At what age should kids begin playing “travel” or competitive sports?

We all know that travel or competitive sports for kids have grown explosively in the past decade. Do you believe this is a good thing? And, if so, how old do you feel kids should be before they are allowed to play travel sports?

8 Responses

  1. It is hard to say when the right age is. I’ve got one son who was eager to play at the highest level when he was about seven and he handled the pressure just fine. But I have another son who really never wanted to do more than play rec.

  2. It’s hard to give an exact age; some children mature faster than others. But as a parent and former coach of two (now) adult children who participated in every sport they could growing up, I’d say about 12 years of age, give or take a year, is the right time. Certainly there are prodigies who have the skill and talent to compete at a high level at much younger ages, but they are not yet emotionally mature enough to handle the competitive pressures. Additionally, if participation in a sport becomes too intense at too early and age, “burn-out” is a probable outcome.

  3. In my experience as a Club Administrator, Coach, Referee and parent it is right around 12years of age. Don’t get me wrong, before this players can excel and should be encouraged to develop at their pace but as a whole developmentally I find the separation starts at 12. Players with greater ability can age up into this group but to offer this level of play at a younger age doesn’t provide much value.

  4. It really depends on the kid and how serious and what type of commitment the Travel team is. 99% of kids below the high-school level sholdn’t be playing full-time, year round, 2-3 a week practices and multiple tournaments per month.

    However, they also shouldn’t be taking the fall/winter months off. They should be in some kind of Club or Travel team, while also playing another sport. If they are taking the Fall/Winter off they will get passed by other kids who are playing. The age that they should start playing some sort of Fall/Winter travel ball is around 7 years-old. Perhaps some 6-year old can do it but very very few.

  5. Puberty. It’s not that kids won’t or cannot excell before that, it’s just that the athletic ability of a kid prepuberty is a meaningless indicator of that same kid’s ability post puberty. Kids quit sports more now than ever before with 70% quitting ALL SPORTS before age 13. Why? Too competive, too much travel, too much adult ego, not fun, parents are over the top, coaches play favorites, kids are told in not so many words that they might not be as good as their 3rd grade classmates. One of the main things that’s changed in our society is the speed at which we are making kids enter the adult world. Then we wonder why they have the problems they do! Ha. Recent studies showed where HS coaches observed 5th and 6th graders for a basketball season and predicted with 20% accuracy those that went on to make the HS varsity. 50% of varsity athletes come from the B and C pools as youth. Travel teams? AAU? AAA Select? Go for it. But then don’t wonder why your kid doesn’t like sports or quits or is eventually passed up. Last I checked the number of openings in the pro ranks are virtually the same as 20 years ago, but the pool is larger with players from Europe and other regions part of the pool. But your kid loves the sport. Yeah. You bet. They love ice cream too, but that doesn’t mean you feed it to them all day long. Balance is the key.

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