Stronger, faster and more skilled than their peers, these talented young athletes are their coach’s pride and their school’s star athlete.
Their parents and coaches wonder if it’s best for that child to play at a higher age level to unlock their full potential. They may feel the pressure to encourage their kids to play up, thinking that if they don’t, they are holding them back. Or to fulfill their own ambitions, they may push the young athlete for their own vanity. Sometimes it is the young athlete themselves who want to explore the challenge of playing at the next level of competition.
Regardless of who is pushing the young athlete to play at a higher age level and whatever the guidelines are with the league the child belongs to are, take into consideration these factors before insisting your talented young athlete play up:
Are they emotionally ready?
Kids develop at different rates; some mature much faster than others. So while your teenaged athlete may already look like a full-grown adult or your middle-schooler looks ready to drive, realize that the level of their maturity is only external. Mentally and emotionally, they may not be ready for the pressures of an older, more mature league.
Remember that a lot of mental strength is essential to compete at higher levels. The kids in the senior division may be just as big, just as strong and equally skilled but hold the advantage because they are more emotionally mature.
How much playing time will my child get?
Your young athlete may only be excelling in their age group because they are bigger, stronger, and faster than their peers. If you play them up to a higher level, you may realize that when playing with other kids who have the same level of physical maturity, that your child may not be that talented after all.
Consider the possibility that your child may not be awarded as much playing timeas they did in their old league. In this new league, they are no longer the star player. Coaches are more likely to concentrate on their league’s seasoned players who have earned their place as starters.
What skills will my child learn?
The most skilled player is usually placed in a leadership role by their coach. In your child’s current league, your young athlete has probably been awarded the title ofcaptain or team leader because of their outstanding athletic performance. They are role models for their peers. These positions will teach your child responsibility, discipline and teamwork.
If you want to move your child to a higher playing level because you think their skills will be sharpened, expect that they will most likely go from role model torole player in their new league. Their new team will already have a captain or a starting set composed of their more experienced players.
Because your young athlete will no longer have that competitive edge over their new, older peers, they will most likely not get as much playing time nor will they learn any new skills. And they will probably not be taking on leadership roles just yet.