While allowing a child to play up can be tempting- after all, it seems to scream to the world that, “my kid is advanced!”- most experts advise against it. Just because the option is there doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one, and most coaches and other pros think that, barring rare circumstances, playing up probably isn’t the best idea.
The Downside to Playing Up
The reason so many parents end up saying yes to their children playing up is because they love the idea of having a highly skilled child, one who is just too good for his own age group. However, many parents who do allow their children to move up quickly find that their dream of stardom and of everyone praising their child is far from reality…very far. Typically, most parents face the harsh reality of having a young kid “in with the big dogs,” which can involve many drawbacks, including the following:
· -Reduced playing time for their players, which means less practice and less skill building
· - Pressure to “act older” and to perform at the same level as older kids
· -A higher risk of injury since the physical playing field is often uneven
· -Social problems, such as difficulty making friends with the other (older) players or getting picked on
While young kids may be the star at their current level team, that doesn’t really translate when they play up. Instead, they often become the weakest link- the smallest, least skilled player, and that doesn’t feel good, nor does it do the kid and his development any favors. It’s hard to understand why parents would want to do this to their child; why not let him or her enjoy being the “star” for a while?
Hockey creates lifelong friendships. This is made easier when players grow up together on the ice and in school. You can continue nurturing these lasting bonds by having your players stay within their age group.
Put Friendship First
Parents also need to keep in mind that hockey is as much about social growth as it is about athletic growth. Children need to learn social skills and how to interact and work with others just as much as they need to learn how to handle the puck. When you put your child in with older, more developed kids, you take away this opportunity, and it could end with your child getting bullied, which certainly isn’t good for self-esteem, either on or off the ice!
That Rare Exception
Every once in a while, there will be that one exception to the rule- that kid who is just so talented and so good at the game and who can handle being with the older kids. However, most kids are not that exception, so be honest with yourself. Unless it’s really going to benefit your little one in the long run, and not just feed your ego, your child is probably better playing in the correct age group.