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Thread: At what age should kids sports change

  1. #1
    Member Array title="mark0933 is an unknown quantity at this point">
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    Jun 2010
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    At what age should kids sports change

    Ok, I've been around here a long time, don't post much but do value most of your opinions.

    At what age (or grade if you like) should youth football go from a developmental approach (not all kids play exactly equally necessarily but playing time based on effort, not genetics) to more "professional" play all the best (depth chart) type system?

    I coach the very youngest age (6-9 year olds) and so I have players with very varied skill and size levels. My goal is safety first, but then to find every player on my teams a position which they can succeed at and balance the whole team - its not easy but is rewarding. I put kids in triangles with 2 of the 3 players in any triangle being stronger and the other being a developmental player (or a weaker player). One such triangle is OLB, CB and Safety on each side of the field other is ILB DE and DT for example. So I can put 4 weaker kids on the field with 8 stronger kids at any point in time and have the field "covered"

    I know other coaches who have the "win at all cost" mentality even at my kids age so play starters and have bench back-ups and they have much higher "quit ratio" than I do, but am I truly doing my non-athletes any favors because as they get older eventually the love of the game isn't enough and size and skill eventually pushes the non-athletes out of the sport.

    I don't believe in participation trophies for all, but I do believe that kids would rather actually see the field on a losing team, than be bench warmers on a winning team and that losing builds character too.

    Ok, now that I've said that, please answer away.


    PS - In all fairness, my son is one of these non-athletes (whom I have not coached for quite a few years) and I am struggling with the transition of his team from developmental to "genetics based" playing time and I have no answer for him other than our genetics suck and eventually we all stop playing.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Array title="Born2Steel has a reputation beyond repute"> Born2Steel's Avatar

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    Apr 2015

    Re: At what age should kids sports change

    Interesting question and the answer is multi-layered and kid specific. I have had the absolute pleasure of coaching youth football ages 6 to 12. The football side of things never changes. Teach fundamentals and proper technique. The kids will advance at their own pace. No such thing as a kid that can’t play at that age. I had a kid one year that was very much on the spectrum and was a behavioral nightmare at times, but we found a way to get him playing time. Some kids don’t actually want to be there at all but parents insist. Those are the tough decisions and can only be decided on an individual basis. I don’t do this any more because all ball is run by the school system in my town now.

    Sounds like you have a system and a plan in place. You know your kids. As long as the ones that want to be there are getting the most out of it they can, that’s the best job. The competitive nature of things is already there.

  3. #3
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    Re: At what age should kids sports change

    If you're coaching 6-9-year-olds, the QB to center snap is easy to screw up. Personally, I don't think children should play full-contact football until at least the age of ten, but that doesn't fly in some states like Texas.

    I think all kids should get a chance to play. The easy part is if your winning by two scores or down by two scores at the end of the game. I suggest you insert the 2nd and 3rd string children in for practice. Figure out what plays they might be good at and give them a shot with the 1st string. It's practice. There is a chance one of your back ups can do something better than a starter. If so, use that child during the game for a few plays. Depending on your league, you can strike a deal with the other head coach, agreeing to play the 2nd and 3rd string for a the second quarter of a game. Just don't ask the coach of the best team for this. Pick a .500 or losing team near the end of the season.

    Children grow at different rates. Just because a kid os small or younger doesn't mean he can't be bigger in a few years. When I was 16, I hurt my wrst playing football caught under a pile. At the time, I was about 5'9, 160 pounds, too small for the varsity positions I was best at. ( Tackle, DE and LB ) so sometimes the coach would play me at corner, which I didn't like, but that was my path to get on the field. When I got the X ray the doctors told me good news, my bones had not fused, which meant I had a lot of growing left. He was correct. By Senior year I was over 6 feet tall and one of the bigger kids on the team.

    Best of luck.

  4. #4
    NFL's Dirtiest Player Array title="86WARD has a reputation beyond repute"> 86WARD's Avatar

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    May 2010

    Re: At what age should kids sports change

    High School (9th Grade).

    Everything in Elementary and Middle School should be reps and developmental learning. Pop-Warner leagues require at least each player play 6-10 plays per half. That doesn’t mean a player can’t play a full game or that a player is in there and then yanked right at 6, but it ensures players are getting valuable game reps.

  5. #5

    Re: At what age should kids sports change

    It just depends on what you mean by change. Puberty allows the body to benefit from anaerobic training like sprints and so on (it does some before puberty, but the change in the body makes it vastly different after). So, I'd say perhaps 8th or 9th grade is when a child-athlete should focus in on the one or two sports they love and start training intensely for that sport. The result of which being that's when the sport should change as well, allowing more hitting and focused more on competition than learning the fundamentals (which should be taught at the earlier age).

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