When I go to the beach early in the morning or to some local small amateur stadiums or even in some places on the street, I notice people of all ages from 2-3 years old up to the 80s+ …
… And guess what! That’s the beauty of soccer. It can actually be played at all ages!
However, being aware of the right age where you should start playing the sport, especially at a competitive level is very important!
And this is what I am about to address in this short article!
So, what is the best age to start soccer?
Ages 3-5 are the best ages to start soccer. These fundamental ages help children build an interest in the sport while still being old enough to develop the necessary skills for soccer.
These formative years spent will give children a major upper hand as they grow older. Ideally, starting as young as possible is the best option.
Is older just as good?
The ages 3-5 are still the best years to start. However, anyone can start at any age. Don’t think once you hit a certain age you can no longer pick up the sport. There are plenty of senior leagues available worldwide.
Any parents interested in putting their children in a sport early on will find soccer is one of the safest sports out there.
For the record, I’ve personally started playing at the age of 6!
Important Side Note: If you are a soccer beginner or amateur and would like to improve your soccer skills, then I strongly recommend to use soccer shoes with decent Quality and reliable Grip to perform at the best of your abilities. You can have a quick look at these quality soccer cleats to get an idea!
Best age to start competitive soccer?
The typical suggested age for competitive soccer is 8 years old. Although, you’ll find conflicting coaches recommending 11-12.
Competition can be stressful on children. The challenges between training, strategizing, and overcoming losses can be too much for some kids.
This is the main reason little league teams do not keep score. Instead, the focus is on playing the game and understanding the mechanics.
As soccer continues to grow in popularity, so is the competitive aspect of little league teams in 8+ teams.
The trend is slowly leaning towards the way little league baseball has gone. Before long, world cups will be just as big as little league baseball tournaments.
Just for the record, I’ve personally started playing soccer at a competitive level from the age of 12!
The right way to get started for kids and youth …
First off, the right way to get young children introduced to the sport starts at home. Have them kick a ball around the yard at home before attempting to put them on a team.
Have them practice making contact with the ball without falling over – a common problem with children developing balance. From here, have the practice dribbling. This is an essential skill needed to learn for the sport.
Once they become able to do these two skills, then move onto passing. Have them kick the ball aimed at you. After a few passes, have them mix in dribbling with passing. You can run alongside them and have them pass the ball to you.
If a general interest develops for the sport, then you can begin looking for a local youth team. Fortunately, every major city has plenty of options for picking an appropriate team.
Children younger than eight only need to focus on developing skills. This means the idea of winning and losing are not necessary to playing the game. The only focus is on the sport.
At young ages, being able to run and kick the ball will be more than enough of a challenge.
From here, as they grow older and progress their skills then finding a local team is ideal. At this point, the coaches will further push players to become better players.
Now, competition can be introduced. Winning and losing are fundamental aspects of life and how you handle either situation is important. Learning the facts about these two are important in life.
The drills they go over at practice can be done at home as well.
Also, at this point it is a good idea to begin conditioning training. The games will be longer and every player needs endurance to last a whole match.
Easiest position to get started with
Arguably the shooter position is the easiest position to start with. Instead of focusing on any kind of strategy, the only goal of the shooter is to kick the ball while aiming at the back of the net.
Ages 3-5 all end up becoming shooters eventually. Every kid is scrambling to get possession and score a goal.
Once they become older, then coaches can determine what position is best for each individual player.
Even the weakest player can become a shooter because of the simplicity of the position.
Skills to learn per age
Here are some general ideas for each age group beginning soccer.
At this age, playing at home is one of the best options. Learning basic skills such as kicking and passing in the backyard eliminates all pressure. There’s no pressure at home when trying to learn a new skill.
Maybe all they want to do is just kick the ball. For most kids, this is as far as they want to take soccer. And this is fine.
You get the pleasure of having this time to bond.
If you wanted, you could steer the practice into a productive session by setting up various buckets at different distances. Have your child kick the ball into these buckets. Or, try to get the ball as close to possible near the buckets.
This tiny drill will help with kicking and passing. You could also work on dribbling by having them follow you around the yard while they kick the ball with light touches to help keep the ball in your direction.
If your child shows improvement with basic skills, then finding them a team would be a good idea.
Beginning soccer at this age is another excellent time to start. This age group will have a better grasp of the sport and what the end goal is. However, teams that fall into this age group do not focus on keeping score. Instead, the focus is becoming a better player.
Whether your child started from a younger age or not, it will not matter because at this age only the fundamentals are worried about.
If your child has a general interest or background with soccer then registering with a local soccer association will be best.
Some kids new to the sport will have some shyness or will be hesitant to start on a team. This is understandable because being something new and not being good at it can be intimidating.
Local rec centers tend to offer beginner soccer players a less stressful environment that focuses more on fun than winning.
At this age, children are capable of taking on more traditional positions such as goalkeeper, defensive positions, and shooters. Here is where soccer is taken more seriously and the demands on players are much higher.
Joining a formal club will help your child excel the most at this age.
Rec centers are still a good option, but if your child has been playing since a very young age, then finding a reputable club will be the best option.
Around this age is when kids start developing their own playstyle and learn what positions they like. Finding a club with knowledgeable coaches will help shape your child into the best possible player they can be.
The game can still be played for fun, but the option for competition starts around this age. Here is where more pressure is added, and some kids crave the opportunity to prove their skills.
Is starting at home appropriate?
All ages can benefit from starting at home, especially for the 3-5 age group. However, there are some instances when starting at home is not the better option.
For example, older children would benefit more from having a coach and team to practice with. Coaches have the knowledge and experience to help a kid develop the necessary skills. This knowledge is unavailable when starting at home.
Also, without a large field to practice on, older kids will have less room to develop their skills. Again, this is when starting with a team is a better option.
Ages 9 and up will benefit more from starting with a team instead of at home.
This does not mean some skills can not be practiced at home.
Soccer benefits for kids …
Here are five benefits for kids who play soccer.
- Great Exercise – More than ever children need to get outside and play. Soccer is a great way to fight against childhood obesity.
- Team Sport – Soccer teaches children the importance of teamwork. Teamwork is a valuable skill every child should learn early in life.
- Increased Motor Skills – Having fast reflexes on a video game are no comparison to having motor skills in the real world.
- Improves Self-Esteem and Mood – Soccer helps build strong and confident children through physical activity. Overcoming challenges on the field will help when they are in the real world.
- Soccer is a fun sport – Playing soccer is fun and the field gives children the right environment to be a kid and enjoy life. They get the opportunity to let loose which is something they desperately crave.
Check more general benefits!
Is joining a youth academy worth it?
Soccer academies help build stronger, more valuable players in the long run. These academies are best for the die-hard soccer player that has dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.
If a child has a burning passion for the sport, then youth academies are perfect fits for them.
However, if the child does not see themself playing soccer for the rest of their life then maybe an academy is not a wise investment.
Academies become expensive and will only be worth it for those children in it for the long run. Additionally, the results of these academies are not instant. It will take time.
Final Thoughts …
I know this article has focused more on kids, however, in case you are much older than that, you or your kid, please don’t feel that it is too late to start, practice or even compete as a soccer player …
… I do honestly believe that it is almost never late! I’ve seen players who started at quite old ages and still managed to become really good players later on!
Finally, it is worth mentioning that kids should practice soccer barefoot from time to time … You can learn on how to practice soccer barefoot properly & safely!