, but only on defense. I think parents have to be patient with kids all the way through age 10 with this. It’s like a light bulb just goes off and they learn how to use those competitive feelings and everything they have learned in practice to their advantage. The sad thing is there have been kids who quit too early because they or their parents didn’t think they had it [a certain sport] in them. Though I can tell you that some kids never get it, because not everyone has it in their DNA.
Opportunity & strong minds build champions
Put courage in them especially at ages 6-7 and let them believe they are capable of anything. But by age 8-9 start to be real with them and let them know that they still can do it, but that everyone develops differently. Some don’t get it till 8th grade, age 13-14 like Herschel Walker. What a documentary you should watch. I just watched it 2 days ago and was blown away with his story.
College and pro players when younger
There are so many stories of college or pro players who didn’t play a certain sport as a youngster. I can tell you that some of the players who went to top colleges in soccer didn’t even play club soccer at ages 6, 7, 8 or 9 years old. So don’t stress out thinking your child is falling behind their peers. Yes, they probably are falling behind at the moment, but don’t think you have to do academy soccer or certain club sports at young ages of 6-9.
If your child is dominating the rec level and wanting more challenge and you have time for select then cool. If the kid really loves it and is serious to improve then they will catch up at the right time. The key is the journey not the end result. Some would say different, but what if the end result is not what you dreamed? So instead work hard for what you want, but make sure the journey is good for you.
Building skills is best way to feel good in soccer
The best thing you can do for a player who will actually go out and do their soccer skills homework, is give them my online ball control courses. The best way to feel good for most players is to control the ball better. Most youth soccer players will never know what it’s like to have skills. One reason is because it’s not the team coaches job to teach all of it.
Coaches only has 1.5 – 3 hours of practice each week. Most of that time is spent learning positions, tactics, team passing skills. This is totally different from 1:1 or small group soccer training. There is a big advantage to those who have the sports maturity to understand that little by little they can improve. The have the sports maturity to train on your own. To know it’s normal to not want to train sometimes, but to still put in the work.
Pro players sports maturity is not always high
Pro players have high, let me rephrase this. Most pro players have high sports maturity, which is one reason they got to the high level. Remember that even some of the best and most professional athletes have made big mistakes maturity wise.
Let me give the example of my favorite player growing up. Zinedine Zidane who is one of the 5 best players ever, was playing in the World Cup Finals [France vs Italy] when he headbutted a player. This action resulted in a red card and his team [France] losing the final match. He headbutted a player, who was talking about his mom or sister. I mean C’mon! A top pro playing in his last match for his country and he loses his head. Sports maturity comes in many different forms.