It seems that more frequently I hear from parents convinced their kids are falling behind in soccer by not starting private training by age 7. They started playing rec soccer with their local league or YMCA by age 4 & now, at age 5-7 they must prepare for ‘select/club’ soccer. No, it’s okay! Kids don’t have to play club soccer that young! My youngest is now 9 and is still playing rec, although I’ve been the coach for 2 years. The girls are developing nice and now are wanting to practice twice a week and do camps. The ultimate goal is that they want to keep playing.
Get on the RIGHT path
Again, regardless of age, soccer should be FUN…
Trying your hardest and wanting to improve should be first, although having fun does have to be a top 3 priority!
In life we won’t always have fun, but we can always try our best. Setting these habits in youth sports transfer to everything we do.
3 examples of different paths to take in a players journey…
- Play rec until age 10-11, BUT also be practicing solo at home and at age 9 on doing a separate skills group &/or playing in Summer and Winter leagues.
- Join a club team at age 7-8 which will give you more weekly training hours, games and higher overall competition. Although, you’ll spend a lot more time and money. I’d only do this if the player completely dominates the rec league – meaning they can score 3 goals every game.
- Younger players say ages 5-6 can do skills based programs once a week before signing up for a league… It’s important to get players comfortable with the ball before being put in a match situation. Then each year after just decide what’s best for your family in terms of league/team commitment. You can go back and forth from rec to club each year – from ages 7-10. Don’t think you have to marry 1 idea.
It’s important to be patient with player development… Some kids dominate at age 7, while others are average up to age 11.
The key is to continue to practice either at home 30+ mins per week – year round &/or do private groups or 1:1 type training from a good trainer, not just anyone.
The amount of playing – one or multiple sports
Pushing kids into one-sport specialization at such an early age is detrimental to overall physical development.
Although, playing multiple sports shows to cause just as many or more injuries. Especially when playing 2-3 sports at the same time with a coach making them do too much conditioning or strength training.
You risk burnout, relationship strain & more.
I have personally mentored hundreds of soccer players to the college level & my staff and I have trained over 12k kids in 15 years. Therefore, some people consider me a part-time child psychologist & family counselor:)
Some kids play soccer 3-4 times per week at age 6 all the way through high school and absolutely love it… A lot depends on the individual, parents and coaching.
The Pros of early-age skills training
The pros of early-age skills training (starting weekly skills at a young age like ages 7-9) is that the kids are going to obviously become better than most of their peers at an early age.
This may all change once they turn 12+ because there will be other kids who start showing their peak later and start to catch up or even surpass the players who started young.
It’s important for the ones who started young to know: this might be the easiest time for them because when they are older more of the kids will have also had private technical training.
So mentally if the players can know this before it happens they are maybe more prepared if that time comes.
The Cons of early-age skills training
The cons of not starting early is that kids will fall behind technically from the players who are playing more…
Although, if they are the kid who is just faster than most (i.e., naturally athletic) then they can hang in there and catch up in middle school. (assuming they remain a natural athlete, which is usually the case).
You just don’t want to wait till you’re 13+ years old because it takes a few years for all the basics to be firm and it takes several years to be great at the simple things.
When is it too late?
Age 13 is around the time many players are trying out for high school soccer and it’s just going to be tough if you never got that training outside of your team training.
I’m not saying you have to do Private Individual Lessons month after month for 2 + years…
Will privates help?
Yes, it can help tremendously as long as that athlete and trainer are working hard to improve every week.
Early age skills training mentality
Once kids have been training for a few years in a private or semi-private setting they stop learning as much...
This is why a high-level trainer is essential in teaching mindset.
When the time comes where the athlete can do most of the skill drills sharp, then it’s time to be mentally strong…
Players must understand that sometimes certain drills aren’t as exciting as others… It’s not about learning more fancy moves, but instead the importance of repetition.
Continued development is about trying to do simple things perfectly every day, not just going through the motions…
Nobody is perfect in soccer, even on their best day… Although, there are drills and moments we can be… It’s the mindset.
Listen, I can’t say it enough but it’s all about the players having fun – while learning skill and sportsmanship!
Who cares about what league it is as long as the players are having fun, learning, in a good environment and being challenged how they want; that’s what it’s all about.
In the end we all stop playing as much as we would like. You want to look back and say the experience was good.
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