When I was a little kid each summer all I wanted to do was play soccer. And every summer my parents sent me several hours away for a couple weeks to camp sites where I could have new experiences in life. We did a number of camping activities including swimming, kayaking, hiking, and probably all the other camping activities you can think of. But one day there was a big soccer tournament for all the boys. Not only were we playing a soccer tournament but it was being played on the beach. I was only ten at the time and was playing against boys my own age and several years older.

I wouldn’t have thought of it at the time but playing against older players, even though some were not good soccer players, proved to be a great experience. Although it’s great to play soccer with your age group and friends, don’t get caught up in the idea that they are the only ones you can play with. After I played soccer with the older boys at this camp I quickly realized I could enjoy the game with a new group of players, who were older, better and I could help speed-up my own development.

From that summer onward I made it a goal of mine to train with older players and attend soccer camps with older age groups to help speed my development in the game of soccer.  Playing with older players is most beneficial at a young age.  There are many reasons to play with older players and below are some of the main ones.

1) Players are more physically developed: Most fourteen year olds are much more physically developed than a ten or twelve year old. Playing with them will help you learn how to deal with the   

2) Players are more mature: one my university professors once told me that maturity does not come with age but it is rather a decision we chose to make in life. I agree with this but for young kids who are simply enjoying themselves and who do not think about serious things in life their immaturity tends to be high. This is typical of young boys. There are different maturity levels for young kids. When you playing soccer with older kids you will notice the different level in maturity. Observing this and learning from how they react and act to situations can be a good learning experience for yourself.

3)      Players are faster: older and more physically developed players will have the advantage over you because they will be stronger and faster amongst a number of other things. You’ll learn to move the ball much quicker so that you do not get physically pushed off the ball. You’ll have to be smarter in your movements and sharper with you passes. Learning to do these things at an early age can only help you.

4) The speed of the game is faster: not only will the individual players be much faster but the pace of the game itself will be faster. The ball will be moving much quicker. Get accustomed to this because great soccer teams move the ball very fast with only one or two touches on the ball. Playing on a team like this can be amazing and watching how quickly the pros move the ball and the pin-point passing accuracy is what the game is all about.

5)      The skill level will be higher: when you are a beginner in anything your skill level often rapidly increases in the early stages. Once you become a more talent player you are mainly fine tuning different parts to your game. With that being said learning to play against players who have a higher skill will be a great experience. See how you compare to them. Can you compete, where do you fall short? Find out what they do best? Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and be able to play with to their skill level.

6)      Intimidation: don’t let older players intimidate or scare you. At the early stage of your soccer playing days you need to build up as much confidence as possible. No matter what happens in the sessions with older players you are simply using them to help better yourself. Look at it as a great opportunity to fast track all parts of your game. When you return to playing kids of your age group it will seem easy. When you become an older teenage and play with grown men (depending on the league you play in) you will already have the experience of learning how to handle yourself with an older age group.

Finally, I wouldn’t recommend signing for an older age group if you are not going to be getting regular playing time. At a young age you need a lot of game time to develop the different aspects of your game. You can only learn so much by watching from the bench. If you have an older brother or sister and can arrange to train with them for extra practice that is a good start. Also, look for summer camps where you can sign-up and play with older age groups. Another option is to sign with a club for your age group but play in call-up games when the older team needs you. This way you are sure to get playing time and a great learning experience.

Development in the game of soccer takes time and as a young player the early years are crucial to putting in place the foundation of your abilities in the game of soccer. You can’t expect better results if you don’t challenge yourself. Take a chance, train with an older team and see what you can take away from it.

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