Our club, up through the U8 age group, uses single age groups. There are U5, U6, U7 and U8 age groups with gender separated groups in U7 and above. U10 is the first group where kids stay in the group for two calendar years.
There are a lot of advantages to using single year age groups.
At this age, there can be a large disparity in skills with a single year’s difference in skills. Players with the adde year, who have been in the sport for longer usually have accumulated better ball skills. They also have the added insights of understanding positioning and some tactical understanding.
There is also the size and speed part of the equation. One year of growth can be a big difference in a player’s physical growth – multiple inches and pounds. Kids also add coordination in these ages.
There’s also the social aspect – matching kids by age group ensures kids are more likely to be matched on teams with other kids from their school.
It’s no wonder that many sports in our area separate each year into different age groups. But what if we combine two years into an age group?
The upside for each player could be tremendous though.
Through pick-up soccer I’ve seen both of my sons develop based on interaction with older and more experienced players.
Aidan has really taken to understanding link up play with another player and looking for crosses. He’s stays well with team mates and is playing more heads-up.
Evan also is picking up his head more and is being alert. So much of U5 an U6 turns soccer into an individual sport – but in pick up he has been listening to older team mates and responding by moving to the ball and playing with team mates.
The older kids are being forced to lead and teach. Both of these reinforce their understanding of the sport.
I’m not sure I’m ready to combine the age groups – but pick up with players of a different age is a welcome addition to our soccer routine.