Here’s why soccer is such a great sport for kids:
- It’s straightforward to learn and play, making it great for kids of all abilities, heights, strengths and speeds.
- Learning soccer fosters communication and cooperation – it’s a busy and exciting sport in which teamwork is central to the success of the game.
- Soccer is a contact sport but not a collision sport, which makes it relatively safe compared to a lot of other team sports.
There is no right age to start your child in soccer – every child is different and you’ll be the best one to gauge whether your child is interested.
Here is an overview of what you can expect for them at different ages …
5 – 7 year olds
At this early stage soccer should be all about fun. Find a club that focusses on enjoyment and allows time for kids to enjoy kicking the ball around with teammates.
In games situations, you’ll find that rules will be enforced in a lenient way with a greater emphasis on learning how to kick, getting a feel for the flow of play and working as a team. At this level teams will generally be smaller with usually only four players per side. They probably won’t involve a goalkeeper, and games will be short (with each half going for around 15 minutes).
It’s important to remember how little they are and how tired they get from the exercise itself and also from the concentration that comes with any new experience. Short, fun sessions are best and will help avoid tiredness and boredom as they’re getting to know the game.
8 – 9 year olds
Some experts believe that 8 is the ideal age for kids to start playing soccer in a competitive team environment. The reality is that at 8 – 9 years old there will be a great mix of kids – some who have already been involved for a couple of years, and some who are just beginning. Either way, it’s a great age because kids can generally concentrate well, enjoy making new and meaningful friendships, and start to understand the rewards of applying themselves.
For this age group games are a bit more meaningful too, with the introduction of a goalkeeper and more players on the field (usually 6 per side). The games will become longer with each half being around 20-25 minutes. There will generally be less leniency on the rules, too, which helps young players to refine their skills and prepare for higher levels of the sport. As always though, there should be a strong emphasis on fun and enjoyment.
10 – 12 year olds
While enjoying the game will always be the priority, you’ll find coaches will now start to focus on providing a solid foundation of technical skill. By this age children are ready for a more structured approach to training – they’re able to concentrate, practice with more intention and establish expectations of themselves. Games will involve 9 players per side at 10 years old and then up to 11 per side when they reach 12 years old. By 12 years old they’ll also be playing full 30-minute halves too.
If your child is new to soccer at this age, it’s important to find the right team and coach to help them through the initial learning phase. There’s no reason not to start at this age, it’s just a good idea to chat to the coach so that your child can get the most out of the experience.
How do you know if your child is ready?
Sometimes, like with anything, you have to give it a go to work out whether it’s something your child is going to take to. If you want to give them a chance to get to know soccer, without the pressure of a full season looming, you might want to consider a soccer training camp in Sydney or your local area – they can be a great way to give your child a taste of soccer and help them learn key skills.