Should you move your child up to play with older athletes?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/2/2014

Moving athletes up to play or train with older athletes may or may not be a good idea for your child. When it comes to this decision, there are some things to think about as you make the decision.

What is the team like?

Do you know kids on the team? Will they have trouble accepting a younger player who may come in and take someone’s spot? How will the coach handle this situation? Will your child miss having teammates and friends his own age?

What are the playing time expectations for you and the coach?

Sometimes, kids get moved up because they are needed and end up not getting much playing time. And, yes, sometimes they really are needed and do get lots of playing time. I've seen both scenarios.

Have a sit-down with the coach and find out exactly what his intentions are.  Once your athlete knows, he can make an informed decision.

Find out if your child must choose between playing time and an opportunity to be challenged in practice and perhaps in the games.

How fast is your child maturing?

Dr. Patrick Cohn, from Peaksports explains that “Some kids will naturally mature faster and might benefit from playing up and competing with older kids. They may be bored if you hold them back as they don’t feel challenged.”

On the other hand, he adds, “But staying at a lower level also means building confidence through greater success and being more comfortable with athletes your own age.”

If your child is more mature physically and skillfully, moving up may be appropriate, just to keep him from hurting smaller kids. But does he need confidence building – by staying with his own age players – more than a challenge? As a parent, it is your call.

Consider the 3:1 principal

Gary Simmons from Gymbag Wisdom recommends the 3:1 ratio.


“If you think your young athlete needs better competition, then have him/her play with older kids once after three times playing at their age,” Simmons said. “The idea is to give them a taste of what’s needed at the next level and then three straight sessions at their age developing what they learned that’s needed for the next level. As athletes pass through puberty, the ratio can be decreased if they begin to pick up the advanced skills quickly.”


Ultimately, the choice should be your athlete’s, because he has to live with his decision. But you can discuss pros and cons and help him to be thoroughly informed as he decides.


Janis Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.