Q&A: Should Your Child Play Above Their Age Group?

strong_kid_postDawn asks: “What if your child plays for a Major team but he is only a Minor?  Is it best to play for an age specific team where all players are minor or major?  What are the benefits of playing on either? My biggest concern is ice time for the younger players on a major team.

If a team finds itself on a power play,  the younger players sit.  Rotations are shorter for the younger players.  There is favoritism towards the major players as those players will be moving up with the coach next season while the younger players stay behind.   Wouldn’t it be better to play for an age specific team so all players get the experience of power plays and the ability to stay on the ice during crucial situations?”

Answer: “The reason most parents give for having their kids play up a level with older, more advanced players is so they can be challenged and therefore advance at a faster rate.  The reality is that parents often push their kids ahead because they feel it will give them a better chance to play at the college or professional levels. Like most decisions such as this there are advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage is that the younger player will be challenged to push himself harder and as a result will likely improve his level of play.

The disadvantage of playing up a level is the issue you mention.  He is likely to get less ice time in power plays or other situations at the end of close games. Unless your child is an exceptionally gifted athlete who can move up and get significant experiences in all situations, why not let him play with his own age group so that he can get experience in power play situations as well as situations when the “game is on the line?”  He will most likely enjoy this experience more and have just as good of a chance to reach his full potential in the long run.”

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Dr. Greg Dale for answering this question. Gregory A. Dale, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sport Psychology and Sport Ethics at Duke University. He is also the Director of Mental Training and Co-Director of the Leadership Program for Duke Athletics. For more information about Greg, click here to visit his website.

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