Should My Child Play Up? Considerations for the Parents of the Best Player

Should the child be moved to the next level? What is best for the child?

When your child is the best player on the team, it can be difficult to know which path is best to go down. Before a child is moved from their current age group to play at a higher level, it is imperative to take into consideration the safety, enjoyment, and physical and mental development of the child. In addition to these parental considerations, it can be extremely beneficial for the child to be included in the decision about their journey.

NAofA Director of Physical Education, Michael Herbert said, “I have always been a proponent of letting kids stay in their own age group so they can enjoy the experience of playing with their friends.  Most kids would rather stay with their peer group where there is better synergy with behavior, maturity level, and closeness with one another. Just because a child is a standout physical performer doesn’t mean they are any further along in confidence, self-esteem, or interpersonal skills.”

youth outdoor basketball

On the other hand, NAofA CEO, Aaron Locks suggested, “There are situations where a player is not being challenged within their age group and not having fun playing at that level. In this situation, it can be the right decision to move the player to the next level. The physical safety of the child must be carefully assessed by ensuring the child is physically mature enough to play at the next level without undue risk of injury. Consideration must also be given to the mental maturity level of the child and whether they are psychologically equipped to compete at the next level and what effect it may have on their development and well-being.”

Since moving a child to a more advanced team when they are not ready can damage their confidence, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of keeping the player at the same level or moving them up. For added guidance and support, it can be helpful to consult the child’s coaches. The coaches can be valuable experts in decisions such as this since they can offer a different perspective and valuable insight.

Baseball batter with coach

Aaron Locks said, “We see a great deal of movement between levels in academics depending on the “developmental age” of the child.  The same can be true in youth sports so kids can be at their maximum level for growth. There are a few more variables in sports, so as parents and coaches, it is our job to work together to find the right fit.”

It can be tough to come to a decision on this topic. To better help those in this situation come to a conclusion, Aaron said, “One suggestion is to watch some games and practices at the next level together with the child and discuss whether they would feel comfortable joining in.  A good starting point can be joining the practices of the higher level in addition to their own, but still, play with their current team.” By watching or joining the practices of the more advanced team, players are able to do a trial run with their teammates and the level of sport they would be playing, without making a finalized decision.

Overall, deciding if your child should play up in sports is a decision that is best made by involving both you, as the parent, and your child. Remember to take into consideration the physical, emotional, and developmental needs of your player. With the help of trusted experts such as your child’s coaches, you can make a decision that will benefit your child in both the short and long run.