How do you know when your kid has outgrown their team? When should you move him to a new team that will continue to challenge him & help his development? How can you be sure that he will keep having fun with new teammates and coaches?
I recommend using the same thing that gets most of us through this thing called parenting…your gut.
YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR KID.
My 7-year old son has played for the same soccer team & coach since he began playing at 4-years old. We liked that team & coach a lot. Great kids, great parents. It was the perfect first team to introduce Brayden to the sport of soccer.
But Brayden is REALLY into sports. He loves sports more than Scooby-Doo loves Scooby Snacks and more than DJ Khaled loves to hear his name in his own songs.
Last season I started noticing signs that Brayden was starting to outgrow his team. Some of his teammates weren’t really into the games or practices as much as he was. I could tell that they didn’t share the same desire to keep improving.
During the off-season Brayden was asked to play on a new team in a different and more competitive league. Brayden was excited about the new opportunity, so we made the move.
HOW MUCH IMPACT DO TEAMMATES HAVE ON YOUR CHILD?
From the first practice of the season, I could tell that the skill level of the new team was way better than the old team. I knew being around these kids would help Brayden raise his game.
Have you ever heard the philosophy that, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with?” As I become “more experienced” in life, I buy into this philosophy more and more. I think the same can be said about teammates in sports. If your kid is on a team with good players who love to compete, then her skill level and desire will also increase if she also loves to compete. (Those last six words are key.)
GROWTH OCCURS OUTSIDE OF OUR COMFORT ZONES.
Brayden was the most talented player on his previous team. I know that sounds biased coming from his dad, but it’s the truth. He was the “straw that stirred the drink,” as Reggie Jackson would say. During Brayden’s first few years playing soccer, the game came pretty easily to him. He needed to be challenged if he was going to grow.
This season has been a different story. Brayden has flat out struggled at times. He’s cried after games and has said things like, “I’m not as good as some of the other kids on my team.”
And THAT’S when I knew we made the right move coming to this new team.
Although it was difficult watching him struggle and look uncomfortable during some games, I knew that it would benefit him in the long run. It’s good for kids to get outside of their comfort zone. That’s where growth occurs.
Now don’t get me wrong, having fun is still the main priority. I ask Brayden after every practice if he’s having fun and if he likes his new team. His response is always positive. My favorite response was, “Yes, I love my team! All the other kids are so good!”
When a kid moves up a level in sports, it’s kinda like when a standout high school player moves on to play Division I sports. Future D1 athletes can flat out dominate at the high school level. But as soon as they get to college, they’re competing with and against kids who were also the best players on their high school teams. In order to be a standout at the next level, they need to raise their game.
RISE TO A NEW CHALLENGE
Brayden discovered that he could no longer blow past his opponents. He had to learn a lot more about passing and positioning, how to handle frustration, and how to handle more instruction from his coaches.
It’s fair to say that the majority of the other kids on this team had a higher soccer IQ going into the season. During his first few seasons, Brayden simply got by on raw talent and ability. Now he had to learn more about the technical side of the game. He had to learn about ball movement and strategy.
IMPROVEMENT BEGINS WITH DESIRE
I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been easy to see Brayden struggle this season. There were times when I second-guessed putting him on this team. I had thoughts like, “Maybe I should have just left well enough alone.” “I hope I didn’t just do something that will make him not like soccer any more.”
Seeing him struggle in sports was new for me. Until this season, everything came easy to him. But it has been the best thing for him and his development in the sport and as a person. I know this because he’s getting better. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s far and away a better player now than he was earlier in the season.
The coolest thing about his improvement is that it has come from within. He worked hard on his soccer skills on his own. Most mornings when I’m leaving for work, Brayden is already outside kicking and juggling the ball around the yard.
At the beginning of this post I said, “You have to know your kid.” I know Brayden’s drive and competitive spirit. He wants to be the best player on the team. For that reason, I believe it’s good that he’s not. Complacency is the root of a champion’s demise.
This season has taught him a lot of valuable lessons. He’s learned the value of hard work, how to handle adversity, how to challenge himself and embrace the process of improving.
It’s taught me that even though it’s not easy to watch your kids struggle, life is about growth. None of us can grow if we allow our comfort zones to limit our potential.
Thanks for reading.
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