Why Mixed Age Play Can Be Beneficial For All

coaches parents players Jun 26, 2023

“Come on Space, pass the bloody ball!”

That was my introduction to playing soccer with adults when I was just 12 years old. ‘Space’ was my nickname and I guess I must have dribbled too much for their liking. Back then it wasn’t unusual to play against older players but now it seems to be something which happens less often.

We need to change that.

Mixed age soccer allows younger players to learn from the more experienced players, while also providing the experienced players with the opportunity to mentor and share their knowledge with the younger ones. Having an older player ‘model’ a certain pass or move is hugely beneficial for a younger player to watch and learn from. Young players in this situation learn organically, in a self-correcting way. Basically, they learn without thinking.

So that means everyone should just play with older players?

No. Don’t confuse this with advocating for all players suddenly playing with and against much older players; that’s not it. There’s no point playing with or against older players if they are not even comfortable and confident enough to handle playing with kids of their own age.

Don’t try to make them run before they can walk.

That said, if players are comfortable with the ball (thanks to early engagement, which will be the topic for another post), they should try and find ways to play with and against older players. This might be in informal/pickup games with friends or even in more organized training with teams (providing coaches allow it). It can be daunting at first but over time, providing players are respectful and take direction from the older players, they’ll soon fit in.

Playing mixed age soccer can also help to foster a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. By playing with players of different ages, players can learn to work together and build relationships that can last a lifetime. This can be especially beneficial for younger players, who can learn valuable lessons about teamwork and co-operation.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin.

Older players can expand and speed their own learning through teaching, while also developing leadership skills and their capacity to protect and nurture younger players. It’s not all about benefits for just the younger players; it can be a win-win for everyone.

“Good lad Space, keep dib-dabbing it around mate.” (‘dib dab’ was a quick pass btw!)

I improved and adjusted as time went on and the experience helped me to improve immensely, I have no doubt about that. In this article I talk further about my development and how it relates to playing mixed-age, indoor soccer.

I hope more kids today can get to enjoy the same experience as I did, as the benefits are many.

Go and play!


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