If your kids have seen football on TV, or have an older sibling who plays, they may have told you they also want to play. But how young is too young? And if your kids are serious about football, what’s the best age to get them started so they can build the necessary skills to play for their local clubs?
Here are some guides based on their ages:
2 and younger
Toddlers develop at different stages. But most simply won’t have the attention span and ability to focus necessary to learn specific ball skills. However, getting smaller kids involved with a once-a-week training can teach them gross motor skills like spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, and balance.
The trick is to find a club that makes it fun. These skills should be incorporated into games, or simple back-and-forth kicking practice.
3-5 years old
If kids under 5 express an interest in football, you may want to take them down to your local club for lessons. It’s important that the focus is still on enjoyment. Some programs will include a game each week, but kids should be learning teamwork skills and not focused on the competitive aspect just yet.
There should be an aspect of free play to lessons, so they can learn to move in different ways and improve stability and balance. Since they’re still learning coordination skills, coaches should ensure that they get enough time with the ball to understand how to interact with it.
It’s important to note that small kids are still very egocentric. They’re not yet ready to understand taking turns, sharing, and delayed gratification. So coaches need to be patient and keep classes fun and challenging for the whole team.
6-8 years old
Once kids are aged between 6 and 8, they can begin focusing more on the actual skills involved in football. They should still have plenty of free play, and drills should be both fun and educational.
They may have played a little football at school, or they may have friends who play and have sparked their interest. This is a great age to start playing football, as long as the club is committed to developing real-world skills like teamwork, being a good sport, and supporting all teammates.
While kids may be playing games on the weekends, the goal should be for every player to improve their individual skills. Kids this age are likely to find intense competition stressful. This is also the age where some kids naturally begin to develop skills more quickly than others.
If a club focuses too much on the winners and losers of each game, kids can be turned off of team sports altogether.
8-10 years old
Once your kids are around 8, they’ve likely played a few games of football in the backyard, and will have a pretty good grasp of the rules (ball goes in the net).
Some people worry that kids starting football this late will be behind other kids when it comes to skills. But if they’ve been playing other sports, many of the same skills will be used in football.
Sampling multiple sports can allow kids to work multiple muscle groups. It also makes them more likely to be tactically smart as they can recognise patterns of play across numerous sports.
Kids starting between 8 and 10 will often be just as enthusiastic about football as kids that started younger. They can quickly catch up and learn the necessary skills to be a well-rounded player.
The age your kids begin playing football will be completely dependent on their enthusiasm for the sport, their abilities, and emotional maturity.
If your kids are always full of energy, you may find that starting them a little younger can help them channel that energy and improve their coordination. And if your kids are coming to football a little later, they’ve likely tried a few sports and will be able to use those skills in football as well.
There’s no perfect age to start football, but the most important aspect will be the club and coaches you choose. Regardless of their age, your kids will need a supportive environment and a focus on fun so they can enjoy the sport as they develop their skills.